Quality circles theory

Quality circles theory

The basic idea of ​​the Quality Circles consists of creating awareness of quality and productivity in every one of the members of an organization, through teamwork and the exchange of experiences and knowledge, as well as reciprocal support. All this, for the study and resolution of problems that affect the proper performance and quality of a work area, proposes ideas and alternatives with a focus on continuous improvement.


How to Make Them Work? and refer to the different ways in which the concept is defined in the text:

  • A Quality Circle is a small group of people who meet voluntarily and periodically to detect, analyze and find solutions to problems that arise in their work area.
  • A Quality Circle is made up of small groups of employees who meet and intervene at fixed intervals with their leader, to identify and solve problems related to their daily work.
  • A Quality Circle is made up of a small number of employees from the same work area and their supervisor, who meet voluntarily and regularly to study quality control and productivity improvement techniques, to apply them to the identification and solution of difficulties related to problems related to their work.
  • The Quality Circle is a small group that voluntarily develops quality control activities within the same workshop. This small group continuously carries out, as part of company-wide quality control activities, self-development and development, mutual control and improvement within the shop, using quality control techniques with the participation of all members.
  • A small group of employees performing similar tasks who voluntarily meet regularly, during working hours, to identify the causes of job problems and propose management solutions.

Even though there are many definitions attributed to the concept of Quality Circles, it is convenient to make it clear that for the purposes that concern us, we will define Quality Circles as:

“Natural work group, made up of employees of the same institution or company who perform similar tasks and who voluntarily meet regularly, during working hours, to identify the causes of the problems in their work and propose solutions to management.” 


The popularity of the Quality Circles is because they encourage the workers themselves to share with the administration the responsibility of defining and resolving coordination, productivity, and, of course, quality problems.

Additionally, they promote the integration and involvement of personnel to improve, be it products, services, or processes.

In other words, the Quality Circles become aware of everything wrong that occurs within a company, they sound the alarm and create the need to seek joint solutions.

The employees of each Circle form a natural work group, where the activities of its members are somehow related as part of a process or work. The task of each of them, headed by a supervisor, is to study any production or service problem that is within the scope of their competence. In most cases, a Circle includes a study project that can be solved in approximately three months and will not take more than one semester (six months).

The mission of a Circle can be summarized as:

  • Contribute to improving and developing the company.
  • Respect the human side of individuals and build a pleasant work environment and personal fulfillment.
  • Promote the application of the talent of the workers for the continuous improvement of the areas of the organization.

The term Quality Circle has two meanings. It refers as much to a structure and a process as to a group of people and the activities they carry out. Consequently, it is possible to speak of a Quality Circle process as well as its structure.

Structure: The structure of a Quality Circle is fundamentally the way the group is integrated and is defined according to the position of the members within a business organization. In practice, the Quality Circles require a prolonged period of work under the tutelage of an Advisor.

Process: the process of a Quality Circle is divided into the following steps.

  1. Identification of the problem.
  2. Problem analysis and information gathering.
  3. Search for solutions.
  4. Selection of a solution.
  5. Presentation of the management solution.
  6. Execution of the solution.
  7. Evaluation of the solution.



  • Quality Circles are small groups. They can participate from four to fifteen members. Eight is the ideal number. They meet at fixed intervals (usually once a week) with a manager, to identify and solve problems related to their daily work.
  • All its members must work in the same workshop or work area. This gives identity to the Circle and a sense of belonging to its members.
  • The members must work under the same boss or supervisor, who in turn is also a member of the Circle.
  • Normally, the boss or supervisor is also the boss of the Circle. This does not order or make decisions, it is the members together who decide.
  • Participation is voluntary both for the leader and the members. Hence, the existence of the Circles depends on the decision of each member.
  • The Circles meet once a week during the hours agreed upon with the immediate hierarchical superiors.
  • Ideally, meetings should be held in special places away from the work area.
  • Circle members must receive special training to participate properly, both before the creation of the Circle and ongoing during its operation.
  • The members of the group and not the management are the ones who choose the problem and the projects on which they will have to work.
See also  The 5s and production in the visual factory

Ideally, the selection process is not carried out by democratic voting (by majority of votes), but by consensus; In this way, all participants agree on the problems that need to be solved.

