Understanding Organisational Culture For Knowledge Sharing Commerce Essay

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Culture circumscribes the philosophy, costs, values, attitudes and attitude and behaviour of an organisation. Culture is how things get done in organisations. It is also a well-known fact that an organisation's culture shapes its learning direction. It is consequently significant to recognize the cultural features of the organisation before planning any scheme in e-learning or knowledge management.

In this Goffee & Jones model for understanding legal firm's culture and existing a map for Baker & McKenzie that can be used to make rapid conclusion when assembling conclusions on other elements of Baker & McKenzie learning (e.g. e-learning or knowledge management initiatives).

Two Dimensions, Four Cultures

With the help of this model, "What Holds the Modern Company Together" (Harvard Business Review, November-December, 1996), Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones present a matrix for understanding organizational culture. The two dimensions of the matrix are:



Sociability is the amount of 'sincere' friendliness between employees of the law firm. Here employees are more like friends than just office colleagues. They likely to consume a lot more time in face-to-face communication, exchanging ideas, and maintain a high level of unarticulated rectification. A crucial point to mark here is that all this occurs on an unceremonious and natural basis; no strings attached.

High sociability will have many advantages like for Baker & McKenzie like, sharing of ideas, knowledge transfer, out-of-the-box thinking and high esprit de corps.

But there are some disadvantages as well relates to high sociability which should be avoided by law firm. For example, arguments and criticisms are avoided in the fear of disappointing other friends. For the same reason poor performance is also tolerated.

Solidarity on the other hand is the gauge of the lawyers of the legal industry to follow mutual goals, unconcerned of individual attachment.  Here a dual wisdom of reason is mainly significant. Even if employees within firm don't know each other, a sense of elevated unity will bring them together to act as one unit.

Strong sense of reaction to competitive encroaches and other organisational disasters and low tolerance of poor performance of employees are one of the few advantages of high solidarity.

But again, as in the case of high sociability, high solidarity has its disadvantages. These lie mainly in a "what's in it for me?" attitude and ruthless turf battles.

These two dimensions of culture disclose four different types of culture  (see Figure 1). These are:





Figure 1: The 4 dimensions of culture

Goffee and Jones emphasis the reality that no one quadrant is better than the others; it just signifies the way an organisation structure itself to deal with its working environment.

One Model, Three Facets

The above model gives a good support for amplifying and conceiving other angles of organisational learning. First, let's analyse trust in Baker & McKenzie law firm.

1. Trust and knowledge sharing

Trust is famous to be the conduit through which knowledge runs out. In "Trust and knowledge sharing: A critical combination", Daniel Z. Levin, Rob Cross, Lisa Abrams and Eric L. Lesser spot two kinds of trust that form knowledge sharing:

Benevolence-based: belief that an employee will not harm another even when given the opportunity to do so. For example, if one lawyer is in vital need of information he might seek help from his colleague to get this information, but in doing so he trusts that this person will not deliberately do harm (e.g. by giving the wrong information) even if he has the opportunity to do so.

Competence-based: belief in another to be knowledgeable or competent in the subject region. Again considering Baker & McKenzie, when an employee is in need of some information, he will seek and trust only those who he thinks have the competence to give him this information.

Placing these two dimensions on the culture model shows the following (see Figure 2):

Baker & McKenzie law firm have high benevolence-based trust, as well as have high competence-based trust.

To gain a rich culture within law firm it is necessary to achieve high competence and high benevolence.

Figure 2: Adding the dimensions of Trust to the model

Now let's add another facet to this model.

2. Organisation work and knowledge sharing

John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, "Balancing Act: How to Capture Knowledge without Killing It" (Harvard Business Review, May-June 2000), make a strong case for the division between 'process' and 'practice'. To quote, "There's a massive slit among what an assignment seems like in a procedure manual and what it seems to be in reality".

Process is what is arranged in system and practices, while practice in fact takes place on the field.

If we cover these two dimensions of Bakers & McKenzie work on our model, it shows the following (See Figure 3):

Legal firms have relied heavily on practice to gain competitive advantage in the industry, while Mercenary organisations rely heavily on process.

Fragmented organisations rely less on process and practice, while Communal organisations rely heavily on both process and practice.

Figure 3: Adding dimensions of Organisational Work to the model

3. Learning and Knowledge Strategy

In "What's Your Strategy for Managing Knowledge?" (Harvard Business Review, March-April 1999), Morten T. Hansen, Nitin Nohria and Thomas Tierney, suggest two dimensions for managing knowledge based on the work practices of a company. These are personalisation and codification. Here's an explanation of these two dimensions.

Personalisation: This is the people-to-people strategy. Here the effort is to like up people with other people and to grow networks and community of practices. Emphasis in on informal-knowledge sharing.

Codification: This is the people-to-documents strategy. Here the effort is to load intranets and databases with best practices, case studies and how-to guides to help people in their day-to-day work. The emphasis here is to reuse what is being already being done elsewhere in the organisation.

Personalisation strategy works best for Networked organisations, while the codification strategy works best for Mercenary organisations.

