After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Concept of Quality Circles (QC) 2. Objectives of Quality Circles 3. Merits 4. Factors.
Concept of Quality Circles (QC):
The concept of quality control originated in the U.S. and was taken to Japan by W. Edwards Deming who marked the beginning of revolution in quality control. As quality control awareness increased in Japan, the Japanese companies used statistical quality control to motivate their workers to produce high-quality products.
One of the mechanisms used by these companies to improve the quality not only of their products but also the personnel was quality circles which is in practice even today.
Quality circle is a group of labour and management who belong to a single department, do same or similar work, meet periodically to discuss and analyse manufacturing problems (for about an hour per week in paid time) and find solutions to quality problems.
Rather than developing technical staff that works with management and workers, quality circles train the workers who identify and solve the problems they face during the production process. Quality circle is “an approach to improving quality and reducing the cost of producing a product or service by the voluntary efforts of small groups of workers, who are generally led by a first-line supervisor”.
However, the supervisor does not issue orders. The circle members analyse their problems, gather relevant information, find solutions and implement them. The QC members do not receive monetary rewards for presenting solutions to management but receive recognition for their services to the organisation.
QCs improve the quality of products and the work atmosphere as members feel they are an important part of the organisation who can positively contribute to product quality. Though initially started in the manufacturing area, the concept of QCs widely applies in service sector also (banking, insurance etc.).
Quality circles are regular short meetings that help to solve work-related problems.
(a) 5-10 people attend the meeting in work-time.
(b) Supervisor is nominated and he runs the meeting.
(c) Flip charts, audio-visual equipment, notice boards etc. are utilized.
(d) Problem areas are put forward by the group.
(e) Problems are prioritized.
(f) Information is collected, ideas are generated via brainstorming and force-field analysis.
(g) Effectiveness, costs, savings, consequences to other departments etc. are considered.
(h) Final solution is put forward to manager and implemented by the quality circle group.
Objectives of Quality Circles:
Following are the objectives of Quality Circles:
(a) To improve the quality of products.
(b) To improve productivity of the firm.
(c) To develop sense of confidence in the workers that they can solve their own problems.
(d) To improve employees’ morale.
(e) To improve employees’ job satisfaction.
(f) To develop the personality of employees by making them aware of their importance in the work related areas and work atmosphere.
(g) To improve interpersonal relationship between management and workers.
(h) To improve employees’ motivation and communication within the organisation.
Merits of Quality Circles:
Quality circles have the following merits:
(a) They focus on product quality in a planned way.
(b) They train employees to identify their problems, find solutions and implement them without seeking the advise of technical experts.
(c) They satisfy members’ higher-order needs of recognition and self-actualisation.
(d) They improve members’ participation in work-related problems and enhance their job satisfaction.
(e) They promote productivity, efficiency, cost reduction, design, testing, safety etc. of the products.
(f) Since teaching is done in an informal way, employees are not burdened with analysing and solving their problems. Rather, they feel motivated to offer suggestions to management.
Factors to Make Quality Circles Effective:
Quality circles are effective in achieving the goals if they are framed with the following factors in mind:
(a) They start with the analysis of small problems and gradually move to bigger problems.
(b) Members of the QCs are voluntary and not mandatory to get their maximum support.
(c) Members of the QC are taught the basic techniques of problem-solving in an informal way.
(d) Before members’ proposal to solve the problem is put to implementation, it is checked by the supervisors.
(e) Management supports QC activities rather than leave them totally to the employees.
(f) Members are recognised for their contribution to organisational problems.
Though quality circles aim at improving organisational climate through constructive workforce, it may not always be able to do so because of the following limitations:
1. Different attitude of managers and workers to perceive the same problem.
a. Higher level managers may find it as dilution to their authority for decision-making.
b. Workers perceive quality circles as contributors to organisational growth and profits and not providing personal benefits to them in the form of sharing higher profits.
Workers and managers should view QCs as a positive contributor to organisation growth whose benefits would be shared by both managers and workers and not by management only.
2. Workers may not have requisite knowledge, skills and qualities to analyse and solve the organisational problems. They may prefer the directions to come from higher levels than to be self-directed.
The very purpose of QC’s is to enhance the decision-making abilities of workers and therefore, workers should be trained to make decisions on their own rather than depending on their superiors.
3. Though workers give suggestions in QC, they may not be acceptable and implemented by the management. This can affect the efficiency of QCs.
In case the suggestions are not worthy of implementation, managers should convince the members in this regard. Workers should take the arguments positively rather than feeling offended for the same.