Difference in Cultures



Hi Everyone!

My dilemma:

Our Canadian offices were successful in implementing ISO 2K last year for 5 stations. The sampling by the registrar was based on 3 of the 5. (National Certification)

Our Montreal office has been certified under the 1994 standard since 1999. (stand alone certificate) In short, their certificate became obsolete as soon as we certified the entire country in 2001. (This was devestating to them, as they felt "their" system was garbage, although we included some of their stuff into the new "national" system.)

The Quality Manager originally in this station (Montreal) was using quality as a way to control, intimidate and manage by fear throughout the station. Since then, I have been hired for the job. (And I am based in Toronto, there is no longer a QA manager in Montreal)

My problem is, the employees in our Montreal station are scared to death of me and quality because of the past history. On top of that, the french culture is also a difficult one to handle, as I have to have EVERYTHING duplicated in French, including training, and QA sessions. Any suggestions as to how I approach these guys? Their external audit is scheduled for August and to tell you the truth, I don't even know where to begin.
"Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wide choice of many alternatives"

Laura - 2003


You could try visiting the Montreal office and do a series of meeting and greeting sessions and making thepeople there aware of your different approach to quality.

Youcan launch a specific awareness campaign to promote quality and its positive nature and at the same time explain how quality is not restricted to just a one man band but that everybody is responsible for its effective implementation.

You wil come up against cynics but you can also run inductions to catch new starters as they come in.

There is a thread on this called Changing a culture, that I started, there was some really good advice, check it out.


Difference in Culture

Hi Laura,

Thanks for the info on the thread, it was very helpful. I was thinking of putting together an "informal" session rather then a power point presentation with the group. The quality jargon in a french culture is not effective. How do I go about it informally, but still get the point across about quality? Any suggestions? Do you or anyone know of any games, prizes, etc???

Thanks again!


M Greenaway

Red Beads

Why not try the Deming Red Beads experiment. It is an absolute corker, and will show the participants that you understand systems, and the fact that they as people are only slaves (pardon the expression) to the system in which they work.

You can therefore show that part of your quality system is identifying system errors and correcting them, not punishing the poor worker.

Laura - 2003

My last company worked on the principle of Performance Managerment, i.e positively reinforcing staff when you 'catch' them in the act of doing something right.

THe way to go about this is to find out what they want (that is not related to pay) and when they improve their performance they are rewarded.

You can use this method to monitor quality awareness and improvement.

At my last company I used to do silly quizzes while at the same time relating them to quality and the business. Prizes included sweet treat etc.

I have learnt that everyone likes to eat, so its always a good way to reinforce people.

Also, get everyone involved by making it their job to implement quality into their area. A lot of ocmpanies consider quality the responsibility of one person, make them see that they can use quality to make a difference to the way they work.

To do it informally is the best way and encouraging discussion is a good way although try not to let your forum become a griping meeting for things that are not in your control...ie staff pay etc.

Hope this helps.

Laura - 2003


what is the Deming Red Beads experiment?

I think I remember what happened although it was explained to me when I was 5 months pregnant with depleted brain cell!

Please remind me.:frust:

M Greenaway

Deming gave an excellant example of how people can only produce what the system lets them produce. He stated that the majority of the problems are caused by the system, which is owned by the management, hence management are responsible for the problems and their solutions, not the workers.

He showed this through an experiment using a bowl containing white beads with a proportion of red beads mixed in. He then gave the operator a paddle with indentations in it, and instructed the operator to select white beads only.

This simple example, which is blindingly obvious, shows how operators can only perform as well as the system lets them. Obviously the above is a very simple and rigid system, but the analogy can be applied to complex situations.

Clearly with the above system exhortations like 'zero defects' only serve to demoralise the workforce as it is a target that they cannot attain no matter how hard they try. Also grading each employee by recording their output based on a small sample is also unfair, some will score better than others, but over time each should operate around a mean value with predictable spread.

Anyway I could go on and on but I suggest you read Out of the Crisis by Deming - it will enlighten you immensely.



I have come across your problem some time ago when I was working within a multi cultured/ multi language environment.
I now use the LAB profile found in a publication by Shelle Rose Charvet (From Burlington Ontario) called Words that Change minds ISBN 0-7872-3479-6, Shelle worked in France for some time and knows exactly your dilema, I wish I knew all about the LAB profile way back then when I needed some guidance regarding communications, I also found using it helped me to communicate effectively the intentions and requirements of the ISO standard to all I came in contact with.
Have a look at www.successtrategies.com, I have also used the accronym FISH, Focus, Improve, Sustain, Honour, I found that allowing the employees to see the big picture regarding what the QMS is, shall and can do makes all the difference and takes a lot of stress out of the transition from one quality manager to another.
[email protected]

David Mullins

Re: Difference in Culture

Originally posted by Edith
The quality jargon in a french culture is not effective.

That's funny. When I go to the ISO home page it asks me if I want it in English or French!

Everyone does need to be on the same page when it comes to nomenclature (a french word?).


Originally posted by Edith

My problem is, the employees in our Montreal station are scared to death of me and quality because of the past history. (

Edith (Piaf?) you need to show them that your not scary and using the quality stick.

This will take time. You need to demonstrate your ethic regularly and consistently.

As far as yours and their systems go, have you tried drawing a matrix for them so they can see how little things have changed for them. You have to lay things out for people so they can see it - plus this helps remove the fear factor.
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