A high balance of both strategies works best for Communal organisations, while, while a low balance of both strategies is the only hope for Fragmented organisations.

Figure 4: Adding dimensions of Strategy to the model

Hofstede model:

Hofstede´s findings support the proposition that cultural differences between companies are still so large that they impact the likelihood of adoption by companies operating in different countries (Van Waarts, Everdingen; 2005). The findings also have important implications for business-to-business companies expanding in foreign countries with new products and services. The example of such a company is rightly Baker & McKenzie that is operating in different countries all over the world.

The main strength of Hofstede model lies in numerical assessments of the positions Baker & Mckenzie operating in different countries on five dimensions of culture, which provide a strong empirical basis (Kolman, Noorderhaven, Hofstede, Dienes; 2003). Although Hofstede's work is a little bit dated and has been criticized on a number of grounds, the dimensions are useful in predicting and understanding members of various societies likely to behave in different ways in different situations.

The Five Cultural Dimensions by G. Hofstede

It is vital to understand other countries where Baker & McKenzie is expanding to or law firm is doing business with and to make decisions based on their rules and convictions of the host country rather than on how Baker & McKenzie operates in their own home country. To be successful, there needs to be comparability with the cultural norms of all the participants. Geert Hofstede (2005) has derived five main dimensions of national culture labelled as:

Figure 5: Hofstede five dimension model

1. Power Distance Index (PDI)

Power Distance refers to the extent to which less powerful people in the organization expect and accept that power is distributed in an unequal manner. Hofstede (2005) claims that inequality within organizations is inevitable and functional and societies deal in different ways with the issues of power, wealth and prestige.

In each country, there is different mobility between different status levels as in certain societies it is more or less easy to change the status than in others. In general, its status depends on education, occupation and income. The inequality of member's ability and power is mostly reflected in organizations which try to maintain structure and order within the organization and therefore form hierarchical structures (Hofstede, 1980/2001).

A high power distance ranking indicates that inequalities of power and wealth are present and desired within the society. It is very common that less powerful people are dependent on those more powerful. Power is commonly centralized and hierarchy in organizations reflects the inequality between different organizational levels (Oudenhoven, Mechelse, Dreu, 1998).

2. Individualism (IND)

The second dimension is a bipolar continuum of Individuality versus Collectively.

The definition is:

"Individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family. Collectivism, as it's opposite, pertains to societies in which people from birth onward are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people's lifetimes continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty." (Perlitz, Seger, 2004, p.5)

A high individualism ranking indicates that identity is based in the individual and individual rights are most important within the society (Hofstede, 1980/2001). The main traits include assertiveness, competitiveness, self-interest and self-actualization. High masculinity refers to men being ego-boosters and women ego-effacers (Hofstede, 1985).

Personal time is also important so that individual have out of job enough time for family life. In individualistic organizations, vertical relationships are more important compared to horizontal relationships stressed in collectivistic societies.

3. Masculinity (MAS)

In the third dimension, masculinity refers to the degree to which individuals value money, success, assertiveness and competitiveness. Roles in masculine societies are strongly determined by gender. On the other hand, femininity refers to a society where feminine values like nurturing, caring and relationship building predominate and minimal differentiation between genders exist. Hofstede (2005) assumes that sex roles transferred through socialization strongly influence the behaviour of each country. Within different cultures certain types of behaviour are regarded as more suitable for men and others more suitable for women. His definition of this dimension is:

A society is called masculine when emotional gander roles are clearly distinct: men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success, whereas women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life.

A society is called feminine when emotional gender roles overlap: both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life. (Hofstede, 2005, p.120)

4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)

Uncertainty avoidance is defined as a society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. It refers to the extent that people feel comfortable or threatened by unknown situations (Hofstede, 1980/2001).

Discomfort with uncertainty is indicated by high scores of uncertainty avoidance. This means that people need stability and do not like unstructured situations or anything new, surprising and unusual. People in uncertainty avoiding cultures are usually more emotional and suffer from high stress and anxiety in unknown situations. Therefore they try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules and safety and security measures (Hofstede, 1994). Examples of rules that control the behaviour of employees, managers and share holders are as follows: rituals, meetings, memorandums, reports, accounting systems.

5. Long-Term Orientation (LTO)

Long-term orientation is the fifth dimension which was found in a study among students in 23 countries around the world. Long term orientation can be characterized by values like thrift, perseverance and a respect for a hierarchy of the status of relationships (Franke, Nadler; 2008). This dimension reflects Confucian values and focuses primarily on persistence (Smith, 2002).

High long-term orientation ranking indicates the Baker & McKenzie prescribes to the values of long-term commitments and a strong work ethic. In addition, these cultures regard leisure time as unimportant. According to Hofstede (2005), main business values include learning, honesty, adaptiveness, accountability and self-discipline. It is also implied that managers and workers share the same aspirations as wide social and economic differences are unfavourable. The highest scores on the fifth dimension can be found in countries with the world's fastest rates of economic growth. Therefore, LTO is strongly related to economic growth (Hofstede, 1994).

