How to Implement Quality Circles to Improve the Productivity
The Concept of Quality Circles
The Concept of Quality Circle or Quality Control Circle was originated and initially implemented in Japan. The idea of involving employees and their participation in achieving business goals is neither new nor revolutionary. Research studies on effects of participative management styles upon productivity and worker attitudes have concluded that increased job responsibilities, allowing employees to make decisions that affect their jobs, and creating an environment of trust, tend to improve organizational effectiveness, increase productivity of employees and improve their morale.
Quality Circles is an approach that allows employees to become more involved their company by solving their own job-related problems in an organized way. The Quality Circle Concept can be adapted to any culture since its roots are based on satisfying psychological needs of employees.
What is Quality Circle?
A Quality Circle is a small group of employees performing similar work who voluntarily undertake to meet regularly to identify, analyze and solve their own work-related problems.
This group carries on continuously, control and improvement using quality control techniques, as an integral part of company-wide quality control activities, with all the members participating. This Quality Circle process helps self-development and mutual-development of participants.
Fundamentals of Quality Circles
The fundamental objectives behind Quality Circles are;
- To contribute to the improvement and development of the enterprise.
- To respect humanity and build a happy bright workshop or work environment worthwhile to live.
- Explore human capabilities fully and eventually draw out infinite possibilities for the betterment of employees and the company.
Key to Successful Implementation of Quality Control Circles
There are some important aspects that are critical to success of a Quality Circle. Those are;
- Establish atmosphere - Employees must feel free and motivated to join quality circles.
- Obtain commitment - Obtain employee commitment to solve common problems in the workplace.
- Select Objectives - Defining right objectives for Quality Circles ensure effective and efficient achievement of the same.
- Inform - Everybody must be informed about the problem, present situation and the importance of their participation for finding solutions.
- Voluntary - Encourage voluntary participation for Quality Circles through motivation.
- Training - Identify and provide necessary training on Quality Circle procedures and if necessary any additional training required to find solutions to existing problems.
- Be Open and Positive - This is very important to have many possible solutions to a problem those could be further evaluated to find best solution.
Application of Quality Circle for Business Process Improvements
Quality circles could effectively implement in following business processes in order to improve the productivity of a company.
- Market Research on products and services offered/ or planned products and services.
- Research and development on improving business processes, improve productivity and incorporate new technology, methods, or practices.
- Material purchasing process to improve the on time delivery, eliminate wastes and minimize stocks.
- Production process improvements including technology, methods and procedures.
- Inspection to identify the defects, recurrent malfunctions and improve processes.
- Inventory management including, monitoring, controlling and decision making aspects.
- Packing and distribution to improve the reduce wastes, improve the productivity and on time delivery
- To identify and improve the sales process and reduce wastes.
However, application of Quality Circles are limitless as it can be applied to any business process in any environment to find solutions to existing well identified problems.
Main Objectives of Quality Circles
Quality Circles are always implement to improve the productivity of the company by providing solutions to existing problems by the employees themselves. Following are the main objectives of implementing Quality Control Circles.
- Development of individual employees.
- Mutual development through team work and voluntary contribution.
- Improve the quality.
- Improve the communication process in a company.
- Reduce wastes.
- Improve the job satisfaction among employees.
- Cost reduction.
- Improve productivity.
- Improve safety.
- Problem solving.
- Team building.
- Link all people.
- Improve employee involvement.
- Improve employee participation.
- Reduce employee absenteeism.
Composition of Quality Circles
Typical composition of a Quality Circle is as follows.
- Quality Circle - Consist of 03 to 13 members to identify, analysis, and resolve Work-related problems Implement solutions.
- Leader - To Direct the Circle.
- Facilitator - Make integration of Programme easier at all levels.
- Coordinator - To supervises Facilitators and directs administration of Programme.
- Steering Committee - Consist of 5 to 15 members to oversee and direct programme.
Functions of the Steering Committee
Following are the basic function of steering committee members of a quality circle.
- Define objectives, policy and /guidelines for the quality circle.
- Plan expansion, budget, strategies.
- Promote Quality Control Circle activities.
- Establish a “recognition/reward” system.
- Review progress, train, take corrective action.
- Follow up on solutions/complete projects
- Patch Quality Control Circle concept with Organization’s philosophy.
Functions of the Facilitator
Following are the typical functions of a Facilitator of a Quality Circle.
