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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quality Circles

Quality Circles (QC) or Quality Control Circles (QCC) : History
  • Pioneered by Japanese.
  • Japanese nomenclature: Quality Control Circles (QCC), generally now known as Quality Circles (QC) or some call it as Small Group Activity (SGA).
  • 1962: First QC Circle was registered with QC Circle Head Quarters in Japan.
  • 1974: Lockheed Company, USA started Quality Circle movement.
  • 1977: International Association of Quality Circles (IACC) was formed in USA.
  • 1980: BHEL, Hyderabad first in India to start Quality Circles.
  • 1982: Quality Circle Forum of India (QCFI) was founded.
For more details on history of quality circles, refer:

Formal and Informal Groups

Formal Groups
  • Family.
  • Organization.
  • Departments.
Informal Groups
  • Employees meet near water cooler and gossip.
  • Five salesmen from marketing department meet once a month for lunch to discuss mutual concerns and to seek relief from tedious aspects of their job.
  • Four computer programmers form a jogging club that meets three days per week at lunch time to run two miles.
  • All employees of a section meet and discuss how to improve and beautify office layouts.
  • Seven workers of a production shop floor meet once a week to solve their technical problems.
  • Maintenance department staff meet regularly to maintain machines in a better way.
What is Quality Circle (QC)?

Quality Circles are (informal) groups of employees who voluntarily meet together on a regular basis to identify, define, analyze and solve work related problems.
Usually the members of a particular team (quality circle) should be from the same work area or who do similar work so that the problems they select will be familiar to all of them. In addition, interdepartmental or cross functional quality circles may also be formed.
An ideal size of quality circle is seven to eight members. But the number of members in a quality circle can vary.

Other Names of Quality Circles
  • Small Groups
  • Action Circles
  • Excellence Circles
  • Human Resources Circles
  • Productivity Circles
Objectives of Quality Circles
  • Promote job involvement
  • Create problem solving capability
  • Improve communication
  • Promote leadership qualities
  • Promote personal development
  • Develop a greater awareness for cleanliness
  • Develop greater awareness for safety
  • Improve morale through closer identity of employee objectives with organization's objectives
  • Reduce errors.
  • Enhance quality
  • Inspire more effective team work
  • Build an attitude of problem prevention
  • Promote cost reduction
  • Develop harmonious manager, supervisor and worker relationship
  • Improve productivity
  • Reduce downtime of machines and equipment
  • Increase employee motivation
Quality Circle Meetings
  • Meetings are important part of quality circle's working.
  • Meetings are attended by all the members of the quality circle.
  • In general, meetings take place once a week or once in a fortnight.
  • Each meeting lasts for approximately one hour, though variations are possible.
  • Apart from the frequency of the meetings, what is important is the regularity of the meetings.
What Takes Place During Quality Circle Meetings?

Any of the several activities may occur during a meeting such as:
  • Identifying a theme or a problem to work on.
  • Getting training as required to enable members to analyze problems.
  • Analyzing problem(s).
  • Preparing recommendations for implementing solution(s).
  • Follow up of implementation of suggestions.
  • Prepare for a presentation to the management.
What Quality Circles are Not? (Misconcepts)
  • Quality Circles do not tackle just quality problems.
  • Quality Circle is not a substitute or replacement for task forces, product committees, joint plant councils or works committees, quality assurance department, suggestion schemes.
  • Quality Circles do not change the existing organizational structure or the chain of command.
  • Quality Circles are not a forum for grievances or a spring board for demands.
  • Quality Circles are not a means for the management to unload all their problems.
  • Quality Circles are not just another technique.
  • Quality Circles are not a panacea for all ills.
Pitfalls and Problems
  • Lack of faith in and support to Quality Circle activities among management personnel
  • Lack of interest or incompetence of leaders/facilitator
  • Apathy, fear and misunderstanding among middle level executives
  • Delay or non-implementation of Circle recommendations
  • Irregularity of Quality Circle activities
  • Non-application of simple techniques for problem solving
  • Lack of or non-participation by some members in the Circle activities
  • Circles running out of problems
  • Inadequate visibility of management support
  • Non-maintenance of Quality Circle records
  • Too much facilitation or too little
  • Language difficulty in communication
  • Communication gap between Circles and departmental head
  • Change of management
  • Confusing Quality Circle for another technique
  • Resistance from trade unions
Structure of Quality Circles Program

