Empowering Knowledge Sharing Behaviours Through Means Oriented vs. Goal Oriented Cultures

Subject: Management
Pages: 10
Words: 2637
Reading time:
12 min
Study level: PhD


The study of organizational culture is incomplete without a discussion of Hofstede’s organizational culture dimensions and their relationship with other aspects of organization such as knowledge sharing. A major question is whether there exists any relationship between knowledge sharing and the dimensions of organizational culture by Hofstede especially the dimension of means-oriented vs. goal-oriented organizational culture (Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov 2010, p. 23). Previous studies also state that organizational culture has many dimensions, which influence the behavior observed in employees and mostly their psychological processes (Shahzad, Luqman, Khan & Shabbir 2012, p. 980). Knowledge sharing is important in any organization, as it determines organizational success (Chao-Sen, Cheng-Jong & Li-Fen 2012 p. 122).).

Hofstede’s analysis of organizational culture led to the development of six key dimensions (Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov 2010, p. 23).His later work with Bob Waisfisz in 2010 led to the development of different organizational culture dimensions, which they classified as autonomous and semi-autonomous(Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov 2010, p. 23). The organizational culture dimensions developed are means oriented vs. goal-oriented, internally driven vs. externally driven, easy-going work discipline vs. strict work discipline, local vs. professional, open system vs. closed system, and employee-oriented vs. work-oriented dimensions (Chao-Sen, Cheng-Jong & Li-Fen 2012 p. 122).A means-oriented organizational culture refers to an aspect of an organization where employees are more concerned about how tasks should be carried out than the results to be achieved. In an organizational culture that is means-oriented, the people involved avoid risk-taking activities. In fact, “they will only exhibit a limited effort in their jobs and their work-life is routine” (Shahzad, Luqman, Khan & Shabbir 2012, p. 980). Goal-oriented organizational culture is where people are more concerned with the results of their work. Therefore, they easily take risks. This research paper focuses on empowering knowledge-sharing behaviors through the means-oriented vs. goal-oriented cultures.

Knowledge Sharing Definition

Knowledge is important in organizational management and growth. It has been described as a critical organizational resource “that provides a sustainable competitive advantage in a competitive and dynamic economy” (Safarpoor & Siadat 2012, p. 145).For an organization to attain and maintain competitive advantage over its rivals, there is a need to impart knowledge to its workforce. Though organizations should invest in staffing and training systems that select employees with special abilities and competencies, the strategy has proven to be insufficient in the past(Chao-Sen, Cheng-Jong & Li-Fen 2012, p. 122). Knowledge sharing has therefore augmented the organizational effort to improve the quality of their workforce. Its use is in the transfer of expertise from the expert employees to the less experienced and novice employees (Chao-Sen, Cheng-Jong & Li-Fen 2012, p. 122).

The word ‘Knowledge’ has in previous studies been used interchangeably with the word ‘information’ with some authors stating, “all information is considered as knowledge but knowledge is more than just information” (Mogotsi, Boon & Fletcher 2011, 49).Other studies also use information and knowledge interchangeably. Gupta, Joshi & Agarwal (2012, p. 9) describe knowledge as “information processed by individuals including ideas, facts, expertise, and judgments relevant for an individual, team, and organizational performance” (2004, p. 356). He also defines knowledge sharing as the “provision of task information and know-how to help others and to collaborate with others to solve problems, develop new ideas, or implement policies or procedures” (Gupta, Joshi & Agarwal 2012, p. 9).The means of knowledge sharing include a face-to-face communication between individuals or a written correspondence. It can also be done by organizing for others or documenting on their behalf(Gupta, Joshi & Agarwal 2012, p. 9).In the context of this research paper, knowledge sharing is the provision of knowledge to an employee by a fellow employee in an organizational setting (Khan & Rashid 2012, p. 89).

Means Oriented vs. Goal Oriented Cultures

Hofstede forwarded this dimension of organizational culture in his work with Waisfisz in 2010 where they focused on the types of organizational culture dimensions (Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov 2010, p. 23).The means-oriented organizational culture as stated by Hofstede and Waisfisz is where people in organizations are concerned with the procedures of achieving organizational goals at the expense of the results. In this type of organizational culture, employees are not risk-takers. Their lives in the workplace are routine (Gholamzadeh & Yazdanfar 2012, p. 796). In the means-oriented organizational culture, employees are not dedicated to the achievement of organizational goals. They report to work daily. Their main objective is to attain wages and or secure a permanent pay.

