Explaining the Difference on CI Behavior in HK and Sweden by using Hofstede’s Culture Theory

University essay from Högskolan i Gävle/Institutionen för teknik och byggd miljö

Abstract: Continuous improvement (CI) is a well-known approach within total quality management. Based on it, Continuous Improvement Behavior Model (CIBM) is a model that put behavioral patterns in work practice in focus, and is associated with learning process and routines across the whole organization. The purposes of this thesis are twofold: firstly, to analyse the differences in CI behavior between firms in Sweden and Hong Kong (HK); secondly, to analyse the reasons for these differences by using Hofstede’s culture theory. This study was based on data from the 2nd international CINet survey and IBM questionnaire survey, limited to the culture in Hong Kong (HK) and Sweden. The finding of this comparative study showed that there are significant differences in CI behavior in the following aspects:  The view in HK is that the interest of the group should prevail over the individual’s, because there has a proverb”unity is power” in Chinese culture. Firms in Sweden are more concerned with the interests of individual’s.  Employees in Hong Kong would like to use organizational formal tools and techniques to deal with a problem, although it is a society characterized by weak uncertainly avoidance. But firms in Swedish believe that problems can be solved without formal rules.  Employees in HK emphasizes cooperation and relationship in the process of working, while it is influenced by the culture of”guanxi” and collectivism. In comparison, Swedish employees care less about relationship.  People in HK pay much attention to the personal development, due to a competitive environment and a long-term orientated culture manifested as:”it is never too old to learn”. Swedes, however, want to study when it is necessary.  Managers in HK are willing to support CI activities by provide sufficient resources and self-discipline influenced by the Chinese culture of ”set an example”. Correspondingly, Swedish firms don't have the regulation about what manager necessary should do. This is the first study that tries to explain the difference on CI behavior by using Hofstede’s culture theory in HK and Sweden, using a statistical method to test 34 behaviors in CI Behavior Model. It has to mention that there have 17 behaviors in the total behaviors which have been proved to be different, and 11 of these behaviors can be explained by Hofstede’s model in this thesis. There are also some other factors that can explain the differences in CI behaviors. In this thesis, it is shown that size of company matters. Possible explanations provided by other cultural theories are also presented.

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