Quality Circle: A stitch in Time

Mr. L.K. Jena
Faculty Member (Human Resource)
ICFAI National College
Near Kambala Tank Road, Rajahmundry-533 105

Two atom bombs dropped on Japan during 1945, converted the thriving, industrial empire of Japan to dust and smoke, with millions killed or maimed. Every one thought it would be centuries before Japan re-captures its pristine glory, but Japan rose like a phoenix from ashes to become the leading nation of the world within a short span of time. The power behind this miracle was fierce will, determination and commitment of Japanese people and their quest for quality. They adopted Quality Circles as ways of building attitudes to surmount problems, improve quality and to be competitive.

Quality Circle:- A Human Interface

Quality Circles or Quality Control Circles, as they are called in Japan, is a participative philosophy woven around quality control and problem solving techniques at the bottom level. It epitomizes the policy of people building, respect for human beings and conceives a participative management culture. This concept enables the grass-root level employees to play a meaningful and significant role in their organization. The responsibility for the attainment of Quality depends on all the departments of an Organization. The main purpose behind Quality Circles is to build the people and produce quality people towards making quality products or providing quality services. It is to make a 'Man' productive and knowledge worthy.

  • Florida Power & Light (FPL) reduced customer complaints by 60% and improved reliability of electric services to customers by 40% in 1983. In 1987, the firm was rated by 156 utility CEO's as the best managed utility in the nation.
  • In its remittance banking or lock-box business, First Chicago's accuracy rate is nearly three times the industry average.
  • Xerox has started to regain its market share in copiers from the Japanese.
  • Ford now has one of the most popular cars purchased by Americans, the Taurus

The Origin

The concept of Quality Circle is primarily based upon recognition of the value of the worker as a human being, as someone who willingly activises on his job, his wisdom, intelligence, experience, attitude and feelings. It is based upon the human resource management considered as one of the key factors in the improvement of product quality & productivity. Quality Circle concept has three major attributes:

      a. Quality Circle is a form of participation management.
      b. Quality Circle is a human resource development technique.
      c. Quality Circle is a problem solving technique.

Quality circle.. Its Composition?

- It's a small group comprising of 6 to 12 employees doing similar work
- They meet together voluntarily on a regular basis for identifying improvements in their respective work areas.
- Their aim to achieve and so also to sustain excellence towards mutual upliftment of employees as well as the organization.

Undercurrent of Quality Circle:-

The objectives of Quality Circles are multi-faced.
a) Change in Attitude.
From "I don't care" to "I do care"
-Continuous improvement in quality of work life through humanization of work.
b) Self Development
Bring out 'Hidden Potential' of people
-People get to learn additional skills.
c) Development of Team Spirit
Individual Vs Team – "I could not do but we did it"
-Eliminate inter departmental conflicts.
d) Improved Organizational Culture
- Positive working environment.
-Total involvement of people at all levels.
-Higher motivational level.


The operation of quality circles involves a set of sequential steps as under:-

How to Stitch the Problems through QC:-

1. The use of various techniques must be supported with accurate information and data.   

Data  and information collection or insufficient  data could  lead  to  a  situation where decisions or  corrective  action  be implemented  effectively. 

Data and information should be collected for the following purposes:-

(a)  To understand the actual situation and to support or reinforce an option; and
b)  To  established the relationship between the problem  and  its causes..

Data Compilation Method:-

* Data can be collected using five methods, namely:
(a)  Interviews
(b)  Questionnaires
(c)  Observation
(d)  From reports and
(e)  From complaints by the public..

* The data collected should be recorded information on the date of Collection, method of collection and the individual who collated the data.  The data must be recorded in a manner which facilitates its use that is,  it  must be arranged in specific categories. For example, it should be categorized according to the four management resources namely, man, method, material and machine..

Sampling:- A way to simplify  

26.   In data collection, samples are used. This involves the collection of data  from a small population of the total population involved.  The sampling techniques generally used are:-

(a)  Random Sampling,

This process involves the random selection of the sample units. The selection can be made by the use of a random number through table or lists of names to prevent any bias..

(b)  Systematic Sampling

This process involves the systematic selection of the sample to be used. For example, choosing every tenth name from a list of names..

(c)  Stratified Sampling

This process involves the selection of the sample according to specific categories such as age, sex and income group, etc..

* QC members may use various techniques in  the  problem-solving process. The effective  techniques generally are:-

     (a)  Brainstorming;
     (b)  Cause and Effect Analysis;
     (c)  Check sheets;
     (d)  Pareto Analysis;

(a)  Brainstorming

Brainstorming can be defined as the methodology used to encourage every individual in the Circle to express freely their opinions or give ideas in an open discussion..

Brainstorming can be used to list down all the problem faced by an organization, their causes and the potential effects if a certain suggestion is implemented..

To ensure the success of the brainstorming process, it is important for the Circle to flow the following rules:

(i)   The subject for brainstorming should be clear and accurate. For example, members may brainstorm to identify the causes and reasons why a certain task cannot be completed on schedule..
(ii)  Each member will give only opinion/idea at each turn regardless of the number of ideas he/she may have..
(iii) A tension-free atmosphere must be maintained to encourage free expression of ideas..
(iv)  Every idea expressed should be written on the black/white board, flip chart or noted down by a secretary..
(v)   At the end of the brainstorming session, all the ideas expressed should be evaluated one by one and short listed..
(vi)  Voting is used to list the ideas according to priority.  The prioritization is based on number of votes received for each idea..