On the other hand, a goal-oriented organizational culture is observed where employees in an organization work towards achieving the set internal goals and results even if the achieving of these goals involves substantial risk-taking (Chao-Sen, Cheng-Jong & Li-Fen 2012, p. 122). Some of the goals that employees may work towards achieving include the creation of employment for their colleagues, ensuring the profitability of the organization, and meeting the company target in sales. Means-oriented organizational culture has also been described as a process-oriented culture. Its foundation is generally “on an elaborate system of technical and autocratic routines” (Eckenhofer 2011, p. 168). On the other hand, a goal-oriented organizational culture has been defined as a result-oriented organizational culture. It is not concerned with the processes used to meet organizational goals and objectives, but rather with the outcome (Gholamzadeh & Yazdanfar 2012, p. 796).

In most of the organizations surveyed, those with a means-oriented organizational culture perceived the processes under investigation in the same way (Gholamzadeh & Yazdanfar 2012, p. 796). Those employees in organizations with a goal-oriented organizational culture exhibited vast differences among them in their perceptions of how they work in the organization should be conducted (Gholamzadeh & Yazdanfar 2012, p. 796).The basis of the categorization of organizational culture into means or goals oriented was, therefore, the degree of homogeneity demonstrated by the employees. A conclusion was made that strong organizational cultures are the main goal oriented with the reverse being true (Gholamzadeh & Yazdanfar 2012, p. 796).

In organizations with a goal-oriented organizational culture, the management has an easy task in propagating and achieving organizational goals (Lin & Joe 2012, p. 446). The role played by managers in these types of organizations is merely to oversee the achievement of the goals with the employees taking significant risks to achieve them, and the success reported in the organizations is remarkable (Chao-Sen, Cheng-Jong & Li-Fen 2012, p. 122).). In fact, profitability is a guarantee with all factors held constant. In a result-oriented organizational culture, employees are a liability to the management (Lin & Joe 2012, p. 446). They only do the required tasks without any risk-taking, and the overall success of the organizations is not as desired and hence this is a weak organizational culture (Chao-Sen, Cheng-Jong & Li-Fen 2012 p. 122).). The success of any organization is dependent on the strength of the organizational culture adopted. Out of the two organizational cultures discussed by Hofstede, the goal-oriented organizational goal is described as a stronger organizational goal (Eckenhofer 2011, p. 168). Of the two types of organizational cultures, there arises the need to establish their relationship with knowledge sharing, and how they facilitate it within organizations that have adopted them.

Empowering Knowledge Sharing Behaviours through Means Oriented vs. Goal-Oriented Cultures

A number of studies have been done on the relationship between organizational culture and knowledge sharing in organizations (Block & Laurinkari 2012, p. 502). In his research, Farrell (2005, p. 270) found, “the benefits of a new technology infrastructure were limited if long-standing organizational values and practices were not supportive of knowledge sharing across units.” The empowering of knowledge sharing behaviors in a means-oriented organizational culture has received few studies in this area in the past, and so has the knowledge sharing in organizations with goal-oriented organizational cultures. Some of the influences of knowledge sharing that have been studied about organizational cultures include trust and individual competitions (Shekari & Eshgabad 2012, p. 1012). In studies, organizational cultures that put emphasis on trust in employees were found to be directly linked to the success of the organizations investigated (Bock, Zmud, Kim & Lee 2005, p.110). Firms with a goal-oriented organizational culture also exhibit a significant success in knowledge sharing (Gholamzadeh & Yazdanfar 2012, p. 796).

In other studies, it was suggested, “an organizational climate that emphasizes that individual competition may pose a barrier to knowledge sharing whereas cooperative team perceptions help create trust, which a necessary condition for knowledge sharing (Nien-Chi & Min-Shi 2011, p. 990). In institutions where teamwork is a component of their organizational culture, knowledge sharing appears to be easy (Shahzad, Luqman, Khan & Shabbir 2012, p. 980). The findings of most studies reveal that teamwork is more evident in goal-oriented organizational cultures, as employees embrace teamwork to achieve the organizational goals (Chao-Sen, Cheng-Jong & Li-Fen 2012, p. 122).

Studies have also been conducted on the effect that learning culture has on knowledge sharing in institutions (Shahzad, Luqman, Khan & Shabbir 2012, p. 980). For employees in a goal-oriented organizational culture, learning is part of the culture (Shahzad, Luqman, Khan & Shabbir 2012, p. 980). In one of the studies done by Gallato et al, it was found that an organizational climate, which encourages the development of new ideas based on learning from past failure was “positively related to effective knowledge sharing” (2004, p. 12). A knowledge-sharing culture in organizations is important. Organizations with effective structures to facilitate it are often successful (Gallato et al 2012, p. 11). Of the two organizational cultures suggested in Hofstede’s work, a goal-oriented organizational culture allows employees to take risks in their work. One of the risks can be judged as information sharing (Gallato et al 2012, p. 11).The goal-oriented organizational culture ensures that the organizational employees are risk-takers who create a climate that encourages learning and development of new approaches.

