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Indian culture and the culture for TQM: a comparison

Madhu Ranjan Kumar (Graduate School of Management, Southern Cross University, Banaras, India)
Shankar Sankaran (Graduate School of Management, Southern Cross University, Tweed Heads, Australia)

The TQM Magazine

ISSN: 0954-478X

Article publication date: 6 March 2007



This paper seeks to argue against the conventional wisdom in the current TQM literature that hierarchy is not conducive for TQM. It aims to identify the cultural dynamics that can aid TQM implementation in a hierarchical country like India.


The paper reflects on the existing literature on culture and TQM and develops a mechanism that explains why hierarchy hinders TQM implementation in Western culture and how it can support TQM implementation in Indian culture.


In a people oriented culture like those of Japan and India, nurturance is the juice that sustains hierarchy that finally morphs into collectivism. In these social systems, there need not be conflicting impact of hierarchy and collectivism on TQM implementation if the nurturance aspect of hierarchy is understood. Thus, in the Indian context, hierarchy, operationalised through the guru‐shishya (teacher‐student) relationship between the boss and the subordinate can develop a learning orientation among the organisational members and facilitate TQM implementation. Similarly, by superimposing the element of “equity” on the “personalised relationship” dimension of hierarchy, in a collectivistic society like India, it is possible to elevate the aspect of “personalised relationship” between superior and subordinate to the status of “individualised consideration” dimension of transformational leadership provided it is bestowed only upon the satisfactory completion of “task” by the subordinate.

Practical implications

This paper shows how the cultural aspect of TQM implementation should be handled in a high power distance country like India.


The paper identifies the two Indian cultural aspects that can facilitate TQM implementation in India notwithstanding the hierarchical Indian values.



Ranjan Kumar, M. and Sankaran, S. (2007), "Indian culture and the culture for TQM: a comparison", The TQM Magazine, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 176-188.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited