Whereas ZD promotes motivation individually and invites suggestions individually, Quality Circle is a collective effort where 3 to 15 volunteers from the workers form a group and meet regularly – weekly or bi-weekly for about an hour in order to identify, analyze and search for solutions to work related problems and the ways of implementing the solutions. The meetings, which are generally supervised (usually the Foreman) address themselves to technical problems and follow a strict problem solving approach (workers and management are trained in it) so that the meetings do not fritter the time away and become forums to handle grievances.
The problems addressed are not limited to quality alone but deal with all “technical” problems that affect productivity.
Every department can have its Quality Circle and this should depend largely on the initiative of the workers themselves, with the support and encouragement from the management.
Quality Circles should encourage participating by all members and should foster creativity. The idea is to develop the talents of the people to develop leadership besides getting a bunch of good ideas to solve problems by tapping the collective intellect and creative genius of the working staff.
Quality Circle is a philosophy of workers’ direct involvement in solving problems that affect their work, their work output and their work place. It is also a philosophy of human resources development of nurturing and bringing out the human potential.
The results of Quality Circles could therefore, only be measured in the long term although many organizations here and abroad have claimed significant benefits within a short period of time.
The successes of Quality Circles in Japan are striking and it is sometimes referred to as a Japanese management technique. The Circles can be effective here or elsewhere also, if the management commitment to the basic philosophies underlying the concept of Quality Circles is there. This philosophy and commitment takes time to permeate all levels of the organization. Of course this depends upon the already existing organizational climate and culture and upon he social culture within which any organizations has to function. In India, BHEL started its first Quality Circle at its Hyderabad unit in 1980-81
The idea caught on in the entire corporation and in two years there were more than 200 circles with about 1800 members. Other companies also immediately followed suit.
The results of the experiment of Quality Circles in Indian industries are encouraging. The reasons for this, it has been said, can be seen in the firm commitment and continual supportive guidance by the top and senior managers to the Quality Circles Program. A word of caution: Indian industries have still a long way to go before catching up with world class quality. As our organizations are improving the quality of our products, the foreign competitors are also continuing to improve their product quality.
Indian Experience: It should be noted that, Quality Circles cannot immediately be imposed on any unit and expect to yield results. Mutual trust, mutual concern for development, and cooperation, if not already existent in sufficient measure take time to build. Circles can help accelerate this building process but the introduction of this potent concept in any organization has to be gradual. Or else, with few initial failures, the zeal may not be sustained in the long term.
Factors Influencing the Success of Quality Circles: Quality Circles is a case where the leadership in bringing about changes is taken by workers themselves leaving the management with the new role of an advisor, a catalyst, a facilitator. The labor unions also have to change their traditional concept of leadership style. This change in attitude and in the style of leadership takes time. The management has to get over its phobia of losing the management prerogative of decision making, and likewise unions have to rid themselves of the fear that management are trying to undercut their power through this new gimmic. These fears may by far fetched because Quality Circles address themselves only to technical problems. But it is also true that Quality Circles are not just a modified version of the old ‘suggestion box’ far from it.–