Although there is an abundance of literature exists on the quality techniques to be pursued by the organizations, studies on the relationship between quality culture in the organizational context and the actual organizational performance appear to be limited (National Research Council, 1997). Quality culture can be considered as a component of the complete organizational culture. The quality culture in any organization takes the form of detection of errors, prevention of errors and maintaining the quality of products and services on a continuous basis.
While an examination of the presence of quality culture in any organization needs to evaluate the major factors contributing to change in quality culture, the presence can be measured by comparing the performance of individual firms with that of the industry average. Comparison with the performance of competing firms, the extent to which the firm is able to meet the customer expectations and past performance of the firm in several functional areas are some of the other measures that can reflect the existence and measure of quality culture in an organization.
Findings of prior studies report that the advanced quality cultures present in firms have close interconnection between the effectiveness of organizational performance and the quality achievement of the respective firms (National Research Council, 1997). In the present day highly competitive business environment, implementing a total quality culture has become the preferred move toward achieving excellence in organizational productivity.
Total Quality Management (TQM), which is a newly evolved concept practiced by several successful organizations, is a participative approach. This approach involves empowering all organizational members to assume responsibility for bringing quality improvements at all functional areas within the organization (Knol, 2009). This approach does not believe in the traditional bureaucratic attitude; rather it depends on evolving a total change in the organizational culture with the intent to move towards a total quality culture in the organization.
Because of the close association between quality culture and organizational performance, it becomes imperative to study the concept of quality culture to understand the impact of quality culture on organizational performance. In this context, this paper elaborates on the concept of quality culture and its impact on organizational performance. As a case study, this paper examines the quality culture in TNT Express Dubai, UAE.
What is Quality Culture?
In general, “organizational culture is defined as the pattern of shared values and beliefs that help individuals understand organizational functioning and meaning, and the norms and rules for behavior within the organization,” (Deshpande & Webster, 1989). Following this definition, quality culture displays the “values and professionalism” existing in any entity. To inculcate quality culture in any organization, the leadership has to make sure that quality becomes a part of the organizational culture.
The employees must be made to represent the standards of quality that are prescribed for them to follow so that the quality becomes embedded in the organizational culture. The creation of quality culture, though not difficult is a painstaking and lengthy process. Creating a quality culture depends on the ability of the organization to put several processes in place capable of monitoring all activities of organizational members and those quality outcomes are ensured in all functional areas of the organization. “Quality represents an organization’s commitment to having the reputation of excellence and the highest standards in the industry,” (Noe, 2002).
Those organizations, which are able to adopt a quality culture become customer-centered and stand committed to principles aiming to enhance and sustain customer satisfaction. The only way to improve customer satisfaction is to adopt a quality culture in which every organizational member becomes part of the quality culture by understanding and representing the quality principles of the organization. Employees must be made to believe that quality is not just meeting the prescribed standards but is to be developed as a part of the culture.
Another important feature of quality culture is to have teams in place in the organization entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining and improving quality aspects throughout the organization. When the organization has a commendable quality culture the necessity of maintaining quality is shared with all the members through effective means of communication. In addition, there is a continuous review of the quality principles established to bring any changes, which may be required considering the change in the needs and preferences of the customers.
It is the responsibility of the leadership to make sure that the atmosphere for effective change management is always present in the organization so that it can adapt to the changing quality culture immediately. It is vitally important that the organization is capable of adapting to changes quickly and maintain a quality culture to remain competitive. Organizational leaders should make sure that the members understand the changes in the quality culture, by offering explanations to the need and extent of change in the quality culture. The employees will be better placed to assimilate the changes in their proper perspectives when they are apprised of the magnitude and impact of changes in the quality expectations. Such a move will make sure that the organization creates and enforce a quality culture, which is of the highest standards.
This project focuses on examining the relationship between quality culture and organizational excellence. This research uses the research method of a qualitative case study and secondary research. According to Saunders et al, (2003), mixed research methods will be able to achieve their unique advantages and disadvantages. For example, a case study can be a helpful source for providing a holistic view of the research issue. The approach of various methods can provide researchers with a wide insight into research (Malhotra & Birks, 1999). The following section addresses the salience of secondary research and the case study method.
Qualitative research methods enable the researcher to study the important aspects of any social issue extensively. The qualitative research approach engages several tools and techniques to conduct the research and a case study is one among them. According to Creswell (1994), qualitative research represents a process of the inquiry process, which analyzes the social or human behavior associated with the research issue. The qualitative approach adds value to the research by gathering the viewpoints of various informants expressing their opinions in a natural setting. The case study has been one of the preferred research methods in the context of several types of research.
“Case study is an ideal methodology when a holistic, in-depth investigation is needed” (Feagin et al., 1991). Case study as a major research method has helped various sociological researches to gather significant information about the issues studied. The case study method facilitates the researcher to follow well-developed methods that are tested to deal with any kind of inquiry. “Whether the study is experimental or quasi-experimental, the data collection and analysis methods are known to hide some details,” (Stake, 1995).
However, case studies have the ability to gather information and data from numerous sources. Case study research does not qualify to be regarded as for sampling research. The case study method is criticized frequently based on the inability of its results to be applied in real life and on lack of generalizability. However, according to Yin (1984), this method can be considered for analytic generalization. “In analytic generalization, the previously developed theory is used as a template against which to compare the empirical results of the case study” (Yin, 1984)
Secondary research uses data originally collected in some other context to achieve different research objectives. It is useful not only to get information to solve the research problem but also to better understand and explain the research problem Ghauri & Gronhaug (2005) state secondary research becomes useful in having a deeper understanding of the research issue, in addition to helping in the research process. It is a fast, valuable and effective method to explore wide researches, especially when some of the required data is limited for researchers in primary data collection (Malhotra & Birks, 1999). Malhotra & Birks (1999) identified several advantages of using secondary data:
- Diagnosing the research problem
- Developing an approach to the problem
- Developing a sampling plan
- Formulating an appropriate research design
- Answering certain research questions and test some hypotheses
- Interpreting primary data with more insight
- Validate qualitative research findings
- Saving time and money to research
On the other hand, there are also several disadvantages in using secondary data:
- It may not match the researcher’s need because of different purposes and not enough updates (Malhotra & Birks, 1999).