  • The Circles must receive assistance or advice to analyze a problem and decide on it.
  • The General Management and the technical experts must commit to offering their help to the Quality Circles.
  • The Circles will have to receive the support of an Advisor (internal or external), who will attend all the meetings, but who is not a member of the Circle.
  • The presentations prepared for the Directorate will be previously presented to the managers and technical experts who normally have the authority to decide on the feasibility of the proposal.
  • The company must carry out periodic evaluations to verify if what is necessary for the operation of the Quality Circles is provided, as well as for the execution of the proposals derived from them.
  • The Quality Circles are not to be sustained for a while and then abandoned, rather they must be kept permanently in operation, always seeking their improvement.


For the introduction of Quality Circles in a company or institution, it is fundamentally required to carry out the following phases or stages:

  1. Convince and commit the General Management in the process.
  2. Establish the necessary organization for the administration of the Quality Circles, based on an administrative unit in charge of coordinating their introduction and operation.
  3. Engage employees.


  1. Develop a work plan for the introduction of Quality Circles, so that they are part of the operation of the company or institution.
  2. Regulate the form of operation of the Quality Circles.
  3. Develop Support Systems for Quality Circles.
  4. Apply training programs to all staff and levels of the company, so that there is a homogeneous knowledge and work methodology.
  5. Have the didactic and logistical support for the tasks of the Quality Circles.

When selling the idea of ​​Quality Circles, it is necessary to proceed from the top down. Executives must be involved first, then middle managers, and finally employees.



Subsequently, during the establishment of the Quality Circles, it is advisable to start at the middle level, training managers or department heads, as the case may be, so that they understand the objectives of the program, the function they must perform, and the benefits they will enjoy.

Then the heads or supervisors must be trained as heads of the Quality Circles. Finally, employees must be taught group problem-solving techniques and joint decision-making methods.


Two stages are distinguished in the operation of the Quality Circles:

First Stage.- It is located at the level of the employees, who identify a problem, analyze it and present a solution to management through a viable, structured, and documented approach.

Second Stage.- It is carried out at the managerial level since they are the ones who listen to the proposals emanating from the Quality Circles, evaluate them, and decide -generally after two or three meetings- if it can be put into practice or not. If the decision is favorable, they draw up a plan to execute the proposal and put it into operation as soon as possible.

See also  How to Overcome the Most Common Leadership Challenges and Make Your Company Successful


  1. Foster an environment of collaboration and reciprocal support in favor of improving operational and management processes.
  2. Strengthen leadership at management and supervisory levels.
  3. Improve human relations and the work environment.
  4. Motivate and create awareness and pride for a job well done.
  5. Make all staff aware of the need to develop actions to improve quality.
  6. Promote better communication between workers and managers or managers.
  7. Make known the progress and obstacles to overcome to achieve constant improvement.


On the other hand, there are people in charge of developing the Quality Circles:

The Facilitator.- He or she is responsible for directing the activities of the Circles and attending their meetings. He serves as a link or channel between the Circles and the rest of the institution and reports to a high authority who supports the idea of ​​quality control circles.

Other responsibilities include the training of leaders and the formation of other circles within the organization. Get external technical assistance when required.

The Leader of the Quality Circle.- It is the natural head of the workgroup and at the same time the symbol of the support of the management, direction, or leadership. His absence from the Quality Circles, in one way or another, is always detrimental to the process. Over time, the members of the Quality Circle will choose the leader they most prefer according to their agreements; meanwhile and until this happens, the supervisor will be the one generally chosen.

Leader activities include:

  • Create an atmosphere at meetings that encourage participation.
  • Use interaction techniques that give everyone a chance to speak so that all points of view are heard.
  • Work with the team to help them make decisions without conflicts. Ensure that someone is in charge of carrying out the decisions and agreements made by the Quality Circle.
  • Follow up on the proposals and resolutions taken.

Instructor.- Organizes and conducts training courses for operating personnel, supervisors, and heads of the circles, as well as for employee members of the circles and advisers. Initially, the courses are aimed at explaining the functions each one must perform within the process, then the training is oriented to the management of tools and techniques for the identification and resolution of problems.

Adviser.- Advises the Circles, and in particular the leaders, on how meetings should be managed problems solved, and cases presented to management. The advisor attends all meetings of the Circles assigned to them, meets privately with their leaders before and after each meeting to help them organize and assess their progress, and provides support regarding study material.

The expert.- Is one who, due to his scientific or technical knowledge, is empowered to determine the feasibility of the solution or measure proposed by the Quality Circle.


