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4.11 - Total Quality Organization – Culture

More than anything else, what distinguishes a Total Quality company from an ordinary one is the way people think and act. The value people place on quality of performance in every activity and what they do to improve the quality of their work are key factors in the Total Quality organisation. It is vital that the organisation culture supports the Total Quality concept.

What is Culture?

Culture is the set of attitudes that people share with each other and determines the way they do things everyday. In the workplace culture affects the performance of the company. Culture is transferred to new recruits via association with existing employees and via training practices.

Culture affects Behaviour Behaviour affects Quality Quality affects Business Success

What Effect Can Culture Have?

Culture has a direct effect on the Total Quality journey. For example:-



“Quality is someone else’s responsibility

People let mistakes go. They don’t check their own work



“No one listens to what we say”

Low involvement in Continuous Improvement Programmes



“Management are there to help me achieve my goals”

Active support for Total Quality initiatives

What Attitudes Do Total Quality Companies Have?

  • Profits come from customer satisfaction
  • Value problem prevention rather than detection
  • Complaints are a chance to learn and improve, not a nuisance
  • People and teams are important elements in the development process
  • Training and personal development are important
  • Every activity contributes to quality of performance
  • Everybody can contribute to quality improvement
  • Quality services to all customers - internal and external

What influences culture?

Every aspect of the organisation influences culture:

  • Management Philosophy or Values and Management Style
  • Training Programmes
  • Organisation Structures and Forms - e.g. Team Working
  • The Company’s Mission / Vision
  • Organisation Systems and Measures of Performance
  • The Company’s Technology Management behaviour

What can you do to improve culture?

Changes in culture will only result from making a coherent set of changes in all aspects of the organisation.

So structures and systems must be designed to reflect the company mission and values. Physical status symbols (parking spaces, separate restaurants, offices, etc) should not conflict with stated values.

How can you get started?

Some actions will directly support a shift towards Total Quality culture:-

  • Generate Awareness and involvement
  • Specify the mission and objectives for each product unit
  • Establish a quality council to provide cross-functional co-ordination of change
  • Carry out quality awareness training at all levels
  • Listen and respond visibly to people’s concerns
  • Introduce Continuous Improvement Groups (CIGs) concepts
  • Establish CIG team training programmes, train leaders

Launch a Continuous Improvement Programme as part of the business way of life in support of major change programmes

Further Reading