Managing Quality Across Diverse Cultural Contexts

Quality Assurance ConceptTotal quality management (TQM) has been referred to as a universal set of ”best practices” that offer technical solutions to improve inefficient operations among both service providers and manufacturing firms. In practice, the Japanese firms’ high level of performance, the emergence of process-oriented and benchmarking approaches, and the popularity of national and international quality awards have brought the notion of ”best practice” to greater prominence across the world.
 

The term “best practice” is an indicator of the very best of TQM’s more universal approach to operations improvement and sustained business excellence. While TQM, as a set of universal best practices, has been adopted as a proven strategy to generate and maintain competitive advantage in Japan and the West, its adoption in the developing or semi-developed economies of the MENA region requires a thorough understanding and appreciation of the organizational context and culture, as well as of the degree of congruence between the organizational context and the underlying assumptions of TQM practices.
 

As a result, the context-dependent dimension of quality management (and other management initiatives) reminds the practicing managers in the MENA region to be cautious in applying theories and initiatives that have their roots in different (mainly Western) cultural contexts. To decide on their next move and make informed decisions on adopting a new quality-improvement initiative, they need to assess the applicability of any quality-driven approaches to their organizational and cultural context.
 

Overall, TQM is composed of certain underling values and precepts. In order for TQM to effectively improve the operational and organizational performance of MENA-based organizations and enhance the competitiveness of the MENA region as a whole, its values have to permeate and penetrate throughout the organization and across the business environment. One way to do this is to modify and change the values of the organization so as to fit and harmonize with the underlying values of TQM. However, changing an organization’s culture is a challenging task, owing largely to the fact that organizational values are subject to the national cultural norms and values.
 

This means that effective implementation of TQM requires a cultural transformation of the organization and the business environment. Due to the impact of national (and concomitantly organizational) culture on the implementation of TQM, practicing managers in MENA-based organizations – and in particular multinational firms operating in the MENA region – need to be aware that a completely uniform approach to managing quality across different cultures may prove ineffective. Rather, they need to adapt their operations strategies for TQM implementation to the cultural norms of the country in which they are operating. When they do, we can expect TQM initiatives to bring about some desirable outcomes in the MENA region.
 

This topic will be discussed at Innovation Arabia 8, 16-18 February 2015 at The Address Hotel – Dubai Mall, Dubai, UAE

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