- Specific data such as market research reports are expensive to access. Secondary data is usually cheap or free to access, but particular data is only released when researchers complete payments. This will potentially increase research expenses (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2005).
The reason this research uses secondary data is due to the limitation of this research and the benefit of secondary data as mentioned earlier. In this project, documentary data and multiple sources will be mainly used. With regard to the transport industry in London, several answers from questions as follows are expected as follows:
- What are a current customer’s preferences and demands?
- What is a current and new trend in the oriental transport business focusing on international deliveries?
- What is the market environment for future development?
- Who are the main customers and competitors?
For this research, firstly, the Internet is the most valuable and efficient measure to collect these data. In addition, enormous articles and relevant data through websites such as Keynote, Global Market Information Database (GMID), The Economist, Data monitor and Financial Analysis Made Easy (FAME) is obtained. However, validity and reliability of resources can be issues because data about the transport industry is limited to find out the relevant website. Therefore, choosing an appropriate website and considering its content will be a vital issue when collecting data through the Internet.
In order to increase validity and reliability, all data used by this project are from well-managed, well-reputed and long-established websites. Moreover, any data from anonymous and unbelievable websites is not used in this project. Secondly, publication sources, such as newspapers and specialist magazines that are more relevant and credible are used. It provides a clear understanding of the topic, but bias issues should be considered as the articles may include the writer’s own attitudes. Hence, relevant data or information written by different writers is compared and analyzed. Moreover, in this activity, the Metal library is used as the main resource that links with e-journals, databases and report
The secondary sources are:
- Documentary data: written materials and non-written materials
- Survey-based data: censuses, reports, continuous and regular surveys and Ad hoc surveys
- Multiple sources: area-based and time series based
Many academics and researchers consider culture as an important determinant in promoting organizational success (Detert et al., 2000). Culture is viewed as an essential catalyst and the necessary element for developing organizational commitment for any form of change intended to be implemented in any organization (Huq & Martin, 2000). Culture has an important bearing on organizational success. Organizational culture matters because culture is “a powerful, latent and often-unconscious set of forces that determine the employee’s behavior and the collective behavior of the organization” (Brendler 2006).
Culture forms the basis of determining the mode of operating the business processes, ways in which goals are determined and reflects the values of the leaders. Therefore, it assumes a greater significance in organizational performance. This review focuses on the link between organizational culture and quality management in any business organization. Bright & Cooper (1993) identified a dearth of prior literature and research findings that study the relationship between organizational culture and quality management. Detert et al (2000) substantiated this finding by pointing at the lack of research work on the relationship between culture and implementation of new quality management practices in organizations.
Organizational Culture – an Overview
As observed by Kroeber & Kluckhohn (1952) “culture is something that is shared by all or almost all members of some social group, something that the older members of the group try to pass on to the younger members, and something that shapes behavior.” Thus, it can be inferred that any culture consists of ideas about how people should live by specifying the ideals, values, and assumptions that shape the specific behavioral patterns of different people.
According to Brislin (1993), culture is the creation of people, passed on from one generation to the other. He further states that there are bound to be emotional reactions when the particular values of one culture are being violated; in circumstances where the expected behaviors of a culture are not followed also, there may be some emotional outbursts. Similarly, the effect of religion on culture is one thing that cannot be ignored.
Culture, therefore, is bound by various limiting factors that are dependent on the locations, regions or countries. The effect of such cultural differences can be expected to have their impact on employee behavior in varying dimensions and degrees in different countries in the business organizations as well. Especially in an era of economic globalization, the business and industrial houses disperse to nations that are geographically far off breaking all barriers.
Under such circumstances, it becomes imperative for multinational and transnational companies to employ the local workforce along with the expatriates. While doing so in order to improve the organizational performance the firms have to bear in mind the impact of the cultural differences on the behaviors of the employees that may ultimately affect the individuals’ as well as the organization’s performance.
There is an abundance of prior studies focusing on culture, which are diverse, broad and contradictory in nature. The phenomenon of culture has been dealt with differently by the definitions of the term offered in different disciplines (Chew & Putti, 1995; Eagleton, 2000). According to Maull et al., (2001), there are four different perceptions on culture identified in the organizational culture. Culture is viewed as
- a learned entity,
- a belief system,
- a strategy and
- mental programming.
However, Maull et al (2001) find it difficult to define the precise nature of organizational culture. According to the authors, it cannot be stated whether organizational culture is a dependent variable or is independent of any other factors. Based on a review of the previous literature on the topic, Lewis, (1996) states most of the findings of the prior studies view culture as a variable, which is subject to the influence of external as well as internal organizational factors and it is easier for the organizations to manage their culture on their own.
“Although there is no true consensus on the definition of organizational culture, an examination of various definitions put forward indicates that some scholars view culture as “shared values”, a second group view it as a “way of working”, and a third group views it as a combination of “shared values” and “way of working” (Gallear & Ghobadian, 2004).
Detert et al (2000), based on the work of O’Reilly & Chatman (1996: 160) addressed culture as “a system of shared values defining what is important, and norms, defining appropriate attitudes and behaviors that guide members’ attitude and behaviors”. For Hofstede (1984) culture implies the actions and practices adopted by businesses. The easy way to understand the culture of an organization is to enquire the people working in the organization about the ways in which they perform their tasks.
However, Hofstede et al., (1990) identified organizational values to represent the core culture. On a different note, culture is equated with the tradition of a lifestyle acquired by the members of the society (Harris & Johnson, 1999; Wiiliams, 1993). These practices include the “patterned, repetitive ways of thinking, feeling and acting.”
