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  • Organisational Culture and Performance in

    Project Based Organisations operating in the

    Australian Resources and Energy Sectors

    Jennifer J Moffatt Master of Business (Integrated Marketing Communication) Bachelor of Business (Communication)

    Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of:

    Doctor of Philosophy

    Science and Engineering Faculty

    Queensland University of Technology

    Australia

    2018

  • Abstract and Keywords

    OC and Performance in PBOs operating in the Australian Resources & Energy Sectors | i

    Abstract

    In the extant literature the issue of whether a connection or relationship exists

    between organisational culture (OC) and performance remains mixed. Despite the

    interest, research is inconclusive of the links of these constructs. However, there is

    little point in spending hours on ethnography, diagnostic analysis and analytics of an

    organisations culture without knowing what the genuine concerns of senior

    management are, and the shifting motivations and evolving norms of non-leader

    stakeholders and employees (Schein & Schein, 2016). The purpose of this research is

    to firstly investigate the nature or form of OC, and secondly understand OCs

    relationship to the performance of a specific organisation type: Project Based

    Organisations (PBOs), in a specific industry and jurisdiction: the Australian resources

    and energy sector.

    This is of significance as PBOs that undertake engineering projects have made a

    major contribution to the Australian economy, have experienced the impact of

    unprecedented market conditions, rely solely on the supply of project related work,

    and how they manage and perform on projects is important. The importance has

    implications to the engineering profession, the jobs PBOs create, and the greater

    community they operate within. Minerals, metals and energy commodities are far more

    salient to the Australian economy than they are to most other advanced nations and the

    direction of commodity prices is a key influence on the economy (Eslake, 2017b). This

    research advances current knowledge in an industry sector that has unique and

    challenging aspects that are different to manufacturing, retail, health or other sectors

    where such studies are mostly conducted.

    PBOs working in this industry often compete for the same projects and specialist

    productive resources, face the same pressures, conflicting demands, and supply issues.

    As PBOs manage the cyclical transition from a decade long, mining investment super-

    cycle, to a stressful and spiralling economic downturn it seems inevitable that certain

    aspects of their culture would have been affected. It raises questions of the role of OC

    and to what extent it impacts on performance, or suggests a certain type of culture may

    exist, or be shared through certain market conditions.

  • Abstract and Keywords

    OC and Performance in PBOs operating in the Australian Resources & Energy Sectors | ii

    The inquiry into the nature of OC and its relationship to performance was

    conducted through a linked, mixed method approach over four phases including

    interviews and surveys with participants from 20 different PBOs. The research design

    used a model and instrument of OC developed by Daniel Denison (Denison & Neale,

    1999; Denison, 1990, 1997; Denison & Mishra, 1995). The results provide a cultural

    profile of PBOs through the collection and analysis of qualitative data that aligned with

    the Denison OC model’s premise, which maintains that cultural and behavioural

    characteristics of organisations have a measurable effect on a company’s performance

    (Denison, 1984, 1990; Denison & Mishra, 1995; Denison, Nieminen, & Kotrba, 2012).

    Interviewees provided a rich insight into a sector that has experienced substantial

    distress, and how this has impacted on their culture and performance. The main

    contribution and point of difference of this research is that it investigated a specific

    and unique organisational form in a notable and unanticipated phase in the Australian

    economic cycle, and presents a model that represents the nature of a PBOs culture.

    Keywords

    Project based organisations, Australia, Resources and energy sector, Denison

    Organisational Culture Survey, Engineering, Mixed methods, Organisational culture,

    Performance.

  • Acknowledgements

    OC and Performance in PBOs operating in the Australian Resources & Energy Sectors | iii

    Acknowledgements

    I would like to acknowledge and respectfully thank the individuals and

    organisations that were critical to this research. Firstly, to the Queensland University

    of Technology for the enormous amount of resources and support available; my

    Principal Supervisor, Dr Vaughan Coffey, and Associate Supervisor, Dr Timothy Rose

    for their prudent advice, assistance, and guidance. The astute individuals who

    participated in the interviews and their extraordinary openness, friendliness, and

    honesty deserve special mention. This group of people generously provided time,

    insight and depth without which the research would not have been possible. The

    participants who undertook the survey assisted to build the OC profile of PBOs and

    bring the research results together. Finally, my husband, Rodney Moffatt, who has

    supported me through all my academic studies.

  • Table of Contents

    OC and Performance in PBOs operating in the Australian Resources & Energy Sectors | iv

    Table of Contents

    ABSTRACT .......................................................................................................................... I ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................... III TABLE OF CONTENTS ................................................................................................... IV LIST OF FIGURES ......................................................................................................... VIII LIST OF TABLES .......................................................................................................... XIII GLOSSARY AND ABBREVIATIONS ......................................................................... XIV STATEMENT OF ORIGINAL AUTHORSHIP............................................................. XVI

    CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................... 1 1.1 RESEARCH BACKGROUND ............................................................................... 1 1.2 RESEARCH PROBLEM AND RESEARCH GAPS .............................................. 3

    1.2.1 Organisational Culture and Performance ..................................................... 3 1.2.2 PBOs Operating in the Australian Resources and Energy Sectors ............... 5 1.2.3 Research Gaps .............................................................................................. 6

    1.3 RESEARCH AIMS, AND PRIMARY RESEARCH QUESTION ......................... 7 1.3.1 Research Question ........................................................................................ 8

    1.4 SUMMARY OF RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN ........................ 8 1.5 SIGNIFICANCE AND CONTRIBUTION OF THE RESEARCH ......................... 8 1.6 CHAPTER CONCLUSION ..................................................................................... 9 1.7 THESIS STRUCTURE .......................................................................................... 10

    CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................ 11 2.1 INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................. 11 2.2 PBOS IN THE AUSTRALIAN RESOURCES AND ENERGY SECTORS ........ 11

    2.2.1 Definition of PBOs ..................................................................................... 12 2.2.2 External Operating Environment ................................................................ 14 2.2.3 Internal Environment and Unique Characteristics of PBOs ....................... 19 2.2.4 Legal Environment ..................................................................................... 28

    2.3 ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE: TRACING THE HISTORY .......................... 34 2.3.1 World War I Epoch: 1910s – 1930s ........................................................... 35 2.3.2 World War II Epoch: 1939 – 1940s ........................................................... 37 2.3.3 Paradigm Wars: 1950s – 1960s: ................................................................. 39 2.3.4 Cultures Cold War: 1970s .......................................................................... 41 2.3.5 The Soft Weapons of National Cultures: 1980s ......................................... 41 2.3.6 Cultures Warriors: The Occupations - 1980s ............................................. 47 2.3.7 OCs Revolution: 1980s continued .............................................................. 48 2.3.8 OCs Link to Performance Battle: 1990s – 2000s: ...................................... 51 2.3.9 OCs Battlefront in the 21st Century .................................................