Implementing Total Quality Management (TQM) - The Issue of National Culture

Master's Thesis, 2003

55 Pages, Grade: 70%


Table of contents





Hofstede's Classic Study
Trompenaars Dimensions






I am very grateful to the various organisations that provided my professional experience, including my past and current employers [Habitat Deutschland GmbH, Linkworld Computer GmbH, TESMA Europe GmbH, and AMETEK Precision Instruments Europe GmbH].

For their encouragement, I am grateful to the staff of ''Industrie und Handelskammer [IHK], Düsseldorf'' , and European College of Business and Management [ECBM], London.

I should also like to thank all the lecturers at the University of East London [uel] who have given support and advice while I have been writing this report, and in particular John Cocking and Robin Little, whose many suggestions and ideas for improvement, helped shape the direction and the focus of this report.

I must acknowledge that, the comments and advice of Yaw Adu-Larbi of HSBC London, Christian Schrage, and Gerhard Ziegler, of the Weekend MBA Programme, have also been very valuable.

Foremost, Iam grateful to my family, who have truly participated in the writing of this report.


Recent surveys in Europe, Africa and the United States show that about 70% of Total Quality Management implementation programmes have not been successful as compared to most countries in Asia. With many multinational businesses expanding operations into foreign countries, which will assist in the development of effective TQM implementation plans. This dissertation investiagtes the relationship that exists between TQM and national culture. Using examples of TQM adoption in three countires, my main findings are that the cultural setting of a particular country affects its level of resistance to TQM adoption.


Total Quality Management, National Culture, Uncertainty Avoidance, Power, Distance, Individualism, Masculinity.


Total Quality Management has worked in Japan, so why wouldn't it work in the USA, Europe or Africa? This is a very popular statement amongst many multinational companies when they want to implement quality strategies in different countries.

They usually ignore the importance of culture and its impact on transplanting quality strategies that has been successful in one cultural set up. This is one of the main reasons why TQM has not worked in many countries. The compatibility of TQM with different cultures should always be reviewed since work ethics for instance in Ghana is different from that in Japan. Culture reflects the way of life, values, and beliefs of a society and as such very difficult to change but rather can be slightly modified through education and training to adapt to certain quality management strategies.

This claim of the impact of national culture, on the successful TQM implementation across national boundaries forms the basis of this management report. In this report therefore, literature on both TQM and culture will be critically discussed in the first two chapters. The third chapter will critically analyze the literature on the impact of culture in the successful implementation of TQM across different countries.

Chapter four will analyze the managerial implications and finally a conclusion and recommendation will be drawn.



The impact of globalization and technological change has made many organizations come to realize that they cannot survive or make profits unless they can meet the changing customer needs and requirements or survive the increasing severe economic competition. This has increased the awareness, need and value of TQM to the success of most organizations. Quality in these modern times has been seen as a key strategic factor in achieving business success. What then is this TQM?

Different authors have given different definitions and meanings to TQM. Crosby (1979), for instance argues that 'quality has no qualifiers' , defining quality management as a systematic way of guaranteeing that organized activities happen the way they are planned.

Collard (1987) , in support of Crosby's definition, argued that TQM is zero defects in the products and services of an organizations'. Therefore TQM is about providing quality in all aspects of an organization's operations and, perhaps even more importantly, doing things right first time, which adds nothing to the cost of a company's products or services. The problem with this definition however is that, it fails not to note that getting things right first time and providing quality in operations depends on how each individual interprets it.

For many managers today, customer focused TQM is now synonymous with good management (Schonberger, 1992). As stated in the mission and quality statements of many businesses, TQM is now acknowledged as a set of concepts and tools for getting all employees focused on continuous improvement (Schonberger, 1992).

Fenyvesi (1992) argues that application of the TQM concept should result in improved organizational efficiency through teamwork, personal responsibility, customer orientation, and institutional openness.

Bounds et al. (1994) show that in total quality, manager's focus on customer value, cross-functional systems and continuous improvement, which involves the whole organization from the top to the bottom.

Flynn et al. (1994) assert that quality management is an approach to achieving and sustaining high quality outputs where management practices are the inputs and quality performance represents the outputs.

As noted by Powell (1995), TQM produces a variety of benefits such as understanding of customer's needs, improved customer satisfaction, improved internal communication, better problem solving, greater employee commitment and motivation, stronger relationships with suppliers, fewer errors and reduced waste. Haigh & Morris (1994) further suggest that TQM is a process that embraces the conscious striving for zero defects; the management of organizations in co-operation with its workforce to improve process in order to develop, produce and market quality good and services that satisfy customers' needs and expectations. This to a large extent makes sense but they ignore the fact that most managers are not ready to co-operate with their employees to achieve improved organizational performance.

