Managing Across Cultures

write a report about managing across cultures 1500 words i have the introduction and the source to use every thing is ready IntroductionIn today?s global economy, working with people from different cultures is becoming the norm. Although this brings many rewards it also introduces challenges for both workers and management alike. All managers know that motivating their staff is the key to successful business. To do this, they must understand what drives their staff. But if their staff seem to think and behave in unexpected ways? This can happen when people from different cultures work together. Organizations are beginning to realize the importance of training their managers to become inter-culturally competent in order to ensure their staff continues to be motivated and productive.The main issues to be discussed in this report are:(1) Could the ??culture-specific?? argument be used as an explanatory construct forexplaining quality management?(2) Is there a difference in quality priorities, practices and performance acrossnational cultures?(3) What are the managerial implications?

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Quality management: a
cross-cultural perspective
Alessandra Vecchi and Louis Brennan
School of Business, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Purpose ? The aim of this paper is to present the results of a survey administered across 23
countries that examines quality priorities, practices and performance by adopting Hofstede?s national
cultural framework. The purpose of this study is to test the validity of the ??culture-specific?? argument
as an explanatory construct for explaining quality management.
Design/methodology/approach ? Data were collected in 2006 as part of the IV iteration of the
International Manufacturing Strategy Survey. The methodology involved the use of a selfadministered questionnaire to director/head of operations/manufacturing in best practice firms
within the sector of firms classified by ISIC codes (rev.3.1) Divisions 28-35.
Findings ? From the findings it emerges that whereas differences in priorities can be affected by
masculinity and uncertainty avoidance to a very small degree, all the four dimensions of culture
significantly affect quality practice and three of the four dimensions affect performance to a greater
Practical implications ? The paper contributes to the validation of the ??culture-specific??
hypothesis in relation to quality management by addressing its managerial implications. In particular
it calls for a fuller appreciation of cultural dimensions which will in turn help firms to better align
their quality practices towards the attainment of improved quality performance.
Originality/value ? Whereas the traditional literature on quality practices in its attempt to explain
existing differences across countries addresses the issue of convergence or divergence of quality
practices across countries, this paper analyses similarities and differences by comparing quality
priorities, practices and performance across Hofstede?s four cultural dimensions. The paper also
proposes an original interpretative framework where variations in both quality practices and
performance can be explained by some identifiable mechanisms either of ??better fit?? or ??compensation??.
Keywords Quality management, Culture, Strategic manufacturing, Cross-cultural studies
Paper type Research paper
Quality management research: an overview of the literature
A significant strand of the literature seeks to assess the diversity of quality practices
amongst countries. The increased complexity of today?s business environment and
heightened international competition make it necessary for firms to improve quality
performance by aligning their quality practices in their attempt to capitalise on all
possible traditional and non-traditional sources of competitive advantage. In line with
this trend, the quality management literature has devoted considerable attention to the
issue of quality management and this includes a series of empirical studies of quality
management across countries which report contrasting conclusions. Traditionally in
the field of comparative management research, there have been three main approaches:
the empirical work has been aimed towards testing the ??convergence?? hypothesis
(Form, 1979), the ??divergence?? hypothesis (Child and Kieser, 1979) and the ??culturespecific?? hypothesis (Hofstede, 1980).
The ??convergence?? hypothesis (Form, 1979) asserts that learning will lead managers
from different cultures to adopt the same efficient management practices. Competitive
pressures will eliminate those who resist convergence. In addition with the increased
dissemination of information about best quality practices around the world, one would
expect similarities across countries where each country?s respondents would be
expected to embrace the same approach as their overseas counterparts.
Cross Cultural Management: An
International Journal
Vol. 16 No. 2, 2009
pp. 149-164
# Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/13527600910953900
Overtime numerous studies have attempted to substantiate the evidence for
??convergence?? in the field of quality management research. Zhao et al. (1995) for
instance, examined the quality management practices of three developing countries
India, China and Mexico and compared them with those in developed nations. The
results of their study show that the majority of the manufacturers in these developing
countries are aware of the modern quality management practices and that their quality
improvement efforts were not much lower than those in the developed countries.
Similarly, Abdul-Aziz et al. (2000) by comparing quality practices in the manufacturing
industry in the UK and Malaysia, find that there is a common reliance on inspection
and relatively low use of programs for quality improvement. According to the authors,
there are a few significant differences (e.g. the use of quality improvement teams)
between the two countries and those differences are related to the types of quality
practices promoted by their respective governments. In line with this argument, Chin
et al. (2002) carry out a comparative study on quality management practices in Hong
Kong and Shanghai manufacturing industries. The findings support the hypothesis
that there are not any visible differences in terms of quality practices, although in
Shanghai companies seem to pay more attention to environmental impact while in
Hong Kong their counterparts pay more attention to market and customer feedback.
A similar argument has been brought forward by Ismail and Ebrahimpour (2003).
