KM in the building & construction industriesSystems & complexity

Facilitators and inhibitors of knowledge sharing in the construction industry

This article is part of an ongoing series looking at knowledge management (KM) in the building and construction industries.

Previous research has identified1 barriers to the adoption of knowledge management (KM) in the construction industry. A new paper2 further explores this by conducting a literature review to identify the facilitators and inhibitors of knowledge sharing.

Eight facilitators and five inhibitors were identified. Six of the eight facilitators are individual factors, and two are organisational factors. All five inhibitors are organisational factors.

Facilitating factors

The six individual facilitators are:

  • Conformity to corporate culture. One complimentary factor for ensuring optimal information flow in global business processes such as knowledge management is a supportive and harmonized culture shared by all organizational constituents. Establishing a culture with the norm of knowledge sharing is critical to sustain knowledge management initiatives within the organization.
  • Honouring knowledge sharing commitments. People want to appear consistent to others and having made their intentions to share their knowledge explicit, people will want to live up to these intentions and honour their commitment.
  • Peer recognition. It is in the interests of people to be viewed as experts. If people have a reputation for expertise this is a source of power. They need to be certain that their colleagues will acknowledge the source of this knowledge and will not claim credit for it.
  • Perceived value and uniqueness of knowledge. People find some subjects particularly fascinating, and they may be eager to talk about them as much from self-gratification as wanting to communicate knowledge. As knowledge becomes less available, people perceive it to be more valuable.
  • Reciprocity. Time, energy and intelligence of people are all finite, and people take time to help a colleague if they think they are likely to receive valuable knowledge in return, either now or in the future which requires a sense of reciprocity.
  • Mimicking the behaviour of leaders. The activities of knowledge management in construction companies can be implemented, more significantly if their top managers are willing to play a more important role in conducting these activities by setting the example.

The two organisational facilitators are:

  • Financial/social motivations. Knowledge sharing barriers need to be overcome and knowledge management strategies appropriately supported by a reward and incentive structure for a successful implementation in construction organisations. It is important to develop an incentive and reward structure, as “goodwill knowledge philanthropy” is hard to achieve.
  • Culture. Culture has been identified as one of the most crucial factors contributing to the success of a knowledge management project. Culture provides norms/rules for behaviour in organizations, which are essential in the sharing of knowledge when well implemented in the organizational culture.

Inhibiting factors

The five organisational inhibitors are:

  • Resources – Mainly time. Time constraint is a key barrier in construction organisations given that projects are characterised by fixed time scales. Employees frequently cite a lack of time to share knowledge.
  • Low level of training / intellectual capital. the loss of intellectual capital due to the lack of means for knowledge is one of the several reasons why sharing knowledge projects fail in the construction industry. The lack of standard work processes highlighted as a barrier to knowledge sharing is partly connected with the low level of training of the employees.
  • High turnover. Staff leaving the organisation was pointed out as being one of the main barriers of the knowledge sharing process. High staff defection is also seen as of the main obstacle in the implementation of knowledge management.
  • Mainly a male sector. Females are likely to experience high-quality instrumental exchanges about individualized information and personalized knowledge, suggesting that females are more sensitive than males to the influence of instrumental ties on knowledge sharing.
  • Culture. Culture has been a recurrent theme in the knowledge management literature as it can enable or inhibit an organisation’s knowledge management strategy. Several studies outlined cross-cultural sharing barriers based on organisational culture.

The authors advise that the facilitating factors can be seen as guidelines for knowledge strategies to improve organisational performance in the construction industry, and that these strategies will benefit from translating individual and group knowledge to organizational knowledge. They also suggest that knowledge sharing technologies can at least partly address the inhibiting factors.

Image source: Home Builder by Scott Lewis is licenced by CC BY 2.0.


  1. Robinson, H. S., Carrillo, P. M., Anumba, C. J., & Al-Ghassani, A. M. (2001, September). Perceptions and barriers in implementing knowledge management strategies in large construction organisations. In Proceedings of the RICS COBRA Conference (pp. 451-460).
  2. Leal, C., Cunha, S., & Couto, I. (2017). Knowledge sharing at the construction sector–facilitators and inhibitors. Procedia Computer Science121, 998-1005.
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Also published on Medium.

Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes ( is a knowledge management (KM), environmental management, and education professional with over 30 years of experience in Australia and China. His work has received high-level acclaim and been recognised through a number of significant awards. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group at Wageningen University and Research, and holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction. He is also the editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine (, and teaches in the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) Certified High-school Program (CHP).

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