The Nexus Between Learning Orientation, TQM Practices, Innovation Culture, and Organizational Performance of SMEs in Kuwait

Fahad Sawaean, Khairul A. M. Ali
Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management  •  Volume 16  •  2021  •  pp. 147-172

This paper aimed to examine the impact of learning orientation on organizational performance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) via the mediating role of total quality management (TQM) practices and the moderating role of innovation culture.

SMEs’ organizational performance in developing countries, particularly in Kuwait, remains below expectation due to increasing competition and inadequate managerial practices that negatively impact their performance. Although several studies had revealed a significant effect of learning orientation on SMEs’ performance, the direct impact of learning orientation on their performance is still unclear. Thus, the link between learning orientation and organizational performance remains inconclusive and requires further examination.

This study adopted a quantitative approach based on a cross-sectional survey and descriptive design to gather the data in a specific period. The data were collected by distributing a survey questionnaire to the owners and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of Kuwaiti SMEs using online and on-hand instruments with 384 useable data obtained. Furthermore, the partial least square-structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) analysis was performed to test the hypotheses.

This study bridged the significant gap in the role of learning orientation on SMEs’ performance in developing countries, specifically Kuwait. In this sense, a conceptual model was introduced, comprising a learning orientation, TQM practices, innovation culture, and organizational performance. In addition, this study confirmed the significant influence of TQM practices and innovation culture as intermediate variables in strengthening the relationship between learning orientation and organizational performance, which has not yet been verified in Kuwait.

The results in this study revealed that learning orientation had a significant impact on organizational performance of SMEs in Kuwait. It could be observed that TQM practices play an important role in mediating the relationship between learning orientation and performance of SMEs, as well as that innovation culture plays an important moderating role in the same relation.

This study provided a framework for the decision-makers of SMEs on the significant impact of the antecedents that enhanced the level of organizational performance. Hence, owners/CEOs of SMEs should improve their awareness and knowledge of the importance of learning orientation, TQM practices, and innovation culture since it could significantly influence their performance to achieve success and sustainability when adopted and managed systematically. The CEOs should also consider building an innovation culture in the internal environment, which enables them to transform new knowledge and ideas into innovative methods and practices.

The results in this study highlighted the mediating effect of TQM practices on the relationship between learning orientation (the independent variable) and organizational performance (the dependent variable) of SMEs and the moderating effect of innovation culture in the same nexus. These relationships were not extensively addressed in SMEs and thus required further validation.

This study also influenced the management strategies and practices adopted by entrepreneurs and policymakers working in SMEs in developing countries, which is reflected in their development and the national economy.

Future studies should apply the conceptual framework of this study and assess it further in other sectors, including large firms in developing and developed countries, to generalize the results. Additionally, other mechanisms should be introduced as significant antecedents of SMEs’ performance, such as market orientation, technological orientation, and entrepreneurial orientation, which could function with learning orientation to influence organizational performance effectively.

small and medium enterprises, learning orientation, total quality management practices, innovation culture, organizational performance, resource-based view, Kuwait
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