The founder of an organization has a large influence on shaping the initial culture of the organization (Schein, 1996). The organization, later on, builds its own behavior and values on the initial culture established by the founder. “Hiring practices, selection processes orientation of new recruits, development of personnel, training” (Gallear & Ghobadian, 2004) and other organizational practices spread culture through the organization. Salary increases and promotional policies adopted by the organization reinforce the hiring and other practices towards building the organizational culture, as these practices reflect the organizational values.
According to Schein (1996), organizational culture represents “a learned product of group experience” and therefore, it is possible to find a culture where there exists an identifiable group with noteworthy history. Quality culture relates to a structure of mind and it is not just auditing the quality of outcomes at each point. It is important that quality consciousness be merged with the way of looking at things.
Role of Culture in Organizational Behavior
Brown (1995) defines organizational culture “as the set of norms, beliefs, principles and ways of behaving that together give each organization a distinctive character”. Scholarly writers concur that the organizational culture is determined even from the time of inception and is dependent on organizational characters like the competitive environment and customer requirements. The culture is also dependent on the cultural values reflected by the communities to which the employees belong and the behavioral patterns of the organization’s founders or the leaders who were responsible for the creation of such an organization (e.g. Ott 1989; Gordon 1991).
Schein (1991) observes that just as the national culture has certain values and beliefs, the organization comprises of
- “a pattern of shared basic assumptions,
- invented, discovered, or developed by a given group,
- as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration,
- that has worked well enough to be considered valid, and, therefore,
- is to be taught to new members of the group as the
- correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems” (Schein 1991)
Normally the organizational culture is characterized to include language, concepts, boundaries and ideology that represent the group values and are described by the basis for allocation of the criteria like status, power, authority, rewards, punishment, friendship and respect (Schein 1991). Thus, it may be observed that culture has a very important role to play in an organization irrespective of the fact that the organization is a domestic one or an international one.
The organizational culture is sometimes construed to provide the same meaning as ‘corporate culture’, which is described by Linstead & Grafton Small (1992) as
“the term used for a culture devised by management and transmitted, marketed, sold or imposed on the rest of the organization…; with both internal and external images… yet also including action and belief — the rites, rituals, stories, and values which are offered to organizational members as part of the seductive process of achieving membership and gaining commitment.”
In the case of multinational organizations due to the mixture of the employees present in the organization at the various levels different cultural values, tend to interact affecting the organizational growth. Under such circumstances, it would be difficult to isolate the impact of any one particular culture on organizational performance.
Theories of Culture and Organizational Behavior
There are only a few stable values, which determine the basic attitudes of people towards society and the organization. This is evident from the various theories of culture associated with organizational behavior.
According to the Values Orientation Theory proposed by Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961) the universal problems as well as the value, based solutions for the problems are limited in nature. However, the different cultures will be having different preferences for the solutions, which are universally known. The authors have developed a framework to describe how different societies having different cultures will meet the various problems and their solutions. The theory by Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck identifies six value orientations out of which culture will use its preference about one or more variations of these orientations. The value orientations relate to
- “Relations to Nature
- Time Orientation
- Basic Human Nature
- Relationships among People
- Activity Orientation and
- Space Orientation” (Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s (1961)
Another important study that needs a mention because of the contribution to behavioral science is the work of Hofstede. Combined with his various works Hofstede has provided a framework that talks about certain cultural dimensions for a perfect understanding of cultural differences. Based on his research works and the data collected by him, Hofstede exhibited how the individuals belonging to different national cultures can be grouped under four distinct variables. The variables identified by Hofstede are:
- “Power Distance
- Uncertainty Avoidance
- Individualism/collectivism and
- Masculinity and femininity”(Ravindra Wikremesinghe)
There are few other theoretical frameworks connected with culture and organizational behavior like the work of E.T.Hall. Hall has developed three important concepts about cultural differences namely time, context and space. According to Hall
“Time is one of the fundamental bases on which all cultures rest and around which all activities revolve. Understanding the difference between monochronic time and polychronic time is essential to success…” (Hall 1990)
Other theories like Schwartz’s Value Survey, The Chinese Value Survey, Trompenaars’ Dimensions of Culture and Gannon’s Cultural Metaphors all make valuable contributions to understand the nexus between culture and behavior of people.
The results of all these studies point out the following outcome:
- All the theories represent an average behavior with no material differences within the culture. However, when it comes to the question of different countries even when classified similarly they find very different behaviors.
- The theories have not found total reliability on the different behaviors, and it is difficult to generalize the range of such differences as the dimensions of the differences vary according to the circumstances.
- However, the theories by their respective frameworks were able to identify and explain the differences in the individual’s behavior within the same country.
Based on these observations it may be construed that the universalistic theories are still acceptable to organizations in the era of multinational operations.
Leadership Styles and Organizational Culture
Authoritarian or autocratic, Participative or democratic and Delegative or Free Reign are the three important styles that characterize the leadership qualities. A good leader in order to achieve the organizational objectives may choose to use any one or a combination of all the styles depending on the forces that interact between the different players. There is always a difference in the approaches the leader adopts to deal with the employees and other business situations. There is evidence that leaders who are considerate in their leadership style are higher performers and are more satisfied with their job (NW Link, 2008; Schriesheim, 1982).
The leadership style, as well as the approaches to the issues, will be having a bearing on the cultural background of the leader. The way in which the leader approaches the problem situations, in turn, will decide the direction of the organizational behavior.
