A quality circle or quality control circle is a group of workers who do the same or similar work, who meet regularly to identify, analyze and solve work-related problems. It consists of minimum three and maximum twelve members in number. Normally small in size, the group is usually led by a supervisor or manager and presents its solutions to management; where possible, workers implement the solutions themselves in order to improve the performance of the organization and motivate employees. Quality circles were at their most popular during the 1980s, but continue to exist in the form of Kaizen groups and similar worker participation schemes.
Typical topics for the attention of quality circles are improving occupational safety and health, improving product design, and improvement in the workplace and manufacturing processes. The term quality circles was most accessibly defined by Professor Kaoru Ishikawa in his 1985 handbook, “What is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way” and circulated throughout Japanese industry by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers in 1960. The first company in Japan to introduce Quality Circles was the Nippon Wireless and Telegraph Company in 1962. By the end of that year there were 36 companies registered with JUSE by 1978 the movement had grown to an estimated 1 million Circles involving some 10 million Japanese workers. The movement built on work by Dr. W. Edwards Deming during the Allied Occupation of Japan, for which the Deming Prize was established in 1950, as well as work by Joseph M. Juran in 1954.
Quality circles are typically more formal groups. They meet regularly on company time and are trained by competent persons (usually designated as facilitators) who may be personnel and industrial relations specialists trained in human factors and the basic skills of problem identification, information gathering and analysis, basic statistics, and solution generation. Quality circles are generally free to select any topic they wish (other than those related to salary and terms and conditions of work, as there are other channels through which these issues are usually considered).
Problems of Quality Circles and Their Solutions:
Though QC concept has many positive points, it has failed miserably in many organisations due to certain problems and pitfalls. Following are some important problems of QC implementation in India and remedies to overcome or solve them.
Lack of Ability:
The Indian workers are characterized by their low level of educations and also lack of leadership qualities. This problem can be overcome by initiating workers’ education programme.
Both employees and managers having negative attitude toward QC often resist its implementation. Managers feel that QC dilutes their authority and importance in the organisation. This negative attitude can be dispelled by imparting appropriate training to employees as well managers about the real concept and contribution of QC.
Lack of Management Commitment:
Lack of management commitment toward QC is demonstrated by not permitting the members to hold QC meetings during the working hours. Therefore, the top management should permit the members to hold QC meetings periodically during working hours preferably at the end of the day. Management should also extend all required and timely assistance for the smooth functioning of QC.
Non-implementation of Suggestions:
The members of the QC feel disheartened in case their suggestions are not accepted and implemented by the management without giving convincing reasons for not doing so. Instead, the suggestions rendered by QC should be given due consideration and weightage and should be implemented honestly.
This will, as a result, further enthuse, the members of QC to improve quality of their goods and services. In this way, QC may benefit both workers and organisation. In other worlds, QC is symbiotic for workers and organisation, if used honestly.