Total Quality Management and Its Challenges in The Global Workplace

Maria Antonietta Marino Date: 2019-07-02

How can appreciation of a system revolving around people and knowledge of psychology be achieved if there is a mismatch between the values and the behaviors of the different players involved in the supply chain in the global workplace, and little to no awareness of the main cultural differences that may sink a globally managed project?

“It is a mistake to assume that if everybody does his job, it will be all right. The whole system may be in trouble. Quality is everyone’s responsibility.”

W. Edwards Deming

William Edwards Deming , the engineer, statistician and management consultant regarded by many as “the master of continual improvement of quality”, contributed significantly to the turnaround of the post-war Japanese industry and to the rise of Japan to global economic power by introducing a set of theories for managing organizations and human enterprises that radically and permanently changed the way industry thought about quality, leadership, and management.

At the time the Japanese industry was considered a producer of cheap, low quality items, while the American industry was considered a producer of pricey, high quality goods. Dr. Deming, who had worked during World War II as a quality expert in armament plants throughout the US, was in Japan at the invitation of General McArthur: while there, he  became involved with the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) and lectured the Japanese on statistical methods and total quality, a combination of factors that became later known as Total Quality Management (TQM), an organizational philosophy aimed at achieving quality and consistency of outcomes in every department of an organization, with customer satisfaction as an ultimate goal.

Dr. Deming advocated that all managers need to have what he called “a System of Profound Knowledge”, consisting of four parts:

  • Appreciation of a system: understanding the overall processes involving suppliers, producers, and customers (or recipients) of goods and services
  • Knowledge of variation: the range and causes of variation in quality, and use of statistical sampling in measurements
  • Theory of knowledge: the concepts explaining knowledge and the limits of what can be known
  • Knowledge of psychology: concepts of human nature

How can appreciation of a system revolving around people and knowledge of psychology be achieved if  there is a mismatch between the values and the behaviors of the different players involved in the supply chain in the global workplace, and little to no awareness of the main cultural differences that may sink a globally managed project?

What are some of the main cultural issues most likely to prevent such project from being successful?

Several studies confirmed that national culture has a significant impact on the corporate culture: beliefs, values, group and power dynamics are bound to affect communication styles, driving factors, personal expectations and standards.

Let’s look, for example, at context (communication): which cultures are most likely to rely on contextual elements to understand (and explain) rules, processes, instructions? How does the understanding of “context” affect communication? Which cultural “subgroups” are most likely to accept and welcome outsiders? Which cultures are low in innovation but high in stability? How do members of low- and high-context cultures learn, and what are the best training methodologies to adopt according to their background?

Click on the link to the article on High v Low-Context Cultures to find out more.