Geert Hofstede’s (1977) study proves the impact of culture on the behavioral aspects within organizations. A Part of his study was devoted to studying the relationship between organizational behavior and the distribution of power inside the organization. This he termed as ‘Power Difference’ implying “the extent to which the less powerful members of an organization expect and accept that power is distributed unequally” (Leadership Style)
Facets of Performance Culture
A culture bonded with some basic values and conditions is present in every organization. It is unique to each organization and varies with the circumstances of the individual organization. In fact, the feature of the variable nature is underlined by the quality of the culture present in the organization. While observing the culture of an organization in the context of its performance there are bound to be the following major facets:
- Policies and principles of the organization underlying the people management
- Unity of purpose with respect to the strategic HR measures
- Abilities to develop and retain leadership competencies
- Growing values of teamwork
- Effective and efficient communication channels and
- Observance of a learning and development process
Any organization’s culture manifests itself in the form of the above constituent factors to influence the core values and conditions with respect to the collective attitudes of the people. To optimize the organizational performance by creating a performance culture, all of these constituents need to be strengthened and harmonized with each other. It must be remembered that any weakness occurring in any one of these constituent elements would deter the organization’s ability to enhance its performance largely. It would be better for the organization to undertake a periodic audit of these constituents to identify the areas of weakness and provide support for strengthening them to optimize performance.
Thus, culture can be described as the “set of shared meanings that influence or determine behavior”. These meanings may be carried and conveyed to the people in a formal way through the mission statements of the organization or informally through the behaviors and actions of individuals and groups within an organization. It is also possible that the managers can effectively design a new organizational culture or change an existing culture by developing strategic measures in this direction and aligning them with the business strategies. A proper alignment of the individuals’ values and conditions with those of the organization will positively influence the commitment of the workforce to the organization.
This in turn would have an enormous impact on organizational performance. However, there is no consensus on the idea that organizational culture can be owned and managed; but still, the idea of influencing the organizational culture and enhancing the performance thereof has increasingly been pursued on the broad assumptions that every organization has some culture or other and such culture leads to consensus and unity of purpose which could have the effect of motivating the staff. Therefore, it follows that the individual and group performance can be increased through consensus and there should be every attempt by the manager to manage the culture to have a positive and potential influence on the performance of the organization.
Organizational Culture and Excellence
Organizational culture is considered as the key driver to organizational excellence and therefore it becomes essential that the leadership makes sure that a proper culture is created and managed in the organization (Schein, 1992). Culture has a profound implication on organizational capabilities and the capabilities alone determine the ability of the organization to strive for excellence. As observed by Smallwood & Panowyk (2005),
“Capabilities drive every aspect of performance…Four key relationships are important to consider in the pursuit of superior organizational capabilities: 1. aligning capabilities to strategy, 2. establishing the right processes and structure, 3. creating the right culture, and 4. selecting the right talent Powerful and exclusive cultures have enabled organizations to generate outstanding success.”
Irrespective of the size, nature and age of the organization, organizational culture influences many facets of organizational performance (Fisher & Alford, 2000). Organizational culture has its impact on financial performance, customer relationship and satisfaction levels, employee satisfaction, motivation, and retention. These standards are used to measure organizational excellence. By contributing to improvements in all these areas, culture plays a dominant role in creating organizational excellence. Support from the organization to the staff enhances employee satisfaction and in turn, increases their performance level to steer the organization to achieve excellence.
There have been a number of studies focusing on the relationship between organizational culture and financial performance (Barney, 1986). Innovative capabilities and flexibility in organizational approach are ensured by the sustained superior financial performance of the organization greatly aided by organizational culture. Culture has a large influence on the performance of the CEO, team behavior of the management and adaptability of the organization to environmental changes, which are the essential requirements for achieving organizational excellence.
Organizational Culture and Total Quality Management
Business excellence is the measure of organizational performance and the measurement is managed through quality management principles adopted by an organization. Leaders can address the key issues at the center of business excellence, by applying principles of quality management at different phases of organizational development. Developing a comprehensive quality culture, therefore, is the prerequisite for implementing total quality management.
“Total quality management is the culture of an organization committed to customer satisfaction through continuous improvement. This culture varies both from one country to another and between different industries, but has certain essential principles which can be implemented to secure greater market share, increased profits and reduced cost.” (KanjiQualityCulture, 2008)
If an organization possesses a history of successful openness to the surroundings, and if it has been able to amend the ways, it conducts the business when required, TQM can be implemented in the organization with ease. If an organization has been traditionally hasty and does not possess the required skill for improving the operating procedures, “there will be both employee skepticism and a lack of skilled change agents.” To obviate the continued existence of this problem, the organization can institute an all-inclusive program for developing managerial and leadership skills. The organization may undertake a managerial evaluation for assessing present levels of firm performance and fields where improvement is required.
The organization should possess a healthy organizational quality culture before the organization starts implementing TQM. When the organization does not hold a quality culture it may face significant “problems such as a very unstable funding base, weak administrative systems, lack of managerial skill, or poor employee morale” (Six Sigma,2000) the implementation of TQM may not be practicable.
Quality Culture and Change Management
Total quality management in any organization calls for acknowledging the changes in the attitudes of customers and employees in specific business circumstances. The changing viewpoints concerning the implications of corporate culture in the business environment are a major driver for efficient change management. The appreciation of the changes in the perspectives particularly in improving quality standards and efficiency level can also affect the forming of organizational culture.
Therefore, it can be stated that that the improvement in business performance is based largely on the culture the employees hold. This is strengthened by the increased competition, which has led to the offering of similar products by different businesses. This enables the organization, which holds positive cultural practices towards the customer and employees to emerge as the industry leader in the business, in which the organization operates.
Cultural Barriers for Achieving Excellence
It is important for the managers to understand the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the organizational culture as these dimensions can act to either facilitate or impede achieving excellence by the organization. The horizontal dimension covers the relationship between individual organizational members and external stakeholders, who are affected by the levels of organizational performance. The clients, service providers and the society as a whole dealing with an organization may present many cultural barriers, which hinder the organizational performance. The employees and the stockholders may present some of the barriers if the management is unable to meet its obligations towards these stakeholders.
