Five Barriers to Knowledge Sharing in Franchising Organizations

The flow or transfer of knowledge is critical in a decentralized franchisee organization.  In these organizations, innovation often happens at the local, franchisee level.  Tacit knowledge is the informal implicit knowledge necessary to thrive in a competitive environment (as opposed to formal explicit knowledge transmitted through policies, procedures, and training documents).

This tacit knowledge can be shared vertically between franchisors and franchisees and horizontally between franchisees.  Barriers that hinder tacit knowledge transfer in a franchise environment include:

  • Lack of Trust – concern for self-serving behavior by other parties hinders knowledge sharing
  • Maturation – organizations further in the life cycle have fewer tendencies to share knowledge
  • Communication – lack of open communication channels can prevent knowledge sharing
  • Competition – the belief that the franchisor or other franchisees are “the competition” results in not wanting to share ideas and knowledge
  • Culture – hierarchical, controlling cultures hinder free exchange of knowledge

Franchise organizations make up 11% of the U.S. economy.  In these organizations, the way in which learning occurs, organization change happens, and knowledge is transferred is very different than in organizations that directly employ workers.  In franchise organizations, most employees work for individual franchisees, not the franchise corporation.  This distinction results in a host of differences in how the organizations function.

Denise Cumberland and I recently published an article in the Journal of Workplace Learning describing these five barriers and ideas for fostering knowledge sharing.  The pre-edited version is available by clicking here.

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