(b)  Cause and Effect Analysis

The Cause and Effect Analysis is also known as the Fish-Bone Analysis.  This technique is used to analyze problems with the identification of causes of a problem through brainstorming.   This technique is easy to use   as   it summarizes, arranges and explains all the causes of a problem which has been identified in the form of a diagram.  It also allows for the identification of many possible causes of a problem.  There are five steps in the construction of a Cause and Effect Diagram..

Step 1: Identify a Problem

The first step is to identify the problem and to state the problem accurately.  For example the problem identified is `Reports Cannot be Printed Within The Time Period Specified'.  Start the Cause and Effect Diagram with an arrow pointing from left to right towards the problem:-

              CAUSE--------> Reports Cannot be Printed Within The
                             Time Period Specified

Step 2: Determine the Main Causes

A problem is caused by various factors.   These  factors  can  be categories  according  to  the resources of  production  such  as  man, machine, material and method like:-


     Material       Man
            \           \
             \           \
       -------------------------> Reports cannot be printed
             /           /         On Time
            /           /
      Machine       Method

Step 3: Determine the Sub-Causes under the Main Causes

Through a process of brainstorming, the sub-causes of the problem are identified and entered below the appropriate main causes.  Where possible, the sub-causes are further broken down into more detailed sub-sub-causes


     Material       Man
           \           \---------------Attitude
            \           \                       |
             \           \             going on emergency leave too often
       --------------------------------> Reports cannot be Printed on time
             /           /                           
            /           /
           /           /
      Machine       Method

For instance, the sub-cause to the main "Man" is "attitude" and "Going on emergency leave too often" is the sub-sub-cause.  this is because  a negative  attitude results in an officer going on emergency  leave  too often.   When all  the  sub-causes and the  sub-sub  causes  have  been identified, the Cause and Effect Diagram will appear as:-

     Material                 Man
            \                           \
             \----Shortage         \---- Lack of manpower
              \   of printing       \---- No detailed checking
               \ supplies           \---------------Attitude

c) Check Sheets:-

Check Sheets are an effective means of gathering data in a helpful and meaningful way. 

Kaoru Ishikawa is often credited with "democratizing statistics."  This relates to his desire to spread quality control ideas throughout the workplace.  His tools make it easier to comprehend raw data, making quality improvements simpler.  Check Sheets are a perfect example of this.  Although they can vary a good deal depending on the type of data being collected, the purpose of the check sheet is always the same.

"The Check Sheet is used to facilitate the collection and analysis of data.  'Garbage in, Garbage out' is an old cliché, but it is true.  Therefore, the purpose for which data is being collected must be clear.  Data reflects facts, but only if they are properly collected.  The number of defects and where they are found can be recorded and analyzed for causes" (Soin 297).

d) Pareto Analysis:-

Pareto analysis provides the mechanism to control and direct effort by fact, not by emotion. It helps to clearly establish top priorities and to identify both profitable and unprofitable targets. Pareto analysis is useful to:

  • Prioritize problems, goals, and objectives
  • Identify root causes
  • Select and define key quality improvement programs
  • Select key customer relations and service programs
  • Select key employee relations improvement programs
  • Select and define key performance improvement programs
  • Address the Vital Few and the Trivial Many causes of nonconformance
  • Maximize research and product development time
  • Verify operating procedures and manufacturing processes
  • Product or services sales and distribution
  • Allocate physical, financial and human resources

* A Pareto chart is used for: Focusing on critical issues by ranking them in terms of importance and frequency (example: Which course causes the most difficulty for students? Which problem with Product X is most significant to the customers?) Prioritizing problems or causes to efficiently initiate problem solving (example: Which discipline problems should be tackled first? or, what is the most frequent complaint by parents regarding the school? Solution of what production problem will improve quality most?) Analyzing problems or causes by different groupings of data (e.g., by program, by teacher, by school building; by machine, by team) Analyzing the before and after impact of changes made in a process (example: What is the most common complaint of parents before and after the new principal was hired?; has the initiation of a quality improvement program reduced the number of defectives?)

Quality management is not a one time effort but a continual long term endeavor which has to be recognized, reinforced and rewarded by continuous monitoring the ongoing data collection, evaluation, feedback and improvement programmes. The top management should have to create an atmosphere where the management and the workers cooperate with each other  for smooth functioning of the organization.


* http://www.mahapwd.com/
* City Montessori's and degree college, Lucknow on "International Conventions on Students Quality control circles"
* www.hrzone.com the success of quality circle on American Companies
* Schein, Lawrence. "The Road to Total Quality: Views of Industry Experts". Conference Board Research Bulletin, No. 239, 1990.
* http://www.mampu.gov.my/mampu/
* Soin, Sarv Singh.  TQC essentials.  McGraw-Hill, Inc: New York, 1992.
* http://www.qualitymanagementsurvival.com/

Mr. L.K. Jena
Faculty Member (Human Resource)
ICFAI National College
Near Kambala Tank Road, Rajahmundry-533 105

Source: E-mail June 15, 2005


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