The inability of the organization to cater to the expectations of these stakeholder groups will be a potential barrier to achieving organizational excellence. The organizational culture, which is unable to meet the stakeholder expectations will reduce the competitive edge of the organization and may lose its market share to the competitors, who supply similar products and services. This will reduce the chances of success for the organization. The decision-making environment within an organization assumes a significant role in the efforts of the organization to achieve excellence. An effective organizational culture empowers both the managers’ and employees’ decision-making at various levels.
A culture, which enables only the management to take the responsibilities for decision-making will not facilitate achieving excellence. The employees should be permitted to take part in the decision-making process as long as they are capable of making positive contributions to the process. The organization should have flexible policies that allow trouble-free execution of change management wherever there is a requirement for effecting changes.
Cross-Cultural Organizational Behavior
The concept of cross-cultural organizational behavior is being widely studied in the context of the evolution of more multinational companies occupying the arena of international trade. It studies the cross-cultural similarities as well as differences in a multi-culture environment consisting of both domestic as well as international contexts. This study is apt to decide on the relevance and acceptability of the universalistic theories of organizational behavior in the context of multinational business.
Michele J. Gelfand et al. observe that the cross-cultural organizational behavior “encompasses how culture is related to micro organizational phenomena (e.g., motives, cognitions, emotions), meso organizational phenomena (e.g., teams, leadership, negotiation), macro organizational phenomena (e.g., organizational culture, structure), and the interrelationships among these levels”.
In the study of cross-cultural organizational behavior, it is important to consider the influence of personal motives on organizational behavior and institutional feedback such as rewards and job satisfaction. As far as personal motives are concerned, there is evidence to prove that motives like “self-efficacy, need and desire for achievement and intrinsic needs for competence are universal” (Bandura 2002) However, it has been observed that the specific drivers to induce the individuals vary depending on the culture.
Ryan and Deci (2000) state that the ‘intrinsic motive for autonomy, competence and relatedness’ form the basis for the wellbeing of the individuals even under different cultural backgrounds. However, Iyengar and Lepper (1999) opine, “while the personal choice was critical for intrinsic motivation among Anglo Americans, Asian Americans were more intrinsically motivated when trusted authority figures or peers made choices for them”
This observation proves the theory that individual beliefs and cultural values do have an impact on organizational behavior.
Cross-Cultural Communications and International Organizational Culture
Normally the cross-cultural communication among people is more difficult than communication among various people belonging to the same culture. Cross-cultural communications do have an impact on international organizational behavior. The noises representing communication are developed due to the existing differences in the languages being used by different people, the values and attitudes attached to the communication process.
As far as the languages are concerned there are between 5000 and 7000 languages being used in the world, English being the most used of all the languages. The communication process becomes challenging when the native speakers belonging to two different regions using different languages wish to communicate with each other. The effect of communication on business transactions in international markets is tremendous and hence it becomes important that the communication process be handled with care while dealing with people across continents.
There are verbal and non-verbal styles that exist in the communication process. Verbal styles include indirect, elaborate, exacting and succinct, and non-verbal styles include communication:
- Through body movements
- Though eye contact and gaze
- Through the use of body contact
- Though the use of space
- Through the use of time within a culture
- Through the use of colors
The communication process consists of impression management consisting of sign activities, sign equipment and personal front. The roles of the personal front include the positions of supervisor, subordinates, specialist and lower participants. Very often, the communication between individuals and groups are subjected to barriers created by culture, perception and experiences of the parties involved in the communication process.
The advent of newer technologies and equipment has contributed to the development of advanced systems of information and communication technology, which has become increasingly important for the conduct of global business. The importance of modern communication techniques may be found in the enhanced usage of Email communications.
To summarize, the communication process whether being verbal or non-verbal has serious implications for the managers in all business situations, especially in the international context. The managers would do well to improve upon the individual as well as the organizational performance if they acquire the critical skill of cross-cultural communication. Similarly, awareness of cultural differences can improve the communication skill of the managers and it is important for them to learn additional languages to improve upon their performances. The effect of the communication process on the functioning of multinational companies is vital that communication as a part of organizational behavior has a definite impact on such organizations.
Impact of Negotiation on Organizational Culture
International Negotiations have embedded in them the complexities of difficult bargaining situations. As against normal negotiations, cross-border negotiations involve the impact of cultural dimensions in addition to the issues of normal negotiations. The presence of varying expectations, perspectives, motives, and priorities individually or in conjunction with one another characterizes the cross-cultural dimensions that have the effect of destroying even the simplest of all negotiations. (Lewicki, Litterer, Minton &
Saunders, 1994) According to Pruitt and Rubin (1986) negotiation in normal parlance implies the bargaining that includes an exchange between different parties to result in a competitive advantage to either of them and such bargaining may also result in a mutually beneficial situation for both the parties. “It should be noted that international negotiations are not restricted to two private organizations; rather, in many countries, government agencies often take a prominent place at the bargaining table. For example, in China, international joint ventures are exclusively tripartite, including the foreign company, the domestic firm, and a government agency.” (Carolan McLarney & Shelley R. Rhyno)
It must be appreciated that different cultures have a strong impact on the negotiating styles. For instance, there is a vast difference between the negotiating styles of Japan and the United States. At the same time, negotiating with China needs an altogether different temperament and attitude as the Chinese negotiations are totally based on their cultural values including the teachings of Confucius.
Thus, in any international business, negotiations the cultural values have a big role to play and this goes to prove the fact any theories associated with organizational behavior do affect multinational companies. More precisely, there are circumstances under which negotiations are held for forming joint ventures and in such cases of negotiations, there bound be conflicts that arise in the negotiating teams, which may affect the very formation of the joint venture itself.
