Asia’s Total Quality Management Guide

Total quality management in China

China is now the world’s factory and attracted a lot of foreign investments. Initially, the low cost was the competitive advantage of Chinese firms. Due to the high competition and demanding customers, quality becomes a priority as well for Chinese companies. Companies implemented TQM in a fast way. However, it has been there for two decades in China, we still hear from time to time about quality scandals in China like toxic toothpaste, pet food, and tainted milk powder. Also, the quality of exported products is better than products sold on the local market. This is mainly due to the lack of cultural support within the organization. Furthermore, organizational culture transformation is an essential component for the successful implementation of TQM, Wu (2015). House and Javidan (2004) defined culture as “shared motives, values, beliefs, identities, and interpretations or meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of members of collectives that are transmitted across generations”. Alotaibi et al. (2013) stated that the implementation of TQM should have its foundation on culture, beliefs, tradition, and tailor-designed TQM strategies. In this sense, macro institutions play a key role in TQM implementation. In China, there is a lack of intervention of macroeconomic institutions in control of quality products and respect of requirements.

Stages of TQM implementation in China, a fast implementation

In the ’70s domestic Chinese companies started the implementation of TQM. Between the 80’s and 20th centuries, Chinese companies started the implementation of ISO quality management system 9001. Beginning of the 21st century, Six Sigma, 5S, quality models based on Baldrige National Quality Award are used widely in Chinese companies. However, Chinese companies cannot implement TQM completely due to macro institutional problems, Wu and Zhu (2014). The dual phenomenon of quality: there is a difference in the quality of products destined for the domestic market compared to products made for export. Products destined for the domestic market are of low quality despite the improvement in the quality of products destined to the external market.

Obstacles to implementing TQM in China

  • The company size: big companies usually have a better quality of products. However, in China, bad quality products are in both big and small firms.
  • Technology level and equipment: in China even in multinational companies, where they have advanced technologies and equipment quality problems still exist.
  • Joint venture versus State-owned companies: implementation of TQM is less successful in state-owned companies. In state-owned companies, there is less commitment to quality and less attention to TQM implementation steps.
  • Managers’ priorities: managers prioritize profits rather than quality improvement, Liu (2011).

The reason for a better quality of products destined for export is the higher controls for similar products to get approval to export, compared to products destined to the local market, where there is less supervision and sanctions in case of quality issues. This occurs also in the case of products that require a lot of control. For example, fake medicine incidents have a relation with corruption but also lack of a solid administrative approval system is the main reason.

Total quality management in India:

TQM implementation has been discussed in India in many studies, (Kumar & Sankaran (2007), Kumar et al. (2011), Bhat and Rajashekhar (2009), Kumar et al. (2020)). In fact, Kumar & Sankaran (2007) classifies India as a country with high distance to power, however high hierarchy in Indian companies supports TQM implementation, unlike Western countries where hierarchy represents an obstacle. The hierarchy between the boss and subordinate facilitates the learning process and TQM implementation.

  • Moreover, Kumar & Sankaran’s (2007) findings reveal that in both Japanese and Indian culture, there are harmony in-group members and respect of superiors. In their study, they summarised the main Indian work culture values. It has the following values:
  • Preference for personalized relationship: due mainly to high levels of masculinity, Hofstede (1997).
  • Group embeddedness: the importance of social networking and personalized relationship to be part of a group.
  • Duty and obligation: the importance of work in Indian culture.
  • Hierarchical perspective: hierarchy is important in Indian Culture.

Also, Kumar et al. (2011) conducted research on 30 manufacturing companies and 30 service companies in India. Their findings reveal that TQM success factors in Indian companies have different rankings for the manufacturing and service sectors.

Moreover, Bhat and Rajashekhar (2009) conducted a survey on quality award-winning Indian firms. They found the following barriers for TQM implementation in Indian companies: (a) no benchmarking of other company’s practices; (b) employees are resistant to change; (c) lack of customer orientation; (d) lack of planning for quality; (e) lack of total involvement; (f) lack of management commitment, and; (g) and lack of resources.

Furthermore, Kumar et al. (2020) studied the barriers to TQM implementation for sustainability. They found as well that top management involvement and ineffective leadership are the most important barriers.© Agile TQM 2021

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