Their study examines and compares the critical factors of total quality management
(TQM) across countries and their findings suggest that top management commitment
and leadership, customer focus, quality information and analysis, training, supplier
management, strategic planning, employee involvement, human resource
management, process management, teamwork and others were the most common
factors affecting quality practices and performance. More recently, Rungtusanatham
et al. (2005) also found that TQM is a comprehensive management paradigm with
many definitional elements that transcend cultural and national boundaries.
The ??divergence?? hypothesis (Child and Kieser, 1979) questions the universal
applicability of any standardised business practice. According to this perspective, any
organisational practice must be adapted to the national context to maximise its
effectiveness. The different extent to which organisational practices are adapted to the
national context results in the observed divergence of practices across nations.
In the field of quality management research several studies have attempted to
substantiate the evidence for the ??divergence?? and within this perspective the role of
culture is acknowledged but often plays a very marginal role. Raghunathan et al. (1997)
for example compare the quality management practices of three different countries ?
the USA, India and China. Although quality practices were considered very important
by all the respondents, the ANOVA results point to statistically significant differences
among the three countries with respect to quality practices. According to the authors,
these differences can be explained by the fact that in both China and India quality
awareness is relatively new and quality standards may not be as high as in the USA.
Similarly, Subba Rao et al. (1997) analyse both quality practices and performance in
India, China and Mexico. Again the results point to statistically significant differences
with respect to quality practices among these countries. According to this study, top
management support turned out to be a very significant factor affecting all quality
practices, while information and analysis as well as quality assurance practices were
affected by the length of quality experience within companies. Corbett et al. (1998)
discuss the findings from a survey of 599 managers in five countries in the Asia/South
Pacific region in an attempt to unveil how similar the practices and the resulting
performance were. The results indicate more divergence by countries from the region?s
mean scores on practices than on performance. Hong Kong firms, for example had a
distinctly different set of outcomes with quality costs influenced by high levels of
inspection. Tata et al. (2000) for instance analyse quality management practices in
Costa Rica and compare them to those in the USA. The results indicate that Costa
Rican companies are still lagging behind US operations in terms of human resource
development, customer focus and satisfaction. According to this study, given the
unique economic, cultural, and geographic variations among countries, companies can
be more successful in adopting and implementing quality practices if they account for
these regional differences.
The ??culture-specific?? argument (Hofstede, 1980) contends that even if managers
located in different societies face similar imperatives for change, deeply embedded
cultural factors will still affect the way managers approach quality and react to the
need for change. In particular, Hofstede identifies four main cultural dimensions,
namely power distance, individualism, uncertainty avoidance and masculinity.
Although we do have extensive evidence on how these cultural dimensions affect
specific organisational outcomes, very little effort has been devoted to assess the
impact of these cultural dimensions on quality management.
On the one hand, we have extensive research assessing the effects of national
culture on organisational outcomes. By adopting Hofstede?s model, for example, Garg
and Ma (2005) attempt to link national culture to organisational performance. Their
findings show that there are significant differences in management systems, leadership
and style within the national cultures of three types of organisations (foreign-owned,
joint ventures, and Chinese-owned and operated firms). In relation to the effects of
culture on the use of information within organisations, Wacker and Sprague (1998)
attribute great importance to masculinity. In particular, they found that the type of
information used to support decision-making in masculine national cultures was
dependent on its expected effectiveness in gaining advantage over competitors. By
contrast, feminine countries tend the use information more extensively to support
decision making. Flynn and Saladin (2006) show that while in countries characterised
by high power distance, power tends to be centralised as well as decision-making,
countries characterised by uncertainty avoidance have an emotional need for rules.
Vice-versa, national cultures that score low in uncertainty avoidance dislike formal
rules, setting them only when it is necessary. This leads to more emphasis on formal
methods for gathering and analysing external information. Differently, Snell and Hui
(2000) emphasise the importance of individualism: while members of individualist
countries are autonomous and confident, tending to rely primarily on their own ideas,
members of collectivist countries are more likely to rely on information provided by
others in formulating their opinions.
On the other hand, in the field of quality management research, a very limited
amount of studies has looked at Hofstede?s four main cultural dimensions. One of the
major efforts in this area can be attributed to Krosolid (1999) who contends that the
development of quality management has followed two distinct paths, the deterministic
school and the continuous improvement school. He further argues that the dominance
of these two schools is different according to different national cultures. In a similar
fashion, Sousa-Poza and colleagues (Souza-Poza et al., 2000) assess the application of
TQM in USA, Switzerland and South Africa to investigate the relationship between
national culture and the implementation of TQM. Their results show that in each
country, several distinct relationships between the dimensions of TQM implementation
and national culture exist. They therefore imply that the application of TQM should
take into account different characteristics of national cultures. In a major study
Mathews et al. (2001) studied quality management practices in the UK, Finland and
Portugal and their evidence indicate that the existing differences in quality
management practices could be related to national culture. Similarly Lagrosen (2002)
shows how quality management assumes different connotations across different
countries with power distance and uncertainty avoidance playing an important role on
how quality is pursued. Additionally, further evidence proves that masculinity plays a
crucial role in determining the overall quality strategy where masculine countries seem
to focus more on the internal operations and feminine countries displaying more a
customer focus (Kyoon Yoo et al., 2005).