International Organizational Culture
As businesses develop the requirement for educating, different people on solving personnel issues will also increase. There will be multifarious reasons for the conflicts to arise in work situations. Varney (1989) observes that in spite of repeated training on different methods of resolving conflicts, conflict resolution has remained the most important problem in the work teams created within multinational organizations.
When different work teams are formed in the organizations, there are bound to be differences among individuals arising out of sharing of power, differences in values and attitudes. “To avoid the negative consequences that can result from disagreements, most methods of resolving conflict stress the importance of dealing with disputes quickly and openly.” (Randy Kerr) Conflicts cannot be regarded as counterproductive or destructive in all cases.
The way in which the conflicts are handled and resolved determines the outcome of the resolution, which may turn out to be positive and helpful for the individuals and groups of people as well as to the organization. Conflict can be regarded as positive as it brings out the differences among people and acts as a device to improve communication among them. It also helps the development of interpersonal skills of people
The foremost limitation of the study was the availability of resources concerning the quality policies and practices followed specifically in TNT Express UAE. This is because TNT being an international organization has adopted quality policies and practices common to all its depots and offices located across the world. Therefore, this study analyzed the quality culture in TNY Express as a whole rather than specifically in the context of TNT Express UAE. The research is appropriate from the perspective that TNT Express UAE being a part of the international organization would still possess the quality culture in the same way as the corporate office of TNT adopts. The other shortcomings of secondary research apply to this study also.
Case Study – TNT Express UAE
The case study of TNT Express UAE discussed in this chapter is aimed to provide an insight into the relationship between quality culture and organizational excellence.
TNT Express UAE
TNT Express is one of the renowned providers of transportation services for industrial and commercial customers all over the world. The company provides “on-demand time-definite and day-certain door-to-door delivery services for documents, parcels and freight,” (TNT.com, 2008). The company also provides inland courier services in some of the countries in “Europe, Asia and Australia.” State-of-the-art centers for sorting the parcels located at various hubs in different locations add strength to the company. These centers help the company to render swift and reliable parcel service from door to door involving lesser transit times as compared to other service providers.
The Website of the company states the company’s mission as
- Our mission is to exceed customers’ expectations in the transfer of their goods and documents around the world
- We deliver value to our customers by providing the most reliable and efficient solutions through delivery networks
- We seek to lead the industry by instilling pride in our people, creating value for our stakeholders and sharing responsibility for our world.” (TNT. 2008).
TNT in the Middle East and Africa
TNT Express UAE falls within the TNT MEA region. This region has registered a consistent yearly growth rate of 25%. This regional office looks after the operations of the company in India, Middle Eastern countries and countries in the African subcontinent totaling 75 countries in the region. Out of these 75 countries, there are own offices of TNT in nine countries and associate offices in the remaining nations. The infrastructure for the MEA region comprises over 4000 people, around 250 depots and more than 1500 transportation vans. TNT has its regional head office in Dubai, which looks after the operations in Lebanon also.
Overview of TNT’s Express Division
“TNT’s express division is one of the world’s leading business to business express delivery services providers. It delivers 4.4 million parcels, documents and pieces of freight a week to over 200 countries using its network of over 2,331 depots, hubs and sorting centers. The division operates over 26,760 road vehicles and 47 aircraft and has the biggest door-to-door air and road express delivery infrastructure in Europe,” (Group TNT.com).
There are 75,000 employees working in the express division of TNT all over the globe. The company is regarded as an employer of choice and the company has the largest asset of human capital. The revenues for the express division were in the region of €11.1bn for the year 2008. The operating profits were reported at €982m, which showed an increase of 7% as compared to that in the year 2007.
TNT renders a wide range of services to its business and individual customers across the world meeting their requirements in the area of parcel deliveries to various global destinations. The division has its headquarters in The Netherland, and the company has invested large sums in creating well-organized systems and facilities in Europe and Asia. TNT is extending its coverage to more nations to improve its operational performance. TNT Group has in its employment more than 161,500 staff and its operations extend to around 200 nations. TNT N.V. is a public company with its shares traded in the Amsterdam stock exchange.
Organizational Culture of TNT Express
TNT Express has put the quality consciousness in the minds of all its employees and this has made the company earn recognition both within the transport industry and in other spheres also. With the quality culture embedded in the organizational values, the company has been awarded many impressive tributes in the international arena including “the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, The European Quality Award and The Investor in People Award for Outstanding Practice,” (TNT.com, 2008). The company has inculcated traits of keenness, commitment and professional outlook in the employees through constant and effective communication of the quality standards to them.
The company attaches more importance to human capital and with this objective; the company motivates the employees and allows them to take part in the decision-making process. TNT recognizes the contribution of employees and provides suitable rewards and recognition to them. In this connection, the observation of Schein, (1996) that “hiring practices, selection processes orientation of new recruits, development of personnel, training” and other organizational practices spread culture through the organization is found appropriate to explain the strategies of TNT with respect to its employee policies.
Quality culture is practiced as a part of the organizational culture where the company expects the employees to show total involvement on the job. This concept of the company can be interpreted with the research finding of Fisher & Alford (2000) that irrespective of the size, nature and age of the organization, organizational culture influences many facets of organizational performance and contribute to superior performance.
The policies of the company are in line with the theoretical framework of Smallwood & Panowyk (2005). The authors state that establishing precise systems and practices and creating a precise culture are some of the key drivers of organizational success. TNT has a strong commitment to taking the customer interest in focus so that it can work towards improving customer satisfaction. The company believes applying the quality principles is the first step towards joining the best lot of organizations on the business horizon.
Organizational Practices of TNT Express
TNT undertook an in-depth evaluation of its existing operations even as early as 1989 to review the practices with a view to improving the organizational practices so that the company could develop organizational practices that would help the company achieve its quality aspects. The company could identify that it possessed the following strengths, which gave the company the leeway to implement its quality practices. The factors are
- the company had managers having wide experience and capabilities in all its depots,
- the company was providing competitive and quality services to its customers,
- strict financial control measures exercised at the depot levels,
- effective management information systems with information flow on essential aspects like cost and service performance and
- frequent meetings of the management for reviewing the cost aspects and service performance.