Within the development of the circles, training plays a very important role. The first training actions should be addressed to the facilitator and managers. The facilitator in turn trains the leaders, who in turn will train the Circle members.

Topics in which members are instructed include principles of problem-solving techniques, brainstorming, problem analysis, decision-making, Ishikawa diagrams, Pareto diagrams, histograms, process control charts, review sheets, sampling techniques, presentation of results, and case studies, among others.

The training program for the Quality Circles is aimed at qualifying the personnel that will be part of them, emphasizing the main functions of each member:

  • That of a member of a Circle.
  • That of the Leader of a Circle. Of the Expert, and
  • That of the Advisor.


  • Make the participants aware of the Quality Circles process and make them aware of the advantages that it entails both for them and for the company.
  • Dispel any fear or doubt that may be had about the Quality Circles.
  • Convince the participants to collaborate voluntarily.
  • Prepare them to play their role as members of a Quality Circle.
  • Enable them to use techniques to solve group problems.
  • Encourage them to assume their commitment as responsible for the organization and support of the Circle.
See also  Fourth Generation Management


  • Improvisation of group ideas.
  • Flowcharts.
  • Pareto analysis.
  • Cause-effect diagrams.
  • Graphics.
  • Control charts.
  • Verification sheets.
  • Matrix for decisions.
  • Cost-benefit analysis.


For the proper operation of group work, it is convenient to emphasize the correct use of the following elements:


A clear agenda for meetings provides members with a framework in which to operate. The Agenda must be delivered in advance to each member. It should include the time (start and end), place, and purpose of the meeting. It can also be accompanied by supporting material.

clear procedures 

When a common agreement is reached on meeting rules or methodology, everyone becomes more comfortable with the way meetings are conducted. Participation in the elaboration induces commitment.

Clearly stated goals 

For the participants to direct and concentrate their efforts, everyone must know and participate in the definition of the objectives of the working group, and update or validate them periodically.

Reflection time 

Reflection time can take the form of a short break to allow everyone to take a breather; also. Sometimes, when a conflict arises or the situation becomes difficult, it is very productive to allow quiet time for members to calm down and clarify their ideas.

Assignment of actions and responsibilities 

The leader should review the assignments of actions and responsibilities before the end of the meeting and these should be recorded in the minutes.


The minutes are used to communicate the decisions and based on these, carry out the follow-up of the corresponding actions. During the meeting, someone should be responsible for recording what happens. After the meeting, the minutes should be distributed to team members and anyone else who needs to know what happened.

Ideal Environment for the Meetings of the Quality Circles

The most appropriate environment for a meeting is one that encourages each member to be willing to participate and contribute. Listen to others and fully engage in the team’s work.

A special environment must be given depending on whether:

Willingness to listen.

This is perhaps the most important skill for teamwork. Listening is something we do every day; Not listening is also something we do every day.

In meetings, a good listener will strive to understand the intent and content of what others are saying, without being distracted by their style of speaking. It must look beyond the form and go to the bottom of what is exposed, avoiding being prejudiced by personal styles.

Consolidation of Quality Circles.

It can be said that the Quality Circles are firmly established when:

  1. They cover the entire organization at all levels.
  2. They are permanent.
  3. They are promoted, trained, and supported by the middle levels of management.

Circle Contributions (How to measure their effectiveness)

  • The number of presentations made to management.
  • Types of proposals submitted.
  • Percentage of proposals submitted (annual number of proposals submitted by each Circle).
  • Percentage of proposals approved (number of proposals accepted by management).

Business Results (What you get with your implementation)

  • Change in the percentage of production.
  • Change in percentage of defects.
  • Change in the percentage of rejected products, or poor services.
  • Change in the percentage of friction.
  • Change in percentage of time lost.
  • Change in the percentage of reasons for complaint.
  • Change in the accident rate.
  • Cost savings calculated.
  • The ratio between cost savings and expenses generated by the program.
  • Best personal results.

Finally, the achievements of the Quality Circles must be published in the bulletins of the company or institution or posted on the boards, in such a way that the participants receive recognition for their efforts, both from the direction or management where they work and from their colleagues. work, and at the same time know the progress and impact of the proposals developed.



Thompson, Phillip C.. Circles of Quality. How to make them work. Norma Publishing Group. First edition. Colombia 1994.


BUZZBONGO  we are here to serve society through a virtual environment that enables people who wish to develop their personal and professional skills in fields related to finance ,administration, business and the economy to share and acquire knowledge.
%d bloggers