Comprehensive Development Framework:

The Development Framework gives a familiar language for considering goals and describing the ways to get there. It also compromises a variety of achievements re-evaluate tools and learning opportunities to give high-quality feedback on accomplishment. Finally, the Development Framework imitates the true complexity of a legal career and allows lawyers to drill down to essentials.

Projects must be supported by true leadership based on the idea that polar types of management. See Appendix C for Mangers vs. Leaders. The Comprehensive Development Framework governs the development of those strategies.

Leadership Models:

The Blanchard Leadership Model

In the Blanchard Leadership Model, Hersey and Blanchard (1977) propose that the style of leadership is based on the subordinate's development level, competence vs. commitment.   The leader then has two diverse kinds of leadership, directive attitude and compassionate performances.  The qualities of directive attitude are one-way communication; followers' role expressed out, and closes supervision of actions.   Supportive leadership attitude comes up with two-way communication, listening, offering help and back up, amenities communication and to evolve follower in decision making.   When the two different types of leadership are put on a framework, four leadership styles emerge.  

1. Telling/Directing

The trainee or newly hired lawyers has a low skill level and possesses low commitment. The trainee lawyers have lacks of training, understanding or previous experience and also lacks the motivation to complete the task and to meet the deadlines. The leader would closely supervise this employee and use one-way communication to educate the new employee to meet high standard of Baker & McKenzie.

2. Selling/Coaching

The new employee has low level of skill but high commitment. He carries out the desire to finish the task but lacks understanding. The leader uses two-way communication to give guidance and expand plans from the colleague about how to complete the task.

3. Participating

The new comers have a high skill and different commitment. The follower has the skills to complete the task, but does not have the confidence to do so. The leader focuses on motivation and confidence, the task is completed by the follower.

4. Delegating

As shown in below fig in last stage lawyer will be high in skill and commitment. Follower is experienced and motivated to fully complete the task. The leader assigns the task and the follower is in charge of decision making and completion.

Figure 6: Blanchard Leadership Model

Abraham Maslow proposed the Hierarchy of Needs model in 1940-50's USA, and the Hierarchy of Needs theory stays applicable today for understanding employee's enthusiasm with in Baker & McKenzie, individual development and management training. Indeed, Maslow's ideas circumscribing the Hierarchy of Needs relating to the liability of employers to offer a workplace environment that consoles and allow employees to accomplish their own different potential (self-actualization) are today more significant than ever.

Figure 7: Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

All of the employees in Baker & McKenzie are motivated by needs. Their most basic needs are inborn, having involved over tens of thousands of years. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs helps to determines how these needs motivate us all.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs describes that we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most obvious needs for survival itself.

Only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied are employees are anxious with the higher order needs of influence and personal development.

Alderfer's ERG Theory 

Simplifying Maslow's needs theory was put forward by psychologist Clayton Alderfer with his ERG theory (see appendix for Maslow and Alderfer's Theories side by side). Both theories see needs as the motivating force behind behaviour. People are motivated to do things by different needs, of which Alderfer identified three:

Figure 8: Alferders's ERG

Existence needs - needs for physiological and material well-being

Relatedness needs - needs for satisfying interpersonal relationships

Growth needs - needs for continued personal growth & development


Development strategies should be complete and formed by a long-term vision. In the past, development strategies give priority to short-term macroeconomic compensation and balance-of-payment corrections. The Baker & McKenzie must focus on longer-term social and structural reflections, such as growing and getting better in terms of customer services to achieve high level of their customers satisfaction, maintaining infrastructure, and training a new employees.

Every office should express and plan its own development agenda based on citizen participation.

Management, lawyers, leadership and other stakeholders should work together to bring development strategies. Partnerships structure on clarity, common trust and discussion can add up the effectiveness and efficiencies of aid, and help Baker & McKenzie to increase their aptitude to expand and carry out an extensive range of services.

Development performance should be evaluated on the basis of accessible outcomes.


Performance transparency anticipation in Baker & McKenzie current role and progression at the firm.

Feedback from Partners on performance from time to time.

Personal and professional support in the job for all employees for development programme.

Evaluating the culture of Baker & McKenzie and concentrating on progress in enclosing knowledge management into that culture must be a crucial part of global knowledge programme. There are some benchmark industry determines for understanding the evaluating towards a culture in which knowledge sharing is truly embedded. These include alignment of KM objectives with compensation structures, board-level leadership, and the establishment of appropriate processes and policies. All these factors must be considered when analysing knowledge programme. 

There are, though, a number of less clear signs that can help expose how much progress is being made. At Baker & McKenzie, management must moved past the issues of clarifying roles and accountability, A notice changes in the attitudes within the firm towards KM. These changes are encouraging, as management and leadership understand that only when knowledge management becomes the work of the whole organisation rather than just that of a specific group does it begin to yield lasting results. A number of trends in particular stand out.


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Kubr, M (edition) Management Consultancy: a guide to the profession, ILO.

R. T. (2005) Organizational change management: A crucial review, journal of Change Management 5 (4) 369-380.