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Organizational Culture: the Case of Turkish Construction Industry Essay

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Organizational culture: the case of Turkish construction industry Ela Oney-Yazıcı, Heyecan Giritli, Gulfer Topcu-Oraz and Emrah Acar Department of Architecture, Division of Project and Construction Management, Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, Turkey Abstract

Purpose – The main stimulus of this study is to examine the cultural profile of construction organizations within the context of Turkish construction industry. Design/methodology/approach – This study is a part of a cross-cultural research, initiated by CIB W112 (Working Commission W112 of the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction), concurrently ongoing in 15 different countries. Data were collected from 107 contracting and 27 architectural firms, by means of a questionnaire based on OCAI (Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument), a well-known and widely used measurement tool developed by Cameron and Quinn (1999).

Findings – The findings show that the Turkish construction industry has been dominated by firms with a mixture of clan and hierarchy cultures. In addition, the analysis reported here indicates cultural differences at organizational level in terms of firm type, size, and age. Originality/value – This paper contributes to the understanding of organizational culture in the construction industry by providing empirical evidence from the Turkish construction industry. As future research direction, it highlights the need of a cross-cultural comparison among different countries, and an investigation of the effects of cultural profiles of the organizational members on organizational culture. Keywords Organizational culture, Construction industry, Turkey Paper type Research paper

Turkish construction industry 519

Introduction Understanding of organizational culture is fundamental to examine what goes on in organizations, how to run them and how to improve them (Schein, 1992). Organizational culture is defined as the shared assumptions, beliefs and “normal behaviors” (norms) present in an organization. Most organizational scholars and observers recognize that organizational culture has a powerful effect on the performance and long-term effectiveness of organizations.

Cameron and Quinn (1999) propose that what differentiates successful firms from others is their organizational culture. With the worldwide globalization trends, special attention has been given to the study of organizations and their cultures. Empirical studies of organizational culture have been carried out across various countries and industries (Hofstede, 1997; Trompenaars and Hampton-Turner, 1998; Cameron and Quinn, 1999; see among others). In comparison there seems to be a limited number of published studies related The funding for this study was provided by the Istanbul Technical University, Turkey and is gratefully acknowledged.

After reviewing research on organizational culture, Ankrah and Langford (2005) have concluded that there is a need to become more aware of the importance of this phenomenon and its impact on organizational performance in the construction industry. The main reasons for the growing importance of the organizational culture can be explained by the internationalization of the construction markets (Low and Shi, 2001), and the fragmented nature of the industry (Hillebrant, 2000). It is a well-known fact that international construction firms have faced many problems due to conflicts, confrontations, misunderstandings, and the differences in ways of doing business with other cultures (Gould and Joyce, 2000). On the other hand, the adversarial relations between different project participants are assumed to be influenced by the cultural orientations of the stakeholders (Phua and Rowlinson, 2003).

Thus, the study of cultural issues should be addressed when considering the globalization of construction markets. Additionally, it is a common belief that organizations that have developed within similar environments usually have similar cultures and related mindsets with regard to ways of doing business. For this reason, the research reported in this paper, aims to contribute to an understanding of organizational culture in the construction industry using data from a developing country, such as Turkey, where there is no study in this field.

Findings of the study may also have implications for other cultures with a similar make-up. Background study Despite different definitions of organizational culture, there is a consensus among organizational researchers that it refers to the shared meanings or assumptions, beliefs and understandings held by a group. More comprehensively, Schein (1992) defined organizational culture as: [. . .] a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems.

´ Similarly, Deshpande and Webster (1989, p. 4) proposed that organizational culture is: [. . .] the pattern of shared values and beliefs that help individuals understand organizational functioning and thus provide them with norms for behaviors in the organization.