- Sit as active member on the steering committee.
- Train circle leaders/members.
- Co-ordinate circles.
- Attend circle meetings as/when necessary.
- Act as advisor to circles.
- Promote growth of the Quality Control Circle.
- Link circle with specialist/management.
- Help solve problems as/when necessary.
- Follow up on completed projects.
Functions of Quality Circle Members
Following are the typical functions of Members in a Quality Circle.
- Attend meetings on time.
- Use Quality Control Circle techniques taught.
- Follow circle’s code of conduct.
- Stay within all policy rules.
- Promote Quality Control Circle programme.
- Participate in discussion/problem solving.
Following diagram explains the process of a typical Quality Circle.
Functions of a Quality Circle Leader
Following are the typical functions of a Quality Circle Leader.
- Take care of circle operation
- Be responsible for circle’s records
- Seek advice/help if required
- Control and keep meetings on track
- Create co-ordination and harmony
- Start/end meetings on time
- Help to get new circle members
- Be the link between members and management
- Train circle members
Quality Circle Process
Problem Identification by management or circle members
Problem Selection by circle members
Problem Analysis by circle members. In this step staff specialists or management is required to provide Technical Assistance.
Develop Solution to the problem by circle members
Presentation of solutions to Management by circle members
Management Decision by steering committee representative - Redirect to Step 2, if the solution does not provide effective solution or the circle has not identified the problem correctly.
Implementation of solutions by management/circle members
Typical Quality Circle Procedure
Following is the procedure in implementing Quality Circle.
- Volunteers form circles
- Elect the Leader
- Selects name, motto, emblem for the circle
- Register/Inform Steering Committee
- Brainstorm and list problems
- Selects a problem and a project
- Prepare and plan target
- Analyse data and identify causes
- Brainstorm, and/or develop solution using QC techniques
- Makes Management Presentation – Approval from Management
- Implement solution
- Measure results – pay offs, benefits
- Records projects
Code of Conduct of Quality Circles
It is important that every member of a quality circle follow a code of conduct in order to ensure effective and efficient achievement of objectives. Following code of conduct is recommended.
- Held meetings regularly. Eg. 01 hour each week
- Everyone participates, No one dominates
- Criticize ideas, not people
- Each one, teach-one
- Members are free to express ideas
- Members listen respectfully to other suggestions
- Circle work on a project as a group/team
- Meetings start/end on time.
Typical Activities of Quality Circle
Following are the typical activities that are taking place during meetings.
- Identifying a theme or problem to work on
- Train members for them to be better enable to analyze problems
- Analyzing a problem
- Preparing recommendations for implementing a solution
- Participation in a presentation to management
How to Reward Quality Circles
Following actions could be taken to reward the members of quality circles in recognition of their achievements and contribution.
- Invite them to Present their proposal before the top management.
- Award Plaques, trophies or certificates awarded to the best circle by the top management
- Facilitate them to present their Circle outside the company
- Award Badges for recognition.
- Facilitate Circle attendance at annual conventions and seminars
- Publishing Quality Control Circle Facilitators Journal
- Best circle sent on holiday trips
- Photographs of circle members with top management
- Lunches etc.
Benefits of Quality Circles
Following are the benefits or advantages of Quality Control Circles.
- Improved quality
- Improved productivity
- Improved efficiency
- Less absenteeism
- A sense of pride and accomplishment for employees
- Improvement of quality of work life
- Improved safety
- Improved morale
- High Job satisfaction
- Contented employees or workforce
- Improved communication between management and employees
Problems Encountered During Implementation of Quality Circles
Following are the common problems faced by many companies in implementing Quality Circles.
- Lack of understanding of QC Circle Concept.
- Circle members concentrate on problems beyond their work area.
- Too many goals/unrealistic expectations by management/circle.
- No teamwork.in quality control circles.
- Lack of “rewards/recognition for their effort and contribution.
- QC circles means change and reluctance to change by employees.
- Too much time away from job for employees may affect the productivity.
- Management feels threatened as employees are given opportunity to exploit problems and find solutions.
- Employees may feel “used”.
- Attitude of problem and solutions not invented here.
- Attitude of problem solving is for management not employees.
- Attitude of it will not work here. It is quality control work.
Also, there are certain HR related areas in business organisation that are not recommended to analyze under Quality Circles. Those are;
- Employee benefits
- Disciplinary policies
- Employment policies
- Termination policies