Understanding cultural aspect in Lean Six Sigma

lean“An organization consists of personnel, physical factors, and functions that brought together to translate plans into tangible products or services” (Harold Koontz, 1983).

In 1870, Mitsubishi was a small organization working on a small scale shipping company with three old steamships by Yataro Iwasaki. Modern day Mitsubishi emerged as an independent organization after World War II .Currently it is serving the society on social, economic and global issues.Mitsubishi is implementing Lean Six Sigma practices in its operation for the organisation. The employees are given Lean Six Sigma training to enhance quality in the system.


“There are certain principles of an organization that may serve as highly valuable guides in working out any individual arrangements”. “A principle is a general rule or truths that may be expected to work under similar conditions anywhere” (Frank M.Rachel, 1981) .There are three principles of Mitsubishi.  These principles were designed by the fourth president of the Mitsubishi organization, Koyata, in the 1930s.



This includes striving to enrich society, both materially and spiritually, and contributing towards the preservation of the global environment.


Conducting business with integrity and fairness means to maintain principles of transparency and openness.


It includes policies incorporated for the Expansion of business, based on global dimension.

  1. “The first dimension refers to the three typologies of cultural environments that characterize organizations identified by Cox as monolithic, pluricultural and multicultural contexts” (Cox, 1991). “Each context reflects both the dominant values within the organization, upon which it depends the degree of interaction among different cultures, and the atmosphere deriving from the interaction itself” (Calvelli, 1998).

“Monolithic context is homogenous and has low acceptance to other culture models. It is defined by theories of self-realization and acceptance in which people are accepted, or rejected, on the basis of morphological characteristics, like skin colour, spoken language, than on the values. The pluricultural contexts generate cultural conflicts” (Cox 1991).


  1. Another salient feature in the affecting firm’s openness towards an international alliance is “the group belonging feeling – namely individualism vs. collectivism” (Hofstede, 1980; Hampden- Turner and Trompenaars, 2000). “Individualism as opposed to collectivism describes the relationship between the individual and collectivity that prevail in a given society” (Hofstede, 1980; Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars, 2000). The dimension illustrates the cultural encouragement to personal achievement, hence giving importance to private life which comprises of social interactions.

“Collectivistic perceive themselves as interdependent members of a group, so they tend to act cooperatively in their group interest” (Hofstede, 1980, 1991; Triandis, 1993).

“If we look at the existing diversities among countries, the dimension of individualism vs. collectivism plays, also, an important role in favouring or blocking the learning process deriving from co-operations” (Calvelli, 1998).The conflicts between individualistic and collectivistic cultures pose a major threat to alliances.


“Hofstede proposed the theory that culture had four levels ranging from superficial manifestations to deepest level. (Notes given by the client)

—  Level 1 – Symbols

—  Words, gestures, objects which carry meaning

—  Level 2 – Heroes and role models

—  People, historical figures, organisation founders with highly prized traits.

—  Level 3  – Rituals and social norms

—  Religious and social conventions

—  Level 4 – Shared values (deepest level)

—  Collective beliefs and assumptions most important, although least easy to identify, as can affect business.

—  Those who subscribe to the culture bound approach (including Hofstede) see organization form emerging from human preferences and decisions shaped by societal values refracted through individual personalities. Thus the behaviour of the organization and those associated with it must reflect national culture.

—  The dimensions explored were

—  Power distance-Exploring the extents to which people find power inequality at work acceptable. The statistics show the range for Latin/Asian/African countries as High and N. Europe as Low.

—  Uncertainty avoidance- The extent to which people accept ambiguity and deviant ideas/behaviour. The statistics show the range for Latin America/European/Mediterranean countries/Japan/Korea is high and Asia/Africa/Germany/Austria/UK is Low.

—  Individualism versus collectivism the extent to which individuals are expected to look after their own interests. In general Hofstede found that richer countries were higher on individualism and poorer countries higher on collectivism.

—  An exception to this was Japan – which was high on collectivism although regarded as relatively rich.

—  Masculinity versus femininity the extent to which the dominant values were ‘masculine’ values e.g. work ethic, money, achievement or ‘feminine’ values e.g. concern for people and quality of life.

—  Masculine societies define male/female roles more rigidly than feminine societies. The range showed:

—  Japan, Austria as highly masculine.

—  Netherlands, Scandinavia as highly feminine.

—  Long term orientation to observe the effect of specific family values on the business. It was found prominent in Chinese communities”.

To learn more about Lean Six Sigma training program at ZaranTech please visit http://www.zarantech.com/course-list/sixsigma. Call  515-978-9049 or email  mahua@zarantech.com.

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