Managing Continuous Improvement in Vietnam: Unique Challenges and Recommendations to Overcome Them

Phuong Anh Nguyen, Alan G. Robinson

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As Vietnam emerges into world markets, Vietnamese organizations are facing the predicament of how to avoid the low-cost labor trap and move up the production value-chain by improving quality and productivity. Continuous improvement (CI) practices have proved fundamental to building and sustaining competitive advantage in other Asian countries such as Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia. If Vietnamese organizations are to pursue higher value-added activities, CI will be critical for them, too. Despite the tremendous interest in Vietnam from the international business community, little research on Vietnamese management practices has been done, particularly on the use of CI techniques. The language barrier, lack of reliable business data, and the culture of government and corporate secrecy in Vietnam make it extremely difficult to do management research in that country.

This paper is a report on an ongoing multiyear research project to study the state of CI in Vietnam. It surveys the current management literature relevant to Vietnam. Then, based on fieldwork in five companies and extensive interviews with business leaders and managers, directors of professional and business associations, and other individuals who have extensive knowledge of Vietnam, the authors identify a number of unique challenges to managing CI in that country, and offer approaches to overcome them.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalQuality Management Journal
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010


  • continuous improvement
  • productivity improvement
  • quality improvement
  • Vietnam
  • Vietnamese management


  • Business
  • Economics

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