Organizational culture is influenced by the culture of the employees involved, which also has a direct bearing on the knowledge-sharing skills that exist in the organizations. For the means-oriented organizational culture, employees focus on the security of the employment status. Knowledge-sharing skills are therefore developed on how to maintain this condition in the organization. For the goal-oriented organizational culture, the knowledge-sharing skills developed to aid in the achievement of the set organizational goals. In fact, “most of the studies done in this area have also been focused on the identification of cultural dimensions affecting knowledge sharing and its management” (Bock et al., 2005, p. 100: Ahmed Shah Memon & Phulpoto 2012, p. 1014). There is a need for carrying out more research in this area focusing on the empowerment of knowledge sharing in the organizational cultures.

One of the factors of organizational culture that affects knowledge sharing in organizations is team mental models processed by each of the organizational culture dimensions (Gholamzadeh & Yazdanfar 2012, p. 796). The goal-oriented organizational culture may contain a significant aspect of team effort as compared to process and means-oriented organizational culture. This strategy makes it a better culture to facilitate the empowerment of knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing is a product of the organizational culture adopted in organizations, as it holds the key to success of any institution. According to Hofstede’s observations, organizational culture affects many aspects of employee behaviors. The development of the dimension of means-oriented and goal-oriented organizational culture dimension is a good example of this case (Shahzad, Luqman, Khan & Shabbir 2012, p. 980). Based on the findings, organizational culture is a significant factor in the empowerment of knowledge sharing. Its effects on the same are evident. As discussed, the goal-oriented form of organizational culture is beneficial to organizations. It has a positive bearing on knowledge sharing in an organization. It is therefore important that organizations work towards cultivating a goal-oriented culture in their employees. This effort will assure them of continued success.

Theoretical Framework

From the research on knowledge sharing and means-oriented vs. goal-oriented organizational cultures, two theoretical propositions emerge in each of the organizational cultures discussed. The first proposition on the two dimensions is on the means-oriented organizational culture. As discussed, this culture is based on the employee’s outlook on their work. It involves little if any risk-taking (Momeni, Marjani & Saadat 2012, p. 220). The results of their work and the organizational goals are not as important to them as the process used to achieve this goal. A proposition from the discussion is that means-oriented organizational culture has an impact on knowledge-sharing behavior in organizations (Joshi & Roh 2009, p. 599). The impact may be positive or negative depending on the clarity of the work process for the individual organizations. A negative impact is where the information sharing in the organization is hindered by the organizational culture. A means-oriented organizational culture has been considered responsible for this action (Lin & Joe 2012, p. 446). An example is the case where the employees in an organization adopt a culture that is means-oriented with a policy of not sharing information with their colleagues.

The second proposition is in the goal-oriented organizational culture and its effect on knowledge sharing in organizations. As discussed above, employees adopting a goal-oriented organizational culture take risks for the organizations and their work is geared towards achieving the organizational goals. The methods used in achieving the organizational goals are not as important to them as the actual achievement of the goals (Lin & Joe 2012, p. 446). For the research, a proposition is that a positive or negative impact on information sharing in an organization may result should the organization adopt a goal-oriented organizational culture.

One of the risks that employees may take in an organization with a goal-oriented organizational culture is to inhibit knowledge sharing in the organization in a way to achieve the personal goals (Karkoulian & Mahseredjian 2012, p.123). This may then impact negatively on information sharing by causing a suppression of the same in the organization. However, the culture may also encourage knowledge sharing by the employees assisting their counterparts to achieve the set organizational goals (Briggs, Jaramillo & Weeks 2012, p. 423). This sharing of the information between the employees is one of the positive impacts of the culture on information sharing. The two propositions will be used for the study. Evidence to support them will be gathered appropriately.


In conclusion, the works of Hofstede and the researchers he has worked with over the years have led to the development of a number of organizational culture dimensions and types. One of the dimensions that Hofstede states in his works is that of the means-oriented organizational culture vs. goal-oriented organizational culture. This dimension was developed based on the importance that employees according to organizational goals and the methods used to achieve them. In a means-oriented organizational culture, the employees in an organization spend effort on the means of doing their work right thus involving less risk-taking. A goal-oriented culture on the other hand has employees focused on achieving the organizational goals at any cost thus involving much risk-taking. A review found that there exists little literature detailing the relationship between the organizational culture dimension and the aspect of knowledge sharing in organizations.

For a goal-oriented organizational culture, workers in an organization work to achieve the set individual and organizational goals with the use of all the resources at their disposal. The organizational culture also involves risk-taking and hence it’s different from the means-oriented organizational culture where employees are not risk-takers. In the research proposal, two theoretical propositions have also been made on the two types of organizational culture and their impact on information sharing. The first proposition is on means-oriented organizational culture. It proposes that depending on the clarity of the work outcome in organizations, this culture may have a positive or negative effect on information sharing. A goal-oriented organizational culture may also have a positive or negative impact on knowledge sharing in organizations, which is also dependent on work outcome clarity in the organization.


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