Motivation Gaps and Implementation Traps: The Paradoxical and Time‐Varying Effects of Family Ownership
Josip Kotlar, Alfredo De Massis, Federico Frattini and Nadine Kammerlander
Originally published: August 13, 2019 (PDMA JPIM • Vol. 37, Issue 1 • January 2020)
Read time: 48 minutes
Access the Full Article
We present a theoretical framework of family ownership as a driver of the heterogeneity (between‐firm differences) and variability (within‐firm differences over time) of absorptive capacity (AC). Building on our analysis of the multiple dimensions of family ownership influence on firm behavior and the mechanisms that can shape the firm willingness and ability to acquire, assimilate, transform, and exploit external knowledge, we introduce the concepts of motivation gap and implementation gap to explain why, paradoxically, family ownership can cause both upward and downward divergences in AC. Our contingency framework identifies conditions under which the positive and negative effects of family ownership on AC are likely to prevail and adds a temporal perspective suggesting that AC varies depending on the duration of family ownership and ownership succession.
- Our model explains two important implications of family ownership, emotional attachment and power concentration, that affect family firms' ability and willingness to acquire, assimilate, transform, and exploit external knowledge.
- Our model suggests that both ability and willingness can cause poor performance in incorporating and using external knowledge.
- Family firm owners and managers can use the framework to “map” their own firm's situation and understand their strengths and weaknesses with regard to absorptive capacity, and identify corrective actions to address motivation and implementation gaps identified through the model.
- Finally, the model offers some valuable practical insights into the effects of family owners' tenure and succession. Knowledge about these effects can be valuable to guide firm‐specific discussions about when ownership succession should take place.