Creating a Quality Management Culture Focusing on Values and Leadership

University dissertation from Sundsvall : Mid Sweden University

Abstract: When applied successfully, the QM initiatives TQM and Lean enhance an organization´s ability to meet and exceed the expectations of the customers as well as co-workers and other stakeholders. There are however also QM initiatives that fail and one reason for this is the organization’s inability to create a supportive culture, a culture that rests on a number of values which aim at improving the quality and thereby customer satisfaction. Even though this is known by both practitioners and researchers, little has been written on how to achieve a QM culture in practice and there are not many methodologies and tools designed directly with purpose of creating this culture. In addition, the measurements used for monitoring organizational success focus mainly on ‘hard’ process or financial measures such as lead-time reduction and operating income.  The purpose of this thesis has been to ‘examine how a strong organizational culture can be created and to contribute with knowledge about how to create and measure a QM culture’. To fulfill this purpose, a number of case studies have been carried out and a questionnaire has been developed in order to measure the presence and importance of a number of QM values.The research presented in this thesis reinforces the fact that culture is an important factor to take into account when applying QM initiatives. A structured way of working with culture and the development of a strategy on how the culture in the organization will be changed is needed. This in combination with methodologies and tools aiming directly at enhancing a QM culture. The research also shows that the relationship between organizational culture, values and behaviors needs to be considered when working to create a strong QM culture. Most of the methodologies and tools found in the case studies aim directly at reinforcing the ‘right’ behaviors in the organization, hence enhancing the underlying values. For instance, the way an organization works with selection, e.g. recruitment and promotion, based on behaviors rather than documented merits is one methodology found in the research. The leadership was found to be important when it came to building or strengthening the culture. Managers are considered key players and need to act as role models, displaying the desired behaviors themselves. The managers need to be present among their co-workers and aware of how their own actions affect the possibility to build a strong QM culture.Another conclusion drawn is the need to measure the ‘softer’ side of QM. One starting point when applying a QM initiative should be the assessment of the existing culture in the organization as a complement to the ‘harder’ measures. The research presented in this thesis suggests that the questionnaire that has been developed could be an appropriate tool for this purpose. If the existing culture in an organization does not support the values within QM, the behaviors of managers and co-workers that are needed to improve quality and thereby customer satisfaction could be hard to achieve.