Six Basic Elements
  • Circle participants or members.
  • Circle leaders/deputy leaders.
  • Program facilitator.
  • Steering/advisory committee.
  • Top management.
  • Potential members and non-participating management/members.
Roles and Responsibilities of Various Elements

Roles of Members
  • Focus on organizational objectives through the theme(s) selected for one's quality circle
  • Theme/problem should be related to work.
  • Do not bring in the personal issues or problems as the themes of quality circles.
  • Demonstrate mutual respect.
  • Take training in all the aspects of quality circles.
  • Acquire the necessary skills in various quality circle tools and techniques.
  • Participate wholeheartedly in problem-solving process by giving ideas and views voluntarily and suggesting the solutions.
  • Attend all the meetings of quality circle. When unavoidable to attend the meeting, seek prior permission of the quality circle leader.
  • Participate in implementing the finalized solutions.
Roles of Leaders
  • Decide date and time of each quality circle meeting  and inform to all the members.
  • Ensure maximum attendance of all the members in the meetings.
  • Conduct the meetings effectively.
  • Motivate the members for their full participation in the proceedings of quality circle meetings and related activities.
  • Facilitate the members in data collection.
  • Maintain the records of quality circles meetings and other related activities.
  • Interact with other quality circle leaders.
  • Interact with the quality circle facilitator frequently.
  • Make presentations of solutions to the management. Involve the members in making the presentations.
  • Seek management approvals of the solutions.
  • Ensure implementation of the approved solutions with the active involvement of the members.
  • Arrange first time training and later on, the refresher training of the members and self in the quality circles group process, tools and techniques.
Roles of Facilitators
  • Act as an effective link between the quality circles and the management.
  • Coordinate the work of several quality circles through their respective leaders.
  • Act as a resource person for the quality circles being facilitated.
  • Arrange for obtaining necessary expertise from other agencies and quality circles.
  • Keep the motivation and morale level of all the leaders and members at the highest level.
  • Review the progress of each circle periodically and lead them appropriately.
  • Continually update the knowledge and skills pertaining to the working of quality circles by studying the relevant literature and attending the training programs.
  • Transfer the knowledge and skills to the leaders and the members.
  • Arrange for additional training to the leaders and members as required.
  • Arrange for necessary monetary budgets and keep the required records.
  • Facilitate and guide the quality circle leaders and members to make the management presentations.
Roles of Steering Committee (Management)
  • Formally announce the launching of quality circle initiative in the organization.
  • Provide full support and encouragement to quality circle movement in the organization.
  • Provide leadership and guidance to develop the quality circle models, structure and policies.
  • Design the opportunities for presentations by the quality circles.
  • Facilitate the approval and implementation of the solutions presented by quality circles.
  • Sanction the necessary monetary budgets for smooth working of quality circles.
  • Provide the logistic support as needed (presentation venues, meeting rooms, time, finance, training facilities etc).
  • Plan out and execute various training programs for the existing and prospective quality circle facilitators, leaders and members.
  • Give due recognition to quality circles, their members and their work by way of prizes, felicitations and other means.
  • Develop guidelines for measuring the effectiveness of quality circles and also the quality circle initiative as a whole.
  • Review the performance and progress of quality circles periodically.
    How Do Quality Circles Operate?
    • Appointment of a steering committee, facilitator and QC team leaders.
    • Formation of QCs by nomination/voluntary enrolment of QC members.
    • Training of all QC members (by an expert consultant).
    • Training of non-participating employees (by an expert consultant).
    • Problem data bank and identification of problems for QC work.
    • QC problem resolution by QCs through standardized techniques.
    • Presentation of QC solutions to management.
    • Evaluation of award/recognition.
    Code of Conduct for QCs
    • Attend all meetings and be on time.
    • Listen to and show respect for the views of other members.
    • Make others feel a part of the group.
    • Criticize ideas, not persons.
    • Help other members to participate more fully.
    • Be open to and encourage the ideas of others.
    • Every member is responsible for the team’s progress.
    • Maintain a friendly attitude.
    • Strive for enthusiasm.
    • The only stupid question is the one that is not asked.
    • Look for merit in the ideas of others.
    • Pay attention- avoid disruptive behavior.
    • Avoid actions that delay progress.
    • Carry out assignments on schedule.
    • Give credit to those whom it is due.
    • Thank those who give assistance.
    • Do not suppress ideas- do express.
    • Objectives and causes first, solutions next.
    • Give praise and honest appreciation when due.
    • Ideas generated by the group should not be used as individual suggestions to suggestion scheme.
    Problem Solving Tools and Techniques Used by Quality Circles