The main objective of the review was to make sure that the company improves the quality of its service at lesser costs to the consumers. TNT took pains to communicate this objective to all its employees and at the same time, the company discouraged the employees from deciding to compromise quality against cost. The company made it clear that it would expect to receive financial gains by improving the work practices rather than by adopting shortcuts.
TNT reviewed the operations to eliminate current practices, which were wasteful. By adopting this policy, TNT could prove that the practices resulted in enhanced productivity and superior service quality. The company has made the employees realize that there is no possibility to combine cost reductions and improve service; nevertheless, both aspects can be achieved by introducing well-designed quality policies.
Quality Improvement Practices of TNT
“Performance improvement Quality is not treated as a separate issue within our company and the continuous improvement philosophy has become an integral part”, (TNT.com Quality Journey) of TNT’s strategic plans. The company wants the quality ethic embedded into the organizational culture. For achieving this goal the company purposely avoids using terminology like TQM, QlTs and QATs and the like.
The accreditation of the ISO 9000 standard in 1990 enabled the company to formulate the structure on which the company could fix better operating practices. TNT was the first delivery service organization to receive ISO 9000 certification. ISO 9000 certification encouraged TNT to aspire to become a member of the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM). The company also assumed the European/UK business excellence practices to pursue its quality policies.
The company strengthened its commitment to quality policies by joining as a founder member of the British Quality Foundation (BQF). The top management of TNT embarked on an extensive self-assessment program against the business excellence model to identify gaps in performance. This assessment enabled the company to address the shortcomings for effective and real business improvement practices.
TNT could create an environment for affecting quality improvement by focusing on achieving the UK Quality Award and the European Quality Award. TNT made sure that this environment exists across all the functional areas of the company, which encourages the employees to aim to better the preceding best personal and team performances.
One of the milestones in the functioning of TNT Express in UAE is the accreditation by recertification in four key quality areas, after an extensive audit of the systems and procedures in operation in the company. These accreditations make TNT one of the very few establishments in the UAE to have achieved the international standards of excellence in quality and other aspects. Bryan Moulds who is in charge of “TNT Express” in the United Arab Emirates stated, “This is a major milestone for the team here at TNT Express,” (Arabian Supplychain.com, 2009).
“We work very hard both locally and internationally to ensure that we maintain our standards of service and meet our corporate responsibilities to customers and communities. To be recognized for our efforts by a third party and to be re-certified by auditors of international best-practice goes to demonstrate publicly the benchmark quality that we see in our teams every day,” (Arabian Supplychain.com, 2009).
With the recertification, the company will be holding credits for “ISO 9001 Quality Management System, ISO 14001 Environmental Management System, OHSAS 18001 Health & Safety Management System and SA 8000 Social Accountability Management System,” (Post & Parcel, 2009) This clearly indicates the commitment of the organization on the quality of service, which is intended to enhance the excellence in the organizational performance.
TNT Express UAE has been awarded the “Express Logistics Provider of the Year” award for the year 2008. The Supply Chain and Transport Awards (SCATA) Dubai has instituted this award as an honor for recognizing those companies, which have “delivered a portfolio of market-leading solutions within the Middle East’s express logistics sector over the past twelve months,” (TNT.com, 2009).
Quality Culture and Customer Focus in TNT Express
TNT was able to make amends to its attitude and organizational practices to attain the required quality targets. The company adopted the number of times it failed in providing efficient customer service as the “key performance indicator” and the success of the employees was measured using the level up to which they were able to minimize the mistakes. The company realized that from the customer’s perspective the mistake or guilt on someone was not the issue but the failure to deliver the service in full, for what the customer has paid for. This attitude towards mistakes made the company to make efficient deliveries as the effective performance yardstick.
The company was able to shape up the quality of its service by generating and circulating weekly reports on the following issues in respect of all depots and offices. The issues dealt with by the reports are
- on-time deliveries,
- shipments, which were routed or sorted wrongly,
- copies tracking notes raised but could not be matched with the parcels,
- late inhauls arriving in the hubs causing delay in deliveries,
- analysis of late deliveries by reasons for such delays.
A continuous measurement of performances based on these factors helped TNT improve the level of its service efficiency.
Over the period, the company introduced several other performance standards for major support processes within the organization, which cover their marketing and administrative functional areas. The company collects customer feedbacks at the end of every week, “hard information on customer query handling, credit notes, client contacts, complaints received and other key outcomes” (TNT.com Quality Journey) which offers to quantify the ability of the company to raise the customer satisfaction level. TNT could realize that the customers who are looking for urgent delivery will be satisfied with on-time efficient delivery and that they will not be more concerned with the cost.
Therefore, the company removed cost reduction as a part of quality consciousness; but increased the focus on reducing the time taken for delivery and handling processes. Based on the weekly reporting practices, TNT is able to pinpoint the areas of weakness and take corrective action wherever the quality standards are not met. The company has named individual members of the organization in each location as responsible for achieving the key performance standard. The employees have been given the power to request additional resources to meet the required performance level.
Use of Effective Communication for Improving Quality
The Company has inculcated a sense of quality in the minds of the organizational members by developing companywide poster campaigns. These posters emphasize the requirement of quality consciousness and represent that each of the organizational members is responsible for achieving organizational excellence by adopting quality standards. TNT has always been emphasizing improvements in customer observable frontline performance factors and some of these factors are
- loading of consignments in vehicles for transportation,
- telephonic conversation with customers,
- right routing and labeling of the consignments and
- delivery personnel delivering on time.
