Quality Circles

A quality circle is a volunteer group composed of workers, usually under the leadership of their supervisor, who are trained to identify, analyze and solve work-related problems and present their solutions to management in order to improve the performance of the organization, and motivate and enrich the work of employees. When matured, true quality circles become self-managing, having gained the confidence of management.

The term quality circles derives from the concept of PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) circles developed by Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

The quality circle was first introduced in Japan (primarily through Kaoru Ishikawa) as a means of involving employees at every level of the decision making process. Western firms that have implemented them include Westinghouse and Hewlett-Packard.

A quality circle is a small group of between three and 12 people who do the same or similar work, voluntarily meeting together regularly for about one hour per week in paid time, usually under the leadership of their own supervisor, and trained to identify, analyse and solve some of the problems in their work, presenting solutions to management and, where possible, implementing solutions themselves.

Quality circles are meant to identify problems, propose solutions, and improve employees’  investment in their work. Their transfer to non-Japanese corporate cultures was heavily criticized, as Western firms have much less history of employee participation, and they were often found to be ineffective. They went quickly in and out of style in the 1980s.


Wikipedia, “Quality Circle

Economist.com “Idea: Quality Circle

One Response to “Quality Circles”
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  1. […] for shared decision making can include employee involvement committees (EI), works councils, quality circles, and team production. Workers can also become involved at the corporate level by serving on boards […]

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