There is an extensive body of knowledge in the literature that deals with organizational culture. Many researchers have proposed a variety of dimensions and attributes of organizational culture. Among them, Hofstede has been very influential in studies of organizational culture. Drawing on a large sample of 116,000 employees of IBM in 72 countries, Hofstede identified four dimensions of culture. These four dimensions used to differentiate between cultures are: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity/femininity and individualism/collectivism. Beyond these, Hofstede (1997) also identified the process/results oriented, employee/job oriented, parochial/professional, open/closed system, loose/tight control and normative/pragmatic dimensions of culture. These dimensions have been commonly adapted and applied in studies of organizational culture (Sødergaard, 1996).

Other comprehensive studies into organizational culture have been carried out, notably by Trompenaars and Hampton-Turner (1993), who conducted an extensive research into the attitudes of 15,000 managers over a ten-year period in 28 different countries. They proposed five cultural dimensions: (1) universalism/particularism; (2) collectivism/individualism; (3) neutral/affective relationships; (4) diffuse/specific relationships; and (5) achievement/ascription. When dealing with a multitude of dimensions, typologies are usually considered as an alternative to provide a simplified means of assessing cultures. In this regard, typologies are commonly used in the studies of organizational culture. Notable contributors to these typologies include Handy (1993, 1995) who identified the club, role, task and person typologies, and Quinn (1988) who identified the market, hierarchy, adhocracy and clan typologies of culture.

Since the culture is regarded as a crucial factor in the long-term effectiveness of organizations, it becomes important to be able to measure organizational culture. Accordingly, a range of tools designed to measure organizational culture have been developed and applied in industrial, educational, and health care settings over the last two decades. All these tools examine employee perceptions and opinions about their working environment (the so-called “climate” of an organization) but only a few, such as the Competing Values Framework and the Organizational Culture Inventory (OCI), try to examine the values and beliefs that inform those views (Scott et al., 2003). The majority of the existing studies in the Construction Management field mostly attempt to appropriate the theoretical models and measurement tools of the management literature.

For instance, Maloney and Federle (1991, 1993) introduced the competing values framework for analyzing the cultural elements in American engineering and construction organizations. Focusing on the relationship between the organizational culture and effectiveness, Zhang and Liu (2006) examined the organizational culture profiles of construction enterprises in China by means of OCI and Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), the measurement tool of the Competing Values Framework developed by Cameron and Quinn (1999). Rowlinson (2001), using Handy’s organizational culture and Hofstede’s national culture frameworks, investigated the cultural aspects of organizational change in the construction industry.

Ankrah and Langford (2005) proposed a new measurement tool after analyzing all cultural dimensions and typologies developed in the literature and highlighted the cultural variability between organizations in the project coalition. Literature review shows that despite the growing importance of organizational culture in construction research, there are few cross-cultural, empirical studies. This may be due to the difficulties of conducting research in several countries. The study reported in this paper forms a part of a cross-cultural research, initiated by CIB W112 on “Culture in Construction”, concurrently ongoing in 15 different countries. The aim of the research project is to develop an international “Inventory of Culture in Construction”. It continues to stimulate new participants from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and America.

Research methodology Measurement of culture represents difficulties, particularly in respect of the identification of cultural groups and boundaries. This is further complicated by the nature of the construction industry in which projects are temporary and participants are subject to the values and beliefs of their employing organization, professional groups and project organizations. There is an ongoing debate concerning the study of culture among construction management scholars. However, it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the methodological aspects of studying culture in the construction industry. In order to be compatible with the studies conducted in other countries participating in the CIB W112 research, Cameron and Quinn’s (1999) “Competing Values Framework” (CVF) as well as their measurement tool named “Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument” (OCAI) are adopted as the conceptual paradigm for analysis in this study.

The CVF was originally proposed by Quinn and Rohrbaugh (1983) to understand organizational effectiveness, and was later applied to explore different issues relative to organizations (Al-Khalifa and Aspinwall, 2001). The CVF is based on two major dimensions. The first dimension emphasizes the organizational focus (internal versus external), whereas the second one distinguishes between the stability and control and the flexibility and discretion. These two dimensions form four quadrants (see Figure 1), each representing a major type of organizational culture: (1) clan; (2) adhocracy; (3) market; and (4) hierarchy.