Aligning with the quality posters, the company has introduced a “Driving for Quality” program. The company designed the uniforms of employees not only to exhibit the corporate image of the company but to make sure that all the employees understand that each one of them has a vital role to play in meeting the quality standards of the company. TNT has made effective communication one of the top priorities. The company follows an open-door policy successfully backed by frequent employee surveys, which have enabled the company to keep in line with the current expectations and attitudes of its employees.
The company follows this communication policy from the year 1992. The responses to the employee surveys are obtained in one-to-one meetings of the employees and collectively for each of the depots or offices to activate chances for improvements. “Information is disseminated through videos, house magazines and frequent meetings all of which is supported by constructive briefings and conferences.” TNT has established multiple channels for receiving feedback for employees and the company makes sure that viewpoints of the employees are given due consideration and they influence the decisions of the company in fixing the “company goals, policy and strategy.”
Technology Support to Quality Culture in TNT Express
Sophisticated information technology and communications support systems have been one of the factors that have enabled the company to provide efficient services, which are customer-sensitive. A constant review of the use of technology at frequent intervals has helped the company to strengthen and sustain its competitive advantages. The company uses the “TNT Universe System” which is an example of the use of the latest technology by the company to ensure enhanced customer service and to ensure effective communications with employees at all points within various locations of the company.
Data terminals installed in the delivery vehicles of TNT provide up-to-the-moment information on the status of urgent shipments to keep the customers informed about their shipments. The depots are able to attend to the collection requests of customers using the in-cab data terminals. Each of the employees is assigned a computer terminal to access the consignment-related information on a real-time basis to respond to the external and internal customer demand instantly.
The use of sophisticated and state-of-the-art IT facilities developed on an ongoing basis has facilitated maintaining and improving upon the competitive edge of the company in various time-conscious distribution markets. TNT has been continuously investing large capital in improving its IT capabilities and relies on the feedback on the customers and employees using the systems to incorporate developments.
Training and Quality Culture in TNT Express
TNT realizes that it is vitally important to improve the skills of all organizational members for achieving quality excellence. Based on this realization the company has developed a comprehensive training plan for all the employees for collecting the most effective workforce to ensure seamless customer service.
The company believes in providing a work environment, which helps employees develop their skills in different areas so that they can use practical methods and talents in all business areas gained by the employees through the training programs offered by the company. TNT has implemented and updated various programs for review, judgment and professional development of all the employees. All the members are provided with chances of working with quality teams for achieving improvements in individual and organizational performance levels.
The senior management of TNT decided to adopt the Investor in People standard in 1993. The company achieved proper company-wide credit as an Investor in People organization in 1994. To achieve this position the company adopted the principles of
- “Commitment – to train and develop everyone in the company
- Planning – to provide a framework for identifying and addressing skill gaps
- Action – to equip our people with the skills needed to satisfy customers through high-quality training
- Evaluation – to continuously improve our training programs, appraisal systems and all other people management processes employed within the business” (TNT.com Quality Journey)
The success of TNT as a quality service provider depends largely on the policy of the company to retain a family atmosphere and the true commitment of the company to build up employee satisfaction. Over the period, TNT has followed a promotion policy that leads to better performance with enhanced accountability.
The objective of the company in meeting the Investor in People standard has been to maintain the outstanding “feel good” feeling prevalent in the company. The adoption of the Investor in People principle has enabled the company to identify and promote people with real talent,
Quality Culture and Organizational Excellence of TNT Express
TNT’s “Expressing Excellence” customer care training scheme was the outcome of an extensive appraisal of the level of customer service performance by the company.
The company has devised certain goals under the “Expressing Excellence” customer care scheme, which cater to “improve service quality and provide outstanding customer satisfaction operate clear customer care policies soundly based on market research continuously communicate and implement improved customer care techniques;” (TNT.com, 2008).
“The Expressing Excellence initiative is ongoing and has reinforced the strands of our total quality policies which encompass absolute customer focus, individual involvement in making processes more effective, practical relevant training, high-performance leadership and continuous improvement activities,” (TNT.com, 2008).
The “Expressing Excellence” training scheme of TNT enables the company to achieve the following outcomes in the area of improvement in customer satisfaction.
- Retaining customers and increasing the number of customers dealing with the company.
- Improving the percentage of on-time delivery of consignments.
- Reducing the number of line haul vehicles reaching at the hub depots.
- Decreasing the amount and volume of credit notes offered by the company.
- Reducing the number of customer claims as a percentage of earnings.
- Decreasing the volume of unsettled invoice doubts at the end of the assessment period.
- Increasing the incidence of contacts with current and potential customers.
- Improving telephone response times.
Strategically TNT would do well to involve itself in entering the domestic delivery markets, which have a huge potential especially in emerging economies like China and India. The company can start serving deliveries in major cities of these markets so that the needs of the customers having connections with the company for international parcels to deliver domestically can be met. Secondly, TNT can adopt employee exchange programs in deputing employees of different depots and offices to offices in other countries to learn the quality policies and practices being adopted in those countries/locations. Although the newsletters and in-house magazines convey messages concerning these aspects, personal visits and observations will have a lasting influence on the perceptions of the employees with regard to quality improvements.
As a part of the process of improving the quality level of organizational performance, quality culture has been found to assume greater significance in any organizational context. Keeping in line with the need and awareness of enhancing organizational performance quality, a number of quality techniques and models have been developed over the period to help organizations improve their efforts in this direction.
This study undertook a review of the relevant literature on quality culture and its relationship with organizational performance improvement. To illustrate the principles and practice on the point the research adopted a case study of TNT Express UAE, which has earned several accolades in achieving excellence in its performance by resorting to established quality practices and by inculcating quality culture throughout the organization. The research concludes that the leaders should understand the salience of quality culture, its role and contribution to organizational excellence, cultural barriers for achieving excellence and best quality practices so that they can develop a comprehensive quality culture in their respective organization, which is an established aid for achieving organizational excellence.
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