Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Development of a Contingency Model Relating National Culture to Total Quality Management

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Development of a Contingency Model Relating National Culture to Total Quality Management

Article excerpt

TQM implementation across cultures has become a subject of intense discussion in contemporary business. While explicit barriers to international trade and investment flows have been substantially reduced under the influence of globalization of the world economy in recent years, business practices affirms continue to be cultural context-specific, to a great extent. This trend has important implications for the question of how far TQM implementation will go. If the depth and width of globalization is limited by the reach of cultural boundaries, does it not logically follow that national cultures impose constraints on TQM implementation? Can TQM become universal while culture remains local? Or, to ask a different but related question, what would TQM implementation look like in a world characterized by globalization on the one hand and the existence of different cultural contexts on the other? This paper addresses these questions and seeks to provide a contingency model of TQM implementation across cultures.

1. Introduction

In the emerging scenario of globalization of business, researchers have argued with great emphasis that Total Quality Management (TQM) can be used universally for improving quality and productivity (Crosby, 1979; Deming, 1986; Juran, 1989). However, this argument has been countered by a group of researchers in recent years (Spencer, 1994; Chorn, 1991;Laza and Wheaton, 1990; and Ngowi, 2000). According to this school of thought, each organization is influenced by the national environment and TQM's successful implementation, therefore, cannot be automatically guaranteed universally. National cultural differences can be identified on the basis of how their members perceive the world (Stewart and Bennett, 1991 ), how information is processed (Hall and Hall, 1990), how individuals associate themselves with each other, the dynamics of human activity, and the human nature (Trompenaars, 1994) The cultural variations documented in the literature (Glenn and Glenn, 1981; Kluckhorn and Strodbeck, 1961;Triandis and Albert, 1987;Hofstede, 1980,1991) and their implications for TQM implementation are, of course, analytically interesting.

While the need to address the impact of national cultures on TQM implementation has been emphasized, the difficulty of stylizing or modeling the cultural values and the implicit assumptions about them for the purpose of effectively implementing TQM has often been overlooked (Ngowi, 2000; Corbett and Rastrick, 2000). Our main objective in this paper is to strengthen the literature by developing a contingency model of TQM implementation in interaction with national culture. A research exercise of this kind, we believe, would help facilitate the process of TQM implementation in view of the globalization of business . The paper is organized as follows. In section 2, we explain national culture and explore its relationship to TQM. Although, many constructs of culture are available in contemporary literature, we shall use the Hofstede model for the purpose of this paper because of its sharper focus on the task content and some of the formal procedures found in the present-day organizations. These procedures are quite relevant for addressing the question of implementing a TQM program In section 3, we present a contingency model for TQM implementation based on the characteristics of national culture. The final section presents the main conclusions of this study and discusses the limitations of the model.

2. National Culture: Some Reflections

Recent years have witnessed proliferation of an impressive array of research studies focusing on the definition and variations in national cultures (Glenn and Glenn, 1981; Kluckchorn and Strodbeck, 1961; Triandis and Albert, 1987; Hofstede, 1980, 1991). A literature review suggests that culture may be defined in view of its intended use as a determining criteria. Functionalists measure culture as something the organization "has". …

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