These different definitions and meanings given to TQM at times make the concept very confusing. To however get a strong grounding of today's concept of TQM, then the work of the five main “gurus” of quality has to be well understood. These quality ''pioneers'' are Deming, Juran, Feigenbaum, Crosby and Ishikawa. In the following sub- section nonetheless, their work will be discussed only briefly and not in depth. To Deming, quality can be defined as a never ending cycle of continuous improvement. In Deming's model, quality is not a destination, but rather a journey.

He also points out that a firm will benefit most if it builds a long-term relationship with a few suppliers rather than switching from one supplier to another. This relationship to him makes the supplier a partner and reduces cost and improves services for both the supplier and the firm. Deming further developed a chain reaction model where improving quality through improving process leads to a reduction of waste, rework and delays. As such, productivity and quality are improved as well. In order to achieve this aim Deming developed an approach which is summarized in his 14 points for management as seen in appendix 1. (Deming, 1982).

Deming however ignores the question of commitment and motivation of the invidual employee which are very important aspects of todays TQM approach.

According to Juran quality is seen as fitness for use. He developed a quality trilogy which is a way of thinking about quality that fits all functional levels, and all product lines. In the first step of this trilogy, the organization identifies the needs of internal and external customers, and then develops product specifications. In the second step, key indicators are defined, monitored and control limits established, based on process capability. Juran however claims that taking short cuts can be disastrous when trying to identify a cause. In the final step, well-defined projects are used to improve quality. Here, remedies are proposed, tested and implemented. He also stressed that the involvement of top management is an important signal for every employee in the business organization. (Juran,1989)

Crosby started his concept with the statement that quality is free. It is not a gift but it is free. To him what costs money are the un-quality things - all the actions that involve not doing jobs right the first time. Like Deming, Crosby also provides a 14 point quality improvement plan. He also sees quality as conformance to requirement, and that an organization's cost of non-conformance can be as high as 30 per cent. He did argue that organizations can be vaccinated against non-conformance to quality requirements. (Crosby, 1979).

Feigenbaum offered a highly structured approach to TQM. He contributed two new aspects. Firstly he argued that it is the total participation of all employees and the total integration of both the technical and human resources of the organization is what will result in its long term success. His second point was that cost of control and cost of failure of control have to be minimized by quality improvement programs.

He argues that if these costs are reduced then the overall cost of non-quality of the company will be reduced thus improving its competitive situation. Feigenbaum's approach nonetheless ignores the motivation and commitment of the individual worker to quality. ( Feigenbaum, 1983).

The work of the last guru Ishikawa comes very close to today's understanding of TQM. He covers a number of key issues. He claims that the needs of the customer have to be satisfied. In his definition, he argues that TQM emphasizes a clear customer orientation - both internal and external. Also TQM involves everybody in the organization, and as such every employee should be allowed to contribute their ideas to quality improvement. He suggested quality circles as an effective way of getting everybody involved in quality issues. Getting everybody involved he claims requires continuous education and that TQM begins with education and ends with education (Ishikawa, 1985).

Although all the above discussed gurus have outlined different approaches to TQM, it is clear that they are all driving at the same point. (i.e. The basic principles of quality management). As Oakland puts it ''They are all talking the same language but they use different dialects“[1]. One major pitfall in their studies is that they all seem to ignore the role of the human resource issue and the world class quality at minimum cost. If workers are not committed then TQM cannot work in today's business world.

However, TQM has suffered several problems in reality, and thus has been criticized By many authors. Preston and Hingorani (1998) for instance substantiated the problem of considerable variability in TQM's performance impacts. Davis and Fisher (1994) reported that essentially the whole package of principles embodied by TQM has to be adopted to achieve the maximum benefit.

Also though TQM has worked in certain countries like Japan, it has failed in many other countries. Wild (1998) observed that Australian organizations are struggling with the problems of implementation of TQM system and they have had limited success.

The reason given to this is that, the adoption of quality management varies across national boundaries and as such TQM implementations should be embedded with the cultural values and assumptions that are consistent with this culture of origin. To further understand this, the literature on culture has to be outlined. The next section explains culture, its diagnoses, study and measurement.



Literature on culture has changed in content and emphasis since 1982. Earlier literature explained the theory and concept, while in the last two decades literature on culture had had a more practical approach putting more emphasis on the use (Hofstede, 1986) and how culture can be changed to increase organizational effectiveness (Bettinger, 1989).

