Managing Quality in Cross-cultural Settings

Abstract: As companies become multinational with subsidiaries in different countries and global customers, they face challenges in managing quality related to cultural diversity. During the past decades, cross-cultural quality management research has emerged, aiming to understand the link between culture and quality management, and to provide support for quality management in different cultural contexts. This research field becomes increasingly important considering global industries of today. Nevertheless, the first standpoint in identifying challenges in cross-cultural quality management in multinational companies remains to be an open question. This also leads to the need for developing an instrument to understand cultural diversity in quality management, from both an internal perspective related to employees and an external perspective related to customers.This thesis aims to provide an insight into managing quality in cross-cultural settings, focusing on both multinational companies and companies having global customers. Three studies have been conducted combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. First, case studies were employed to explore the research field and identify challenges in managing quality related to national cultural diversity in multinational companies. The second study developed an instrument based on anchoring vignettes survey to understand cultural diversity in quality management and applied it in two settings. The third study combined an interview-based study with a case study using mixed methods to further investigate and consolidate the results gained from the first two studies, leading to the suggestion of possible strategies to manage quality in multinational companies.The thesis findings identify three challenges in managing quality in multinational companies: 1) to translate and implement quality management approaches; 2) to motivate and engage employees in quality work; and 3) to establish shared perceptions of quality management values among employees. Further, an instrument based on anchoring vignettes is suggested to study quality management performance across subsidiaries and to measure customer satisfaction across borders. This instrument contributes to better understanding of cultural diversity and improves the comparability of survey results in quality management measurements. Regarding possible strategies, global integration is needed when a quality culture is weak. In the long-term, companies should promote technical aspects of quality management to form a ‘backbone’ of the quality management system and to set a basis for shared perceptions of quality management values and goals. Consequently, a strong quality culture can be established and companies can benefit from local adaptation of practices.

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