What is the meaning of quality circle?
Conceptually, quality circle can be described as a small group of employees from the same work area who meet equally and regularly and work to identify, analyze and solve work related problems.
This small group participates with each member of the circle, fully carry out the activities, uses problem solving techniques to achieve control or improvement in the work area and helps in the process itself and mutual development.
The concept of the quality circle is based on “respect for the human person” and is against the traditional belief based on doubt and mistrust between management and its employees.
What are the characteristics of effective quality circle?
- The atmosphere should be informal, comfortable and relaxed. Members should be involved and interested.
- Everyone should participate.
- Members should have clear objectives.
- Members should listen to each other.
- The group should feel comfortable even if there is disagreement.
- Decisions should generally be taken with a kind of consensus and voting should be minimal.
- When an action needs to be taken, clear assignments must be made and accepted by all members.
- The leader should not dominate the group. The main idea should not be who controls, but rather how the work is done.
- Reaction is necessary until a final solution is found and the result is achieved.
What are the objectives of quality circle?
- To improve quality, productivity, safety and cost reduction.
- To give employees a chance to use their intelligence and creativity.
- Encouraging team spirit, a harmonious culture among different levels and classes of employees.
- To promote self and mutual development including quality of leadership.
- To meet the self-esteem and motivational needs of employees.
- To improve the quality of work-life of employees.
Implementation of Quality Circle in an Organization
For the success of the Quality Circle program, the following actions are necessary in the organization:
- Some managers representing production, quality control, design, process planning form the Quality Circle (Q.C.) Steering Committee. It acts as a policy making body and will oversee the quality circle in the organization.
- Top management should attend orientation courses designed for them.
- A committed head and middle management is required.
- A facilitator should be appointed, who acts as a link between the top management, quality circle steering committee, middle management circle leaders and circle members. The facilitator will coordinate training courses; get support from all concerned including top management quality circle, steering committee, circle leader and circle members to help the circle leader in conducting meetings, and provide necessary resources.
Organization and Working of Quality Circles
- Quality circle was conceived in Japan in 1962, as a platform for training its work force to improve the quality of products. Quality circle is voluntary. Employees are free to join or not. It consists of 8 to 10 employees including supervisors from the same workshop working together as a group. The supervisor may become the leader of the group, if a member of quality circle so much desire.
- It is a part-time activity; For members of the quality circle, it is permissible to meet for an hour every week. During various meetings, these groups progressively identify, select, analyze and solve problems. They later provide their proposed solutions to management for consideration, approval and implementation.
- Additionally, a senior officer of the same workshop is designated as a facilitator who guides the group’s activities.
- A management committee is also formed at the senior level, which monitors the progress of quality circles.
- Training of members, leaders and facilitators is very important for the success of the program.
What are the rules for quality circles?
- Each member can contribute an idea on their turn in rotation.
- Each member presents only one idea, irrespective of the number of ideas in his mind.
- If anyone does not have an idea during each rotation, just say “pass” when this happens.
- No criticism or comment should be passed on the ideas being contributed by the member; whoever may seem old, welcome their views.
- During a brain-storm, there should be no evaluation of the suggested idea. This applies equally to the leader, with phrases such as ‘we have tried this before’, ‘impractical’, ‘and well’ ‘will it work”, ‘doubtful’, ‘very good’ etc. should not be pronounced.
- Members can vote by raising their hands.
- Only supporting votes are taken. Votes against opinions are not allowed.
- The time allotted for the brain-storm session should be variable. The length of time that can be profitably spent will vary widely with the nature and group of the problem.
- As a general practice, one hour is probably the minimum.
- While members give their ideas, they are recorded by the recorder on a large sheet.
- Basically it is often helpful to set a goal, i.e. we should start with 30 ideas.
- The first phase of the brain-storm session ends when all members say “pass”. This means that all ideas are exhausted.
- Now all the views recorded on the sheet are displayed.
- The huge numbers of these ideas are reduced by the voting process. Voting techniques work because members are experts in their fields. Members vote on each idea. The leader records each vote next to the idea.
- The leader draws a quality circle around the ideas that receive the most votes. Members thus find that many top ideas will be identified.
- Now the members can focus only on the selected important ideas. These few important ideas are voted on to give ranking to the circle ideas. Leader writes the ranking number beside each idea that has been circled.
- A member can ask to vote on any idea and argue for or against it. If they wish, others can also join it. Voting is being held only when the discussion is over.
- Ideas that are ranked in the session can be taken up later for analysis or resolution.
Duties of Circle Leader
For the success of quality circles, the circle leader must have the following duties:
- He should take the responsibility of guiding the members.
- He should ensure to his members what is going on.
- He should broadcast the discussions.
- Every member is allowed equal opportunity.
- Each member should be assigned specific tasks.
- He should work in coordination with the facilitator.
What are the steps for setting up quality circles?
To start a quality circle in an organization, the following steps should be taken:
- First of all, managers, supervisors and foremen should be made to understand the concepts and activities of quality circle.
- The total support and commitment of management should be known to everyone in the organization.
- Steering committee is formed with top management personnel to guide quality management activities.
- A facilitator (or sometimes known as a promoter) is selected from the senior management level, who will serve as the circle’s coordinator and advisor.
- The supervisor and foreman are then trained to act as quality circle leaders.
- The members of each quality circle should be selected from the persons who are doing this type of work or belong to the same department or section.
- Membership of the circle is voluntary.
- In order to train them some meetings of the quality circle are held.
- To begin, only one to two quality circles should be formed in an organization, and then gradually increase the number as more and more experience is gained.
- Meetings should be held regularly, may begin once a week and once a month upon completion of basic training of members.
- Suggestions or problems of all the members that coincide with the objectives of the circle are discussed.
- Total participation of team members should be encouraged.
- The recommendations of the congregation should be considered and decisions taken without delay.
What are the benefits of quality circles (Q.C.)?
- Through the platform of quality circle, the chronic problems of organizations, which actually create hurdles in work, are solved by the grassroots employees of the organization, whose knowledge and experience are otherwise not fully utilized.
- With such a competent workforce, any organization can easily undertake more difficult and challenging tasks for its own growth and profit.
- As employees gain experience that they undertake more challenging projects, they will certainly reduce costs, deal with materials, improve quality, prevent wastage, improve delivery schedules, improve customer service, inspection and testing methods. Improvements work such as design and process improvements to prevent accidents etc.
- Cost reduction.
- Increased productivity.
- Improved quality.
- Better communication.
- Better house-keeping.
- Increased team work.
- Smooth working.
- Better mutual trust.
- Greater sense of belongingness.
- Increased safety.
- Better human relations.
Launching of Quality Circle Programme
Specific steps to start the quality circle program are as follows:
- Orientation Program for Senior Management Personnel.
- Orientation program for managers and executives.
- Orientation program for selected supervisors.
- Orientation Program for Workers (Selected Areas).
- Formation of circles (minimum 2 and maximum 4).
- Training of Facilitators.
- Training of leaders.
- Quality circle Meetings for projects.