    Given below are the most commonly used tools and techniques. These are called the old QC tools:
    • Brainstorming.
    • Pareto analysis.
    • Cause and effect diagram (or fish bone diagram or Ishikawa diagram).
    • Histogram.
    • Scatter diagram
    • Stratification
    • Check sheet
    • Control charts and graphs
    New QC Tools

    Quality circles started using additional seven tools as they started maturing. These are:
    1. Relations diagram.
    2. Affinity diagram.
    3. Systematic diagram or Tree diagram.
    4. Matrix diagram.
    5. Matrix data analysis diagram.
    6. PDPC (Process Decision Program Chart).
    7. Arrow diagram.
    Benefits of QC
    • Self development.
    • Promotes leadership qualities among participants.
    • Recognition.
    • Achievement satisfaction.
    • Promotes group/team working.
    • Serves as cementing force between management/non-management groups.
    • Promotes continuous improvement in products and services.
    • Brings about a change in environment of more productivity, better quality, reduced costs, safety and corresponding rewards.
    It will be a good idea also to read articles on other Japanese management systems and techniques. For this, refer:

    (Quality Circles History),
    (5S Housekeeping),
    (A to Z of Quality Techniques),
    (Cost of Quality- COQ,
    (Daily Management),
    (Kaizen ,
    (Gemba Kaizen,
    (Just in Time Management- JIT,
    (Lean Enterprise),
    (Quality Function Deployment- QFD and House of Quality)
    (Quality Circles History)

    For everything you wanted to know on building leadership and management, refer Shyam Bhatawdekar’s website

    (Refer our High Quality Management Encyclopedia Management Universe at:

    Books Suggested for Your Professional/Organization's and Personal Library (available online from Amazon as printed books and eBooks)

    Management, Business, Self-help and Personality Development Books

    1. HSoftware (Human Software) (The Only Key to Higher Effectiveness)
    2. Sensitive Stories of Corporate World (Management Case Studies)
    3. Classic Management Games, Exercises, Energizers and Icebreakers
    4. Classic Management Games, Exercises, Energizers and Icebreakers (Volume 2)
    5. Classic Team Building Games, Exercises, Energizers and Icebreakers
    6. 101 Classic Management Games, Exercises, Energizers and Icebreakers
    7. Stress? No Way!! (Handbook on Stress Management)
    8. HSoftware (Shyam Bhatawdekar’s Effectiveness Model)
    9. Competency Management (Competency Matrix and Competencies)
    10. Soft Skills You Can’t Do Without (Goal Setting, Time Management, Assertiveness and Anger Management)
    11. Essentials of Work Study (Method Study and Work Measurement)
    12. Essentials of Time Management (Taking Control of Your Life)
    13. Essentials of 5S Housekeeping
    14. Essentials of Quality Circles
    15. Essentials of Goal Setting
    16. Essentials of Anger Management
    17. Essentials of Assertive Behavior
    18. Essentials of Performance Management & Performance Appraisal
    19. Health Essentials (Health Is Wealth)
    20. The Romance of Intimacy (How to Enhance Intimacy in a Relationship?)

    Novels, Stories, Biographies and Travelogues

    21. The Peace Crusaders (Novel: how the peace crusaders established permanent peace on a war strewn planet?)
    22. Love Knows No Bounds (Novel: a refreshingly different love story. Also available with the title “Good People”)
    23. Funny (and Not So Funny) Short Stories
    24. Stories Children Will Love (Volume 1: Bhanu-Shanu-Kaju-Biju and Dholu Ram Gadbad Singh)
    25. My Father (Biography)
    26. Travelogue: Scandinavia, Russia
    27. Travelogue: Europe

    For More Guidance, Assistance, Training and Consultation


    Training on "Quality Circles" and all other "Japanese Management Systems and Techniques" is imparted by Prodcons Group's Mr Shyam Bhatawdekar and/or Dr (Mrs) Kalpana Bhatawdekar, the renowned management educationists, consultants and trainers- par excellence, with distinction of having trained over 150,000 people from around 250 organizations. Assistance in implementation is also provided by the team of Prodcons Group.

    Also refer:, and

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