Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Information Systems and Technology


To remain competitive in the global market, organizations must continuously respond, adapt and evolve. It is essential for organizations to select approaches that allow them to do this effectively. Total Quality Management (TQM) practices are one such approach. With positive impacts on business performance at both national and international levels and across both the manufacturing and service sectors, practitioners and academic researchers are interested in how to best implement TQM to strengthen competitiveness (Zakuan et al., 2010). Numerous studies have attempted to identify and generalize the practices of TQM. Although these studies have recorded varied findings, an analysis of the common themes provides a set of critical success factors (CSFs) of TQM implementation. Culture is one of the main barriers to TQM adoption, with national culture recognized as a key factor in determining the success of quality initiatives (Jabnoun and Khafaji, 2005) due to its impact on organizational values, structures and member behaviors. Quality models must therefore consider the culture in which they are used. Despite broad agreement on this relationship between national culture and the implementation of quality models such as TQM, there is a lack of empirical research on the relationship between the CSFs of TQM implementation and national culture.

Despite extensive research on TQM generally, little empirical research has been conducted in developing countries such as Thailand. TQM has also received limited attention within the service sector. This research investigates TQM implementation in the Thai service sector through a study of the level of CSF practices, and the relationship between Thai cultural characteristics and the adoption of these CSF practices. This research is one of the first to explore the impact of Thai cultural characteristics on TQM adoption.

The study employed a survey methodology to gather perspectives from 127 respondents drawn from 84 hospitals and 43 universities in Thailand. The survey investigated the level of TQM implementation in each of these hospitals and universities, identified the CSFs, and collected information to explain how the prominent characteristics of Thai culture impeded or supported the implementation of TQM in each organisation. Two detailed case studies – Nakornthon Hospital and Songkhla Rajabhat University – were conducted to provide a more detailed analysis of the TQM practices and cultural impacts in these organizations. In-depth interviews were used to collect rich information from the participants.

The survey results indicated a high level of TQM practice in Thai hospitals and universities. The ten CSFs for TQM implementation proposed by Antony et al. (2002) were shown to be valid in both the university and hospital sectors in Thailand, showing a high level of commitment to improve quality performance in these sectors. In addition, Thai cultural characteristics were found to both positively and negatively influence quality practices in organizations. Specifically, the Thai cultural characteristics of non-assertiveness, flexibility over principles, care and consideration, kindness and helpfulness, self-control, tolerance, restraint politeness, humbleness, calmness, cautiousness and pride of face and dignity had a significant impact on TQM adoption in both sectors. However, the sets of Thai cultural characteristics that impacted on TQM practices in the Thai hospital and university sectors were not similar.

This study contributes to prior TQM literature by comprehensively investigating the relationship between Thai cultural characteristics and CSFs of TQM implementation. The findings support existing literature and provide new knowledge specific to TQM implementation in Thailand and TQM adoption in the service sector. Future research into TQM CSFs in different industries, in the public and private sectors, and in very large organizations would further extend this knowledge. Analysis of the case studies indicates a link between TQM adoption and the concept of learning organizations, with participants viewing TQM practices as a way to become a learning organization. Future research could investigate the link between these concepts.

This research has practical values for management and policy makers in the Thai education and health sectors. Based on the identified level of TQM practices in these sectors and the outcomes suggested by updated academic literature, practitioners can reprioritize current practices. The results confirm the impact of culture on TQM adoption, and specifically that Thai cultural characteristics have both a positive and negative impact on TQM execution in hospitals and universities in Thailand. An understanding of the impact of Thai cultural characteristics will enable TQM practitioners in Thailand to more effectively develop their TQM approach, avoiding the negative implications of Thai culture and benefiting from the positive contributions of these characteristics.