Figure 1. The competing values framework

Theoretically, these four cultural typologies exist simultaneously in all organizations; therefore, archetypes may be used to describe the pattern of the organizational culture (Paperone, 2003). Sampling and data collection Unit of analysis for this study were the contracting and architectural firms operating in the Turkish Construction Industry. A number of 351 firms were contacted, and 134 of them participated in the study giving a response rate of 38.18 per cent. The firms were selected by judgmental sampling procedure. The judgment criteria used for selection were: . origin of nationality, with emphasis on local firms; . size based on number of employees, with emphasis placed on medium and large firms; and . industry position based on market share, with the focus on the 12 largest firms.

Sample consisted of a total of 826 respondents (74.9 per cent male, 25.1 per cent female) including both managerial and non-managerial professionals. The questionnaire comprised two parts. Part I included questions regarding the demographic characteristics of the firms and respondents, which are presented in Table I. Although the analysis conducted in this study was at firm level, the characteristics of the respondents are also provided in Table I to reflect a better profile Frequency Characteristics of the firms (N ¼ 134) Number of firms: Contracting Architectural Firm age (years): ,15 16-25 .25 Size of firms (number of full-time employees): Small Medium Large Characteristics of the respondents (N ¼ 826) Number of respondents: Contracting Architectural Gender: Female Male Age of respondents (years): 30 and under 31-40 41-50 51 and above Percentage of the sample. As is seen in Table I, contracting firms are representing the 79.9 per cent of the sampled organizations and 87.5 per cent of the respondents.

For the purpose of this study, organizations with less than 50 employees were classified as small (46 per cent), those with 51-150 as medium (28 per cent), and those with more than 150 as large (25 per cent). The contracting firms in the survey were generally medium and large-sized whereas the architectural firms were small in size. Searching for the cultural orientations of the firms, Part II was adopted from the “Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI)” developed by Cameron and Quinn (1999). OCAI consists of six different questions which are relevant to the key dimensions of organizational culture: (1) dominant characteristics; (2) organizational leadership; (3) management of employees; (4) organizational glue; (5) strategic emphases; and (6) criteria for success.

Each question has four alternative statements representing different cultural orientations making a total of 24 questions. All respondents were asked to rate their organizations’ culture on a five-point Likert scale. In this scoring system, for each of the five response categories (completely true, mostly true, partly true, slightly true, never true) a score of 1-5 was assigned, with the highest score of 5 being assigned to “completely true”. The overall cultural profile of an organization was then derived by calculating the average score of all respondents from the same firm. Reliability coefficients (Cronbach alpha) were calculated for each of the different culture types being assessed by the instrument.

Coefficients were 0.89 for the clan and adhocracy cultures, and 0.86 for the market and hierarchy cultures, which indicate the fairness of all culture types. Results and discussion A cultural profile score for each organization was obtained by averaging the respondent’s rating for each cultural type across the six dimensions. This provided an indication of the cultural orientation of sampled firms based on the four cultural types. The average scores for all the participating firms are shown in Table II. As is seen from the table, the dominant culture of the sample is clan culture. Respondents identified hierarchy type as the next most dominant in their organizations.

These predominant cultures were followed by adhocracy and market, respectively. The sampled firms tend to have values consistent with employee focus or clan culture and internal process or hierarchy culture. The values consistent with external orientation and results focus are emphasized to a lesser extent. This finding contributes to our understanding of the alignment between national and organizational cultures. According to Hofstede’s (1980, 2001) model of national culture, Turkey has been described as being high on the collectivism and power distance value dimensions. This suggests that organizational cultures in Turkish firms are characterized by both unequal (or hierarchical) and harmonious, family-like (clan) relationships.


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