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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Industrial Marketing Management, Volume 38, Issue 2, February 2009, Pages 173–180
Knowledge management is generally recognized as a resource for sustainable competitive advantage. Many organizations have approached knowledge management through the use of information technology. However, results are mixed, primarily because (1) information is merely one aspect of knowledge management, (2) some types of knowledge are difficult to transfer effectively and (3) the structure and culture of organizations may inhibit knowledge transfer. In this study, we examine knowledge management in a franchising context because franchisors and franchisees are independent entities linked together in a contractual (some even use the word hybrid) relationship. In addition, the ’product or service’ offered by a franchise organization is an outcome of knowledge resources and the success of a franchise system depends on how well the parties involved in a franchise system leverage their knowledge resource. Specifically, we explicate types of knowledge, discuss the differences between traditional and network franchise organizations and develop a framework for knowledge management in franchise systems.
Successful franchisors do not just sell products and services. They perfect a business system and then sell the know-how and benefits of the business system to prospective franchisees and subsequently to customers. One of the keys to franchise system success seems to be managing (e.g., developing, perfecting, disseminating, and improving) an intangible resource — knowledge, both within and across organizations. This is particularly pertinent because franchisors and franchisees are independent entities linked in a contractual (some even use the term hybrid to capture a place in between market and hierarchy — Bercovitz, 1999) relationship. Franchise business formats have been investigated extensively (Bai and Tao, 2000, Hoffman and Preble, 1993, Larson, 2002, Maylor, 1998 and Shane and Foo, 1999), however, most studies have looked at franchising from a legal and contractual perspective, functional perspective (e.g., marketing, finance, production, supply chain management, and human resource management), and even ownership perspective (Bercovitz, 1998, Bercovitz, 1999, Dant et al., 1996, Lafontaine, 1992 and Lafontaine, 1993). To the best of knowledge, no research attention has been given to how knowledge is created and managed in franchise organizations. The knowledge management literature offers much to franchise organizations. For example, knowledge has been suggested to be a complex resource that has a high propensity to contribute to sustainable competitive advantage (Morgan & Hunt, 1997), to enable franchise units to become more efficient (Darr, Argote, & Epple, 1995), and is vital for new product development and success (Van der Bij, Song, & Weggeman, 2003). Successful franchise organizations, therefore, must develop an environment and systems to foster knowledge creation and transfer between franchisor and franchisees, across franchised units, franchisor and company-owned units, and among all members in the network such as suppliers, customers and other organizations (Augier, Shariq, & Vendelo, 2001). Franchise systems have been described as existing on a continuum with endpoints described as “traditional” and “network” franchise organizations. In traditional franchise organizations, the franchise agreement or contract explicitly delineates the roles and responsibilities of franchisors and franchisees (Bercovitz, 1999 and Lafontaine, 1993) and guide the relationship and interactions between these entities. More likely, knowledge is created by the franchisor and disseminated to franchisees as well as company-owned units. In comparison, network franchise organizations are more flexible in nature and are guided by norms and relational dimensions rather than by contracts. Whereas traditional organizations have specific operating guidelines that are strictly adhered to, network franchise organization are more open, flexible, and allow greater communication between and among network members (Achrol, 1997 and Achrol and Kotler, 1999). Thus, knowledge may flow from and to any member in the network. This view of the “franchise continuum” is consistent with Macneil's (1980) view of the relational exchange continuum in which pure contractual exchange and pure relational exchange lie at opposite ends (also see Maxwell, 1999). While in practice most franchise organizations will lie somewhere in between, comparison of organizations at the endpoints provides a foundation for better understanding of knowledge management in franchise systems. The purpose of this research is to develop a framework that purports to explain knowledge transfer in franchise organizations. Towards this goal, we integrate research from the knowledge and information management (Augier et al., 2001, Herschel et al., 2001, Menon and Varadarajan, 1992, October and Nonaka, 1994) and franchise and business network research streams (Achrol, 1996, Achrol, 1997, Achrol and Kotler, 1999, Anderson et al., 1994, October, Miles and Snow, 1992, Paswan et al., 2003, Snow, 1997, Snow et al., 1992 and Walker, 1997 ). Specifically, we first provide an overview of knowledge management literature followed by its implications for competitive advantage. Next, we discuss the traditional and network type of franchise organizations and develop research propositions (see Table 1). We conclude with a discussion of a research agenda and limitations.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
In this manuscript we posit that knowledge and information flows differ in traditional and network franchise organizations. In the traditional franchise system information flows is primarily linear and unidirectional — between franchisor to franchisee. “New” knowledge flows from franchisor to franchisee and, since the relationship is primarily governed by contract, the franchisee has little incentive to share information and new knowledge other than what is required. We hold that explicit knowledge is transferred in the form of operating manuals and guidelines as well as detailed promotional programs which may be transmitted electronically. One of the reasons that tacit knowledge exchange may be limited is because the franchisor is often interested in conformity from franchisees. Therefore, the more knowledge is codified, the more it can be transferred intact without the personal differences that may arise from an individual's tacit knowledge. Here again, when franchisees learn from their experiences within their individual units, there is little incentive to exchange that tacit knowledge to the franchisor. Network franchise organizations differ significantly from traditional franchise systems in how knowledge is managed. While contracts may still exist as a safety-net for both franchisors and franchisees, the contract is not the sole determinant of the relationship. The principles of social networks (Labianca, Brass, & Gray, 1998) often play a major role in shaping the relationships amongst parties. Network franchise organizations have a much higher probability of generating information and knowledge, and using this knowledge for strategic advantage. In network franchise organizations, communication, information sharing, and knowledge transfer can occur between every entity in the network. That is, the potential exists for an individual franchisee to share customer or competitor knowledge with every other franchisee in the network including the franchisor and master franchisees. This is made possible due by implementing technology that allows seamless communication of knowledge and information (Paswan et al., 2003). Also, the relationships that are developed between the individual managers, franchisee owners, and franchisor managers create an atmosphere or trust which supports knowledge sharing (cf. Wright et al., 2001 and Yeh et al., 2006). While risk is not entirely eliminated, the rewards of creating and sharing knowledge may not only benefit individual franchisees but also, potentially every member of the network. Explicit knowledge is still the easier form of knowledge to transfer. However, tacit knowledge is more likely to be passed along between members of the network since the resultant rewards of sharing knowledge is likely to be shared (Darr et al., 1995). Network franchise organizations have the potential to benefit greatly from knowledge created by its distributed members while traditional organizations must overcome a variety of difficulties to first, create new knowledge, and second, manage it in a way that will benefit franchise system members. In conclusion, we submit that this manuscript contributes to the extant literature by: (1) developing a framework of knowledge management in the context of franchise organizations; (2) providing an overview of two “endpoint” forms of franchise systems; (3) explicating knowledge transfer in the two forms of franchise organizations; and (4) developing a conceptual model and propositions that may be tested empirically. We hope that this study provides an impetus for future studies and test of propositions offered in this paper and continued exploration of knowledge management in franchise systems.