In recent decades, organizations have increasingly paid particular attention to culture as a variable that can affect its success or failure (Mc Nabb and Sepic, 1995). This is because cultural influences in different countries result in different styles of organizational behavior and different patterns of organization structure.

Culture differs in the way it is perceived by its members (Stuart and Bennett, 1991), how they deal with uncertainty and the extent to which less powerful members of society accept and expect power to be distributed equally (Hofstede 1991), low information is processed and how human beings relate to each other and to nature (Trompenaars 1999).

Many researchers have different view on the definitions and literature on culture. Such confusion has led to an inconsistency particularly in the literature on culture change. Culture has traditionally been viewed as one facet of anthropology (Robbins, 1983), but (Lewis, 1998) claim that classifying organizational culture as purely anthropological is too narrow, as it really is an interdisciplinary phenomenon with contributors from psychology, sociology, anthropology and social psychology.

Schein for instance sees the model of culture as a pattern of basic assumptions (Schein, 1984). Lewis supports this view and defines culture as a basic assumptions that people in an organization hold and share about that organization. Those assumptions are implied in their shared feelings, beliefs and values and embodied in symbols, processes, forms and some aspects of patterned group behavior (Lewis, 1992).

Hatch (1993), also adopts Schein's model but view the interaction of artefacts, values, assumptions and symbols as cyclical rather than in term of Schein'S layered model. Culture is not innate. It is transmitted trough contact with others in our environments and is shared amongst them (Schermerhorn et al., 1995).

(Smircich, 1983a, b); and (Schall, 1983) see culture as a variable, which is affected by both external and internal stimuli, and which can consciously be managed by the organization itself. That is, whether it is something an organization has or something an organization is.

It must be noted that Culture is difficult to define in a way that encompasses its full meaning and many short definitions have previously only captured a hint of its entirety (Alvesson and Berg, 1992).

2.1 Studying and diagnosing culture

Similarly different authors have suggested different ways to the study and diagnoses of the concept of culture.

Pettigrew (1979) saw culture to be manifested in the ideologies, myths, symbols, legends, rituals, stories, and language of an organization. Different authors however agree on either one or more of these.

For example Dandridge (1985) and Eisenberg and Riley (1988) look at symbols: while Bailey (1983) used language; Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo (1982) and Trice and Beyer (1984) on the other hand studied rites and rituals; Koprowski (1983) and Owen (1984) both studied myths.

Schall (1983) claimed that the best way to study culture was by using the communication rules of the organization. This claim made much sense to the same extent but it did not do enough in translating culture in any detail.

Hofstede (1984, 1991) researched national cultures, and concluded that the main cultural dimensions were: Power distance, Uncertainty avoidance, Masculinity/femininity, Collectivism/individualism; and Long-termism/short-termism. To Hagedorn and Little (1984, p. 30), the main aspect of an organization that need to be tested is mainly the things that reflect the preferred management style such as work norms, efficiency, initiative and its relationship to innovation.

Desatnick (1986) set up a management climate survey to measure ''how people view and react to the organization's culture, values, and norms''. It must be noted however that profiles also rely heavily on the interpretation of behavior.

Louis (1981) came up with different ways of looking at culture, mainly including phenomenological and ethnographic methods as well as interaction analysis and experimental methods. To her culture should be looked at as a whole, especially its origin, what it entails as well as its manifestations and effects.

Martin and Siehl (1983), suggested that subcultures (the parts of the organization with different strategic and operational goals from the remainder of the organization) and counter-cultures (the parts with entirely different transcendental goals) may provide an impediment to the study of the overall organizational culture, and thus has to be looked at.

Sathe (1983, 1985) and Schein (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1989) both concluded that there are a number of unconscious assumptions involved in culture, which can be gathered from observable manifestations. They made use of observing behavior as a part of interpreting a culture; however other strategies in their methodology ignored it. Though these above discussed methods differ, they all include a study of behavior of some sort. The next step after studying and diagnosing culture is how it can be measured which is seen in the next section.


[1] Oakland, J. S (1993), Total Quality Management, 2nd ed., Butterworth, London

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Implementing Total Quality Management (TQM) - The Issue of National Culture
University of East London  (East London Business School)
Master of Business Administration
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ISBN (Book)
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Implementing, Total, Quality, Management, Issue, National, Culture, Master, Business, Administration
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Abraham Allotey (Author), 2003, Implementing Total Quality Management (TQM) - The Issue of National Culture, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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