Overall we argue that quality management research that had an international focus
has primarily focussed on differences between countries, regions or different
organisational cultures while generally overlooking the importance of national culture
as a means to explain and predict quality management in a global context. Although it
appears that no real substantial effort has been made to study whether quality is, or
should be, managed differently in different national cultures we argue that national
culture is equally a relevant lens through which the systematic comparison of
similarities and differences would considerably improve our understanding of quality
management implementation in a global context. Therefore, the purpose of this study
is to test the validity of the ??culture-specific?? argument as an explanatory construct for
explaining quality management. Since we endorse the idea that the different
dimensions of national culture are likely to bear important implications for the broader
issue of quality management in a global context, we therefore examine the following
three research questions:
(1) Could the ??culture-specific?? argument be used as an explanatory construct for
explaining quality management?
(2) Is there a difference in quality priorities, practices and performance across
national cultures?
(3) What are the managerial implications?
Research design
One of the most problematic issues confronting the researcher in quality management is
the search for an appropriate definition (Fynes, 1998). More precisely, defining ??quality?? as
a construct is difficult given the number of possible alternatives available (Hardie and
Walsh, 1994). To this purpose, Reeves and Bednar (1994) suggest a four-way taxonomy of
quality definitions that incorporates excellence, value, conformance to specifications and
meeting and/or exceeding customer requirements. The diversity that these definitions
embrace, they contend, implies that ??the quality construct space is so broad and includes
so many components that there would be little utility in any model that tried to
encompass them all?? (p. 441). Conversely, they argue that ??the complexity and multiple
perspectives historically associated with the concept have made theoretical and research
advances difficult?? and that ultimately the ??search for a universal definition of quality and
a statement of law-like relationships has been unsuccessful?? (p. 441). In addressing this
problem, Flynn et al. (1994) argue that a crucial issue in theory development is the
articulation of the distinction between quality management practices (input) and quality
performance (output), which has been blurred under the broad heading of quality. More
recent studies also place emphasis on priorities ? manufacturing strategies may be
articulated through competitive priorities which are then operationalised through
improvement goals as well as action programs and demonstrated by performance
improvement (Lindberg et al., 1998).
Drawing on our previous work on innovation and performance particularly of Irish
based manufacturing (Crowe et al., 2007; Brennan et al., 2002, 2003) as well as work on
quality priorities, practices and performance between indigenous and foreign firms
(Vecchi and Brennan, 2006; Brennan et al., 2005), this paper endorses the view that a
fuller understanding of quality can be reached only by embracing these concomitant
perspectives, namely priorities, practices and performance. In particular we endorse
the idea that the means by which priorities are transposed into practices, and how
these practices are assessed (performance) are likely to be affected by national cultures.
To this end, Hofstede?s (1980, 2001) four dimensions of national cultures seem
particularly relevant to address these questions. First the construct validity of the four
dimensions has been reconfirmed by an impressive number of successful replications
(for an overview see Pagell et al., 2005). Second, Hofstede?s work is widely used as a
theoretical framework for guiding cross-cultural comparisons (Flynn and Saladin,
2006). National culture provides a fruitful area for research in quality management.
There is a substantial body of literature available about national culture and very few
focuses on its effects on quality management. We believe that extending this line of
thinking to quality management issues holds great potential to gain a fuller insight on
whether quality should be managed differently across different national cultures.
Whereas previous research on quality management often relies on comparing data across
two or three countries or different regions we intend to use a large scale survey covering a
wide range of countries. To this end, primary data from the fourth iteration of the
International Manufacturing Strategy Survey (IMSS) is employed in this paper. The IMSS
was founded in 1992 to gather data related to manufacturing strategy in a global setting
(see Voss and Blackmon, 1998 and Frohlich and Westbrook, 2001 for more details). To
date four iterations of the IMSS survey have taken place. The first iteration of this project
(IMSS I) was carried out and completed in the 1992-1994 period, with the participation of
over 20 leading institutions and 600 firms in 20 different countries, and the second
iteration (IMSS II) was carried out in the 1996-1998 period, with the participation of 25
leading institutions and 703 firms in 23 different countries. The third iteration (IMSS III) of
the project was carried out in the 2000-2002 period, with the participation of 15 leading
institutions and 585 firms in 17 different countries. The fourth iteration (IMSS IV) was
carried out in 2006 with the participation of 711 firms in 23 countries (see Table AI in the
Appendix for a list of the 23 IMSS countries). The motivation behind the project is to
create possibilities for comparative analyses of manufacturing strategies in the
engineering and assembly industries, and to analyse specific hypotheses within this
context. The IMSS survey focuses on the ISIC divisions 381-385, which include
manufacturers of fabricated metal products, machinery and equipment. Best practice
firms from this sector have been chosen for three main reasons. First, due to their
considerable financial and competitive strengths, these companies are able to adopt a
variety of advanced manufacturing strategies and timely embrace technological
innovations. Second, the large added value of their outputs affects and is affected by the
social and economical capabilities of any given country. Third, due to their highly
standardised industry classification it is easy to compare them with their counterparts in
other countries. Overall, given its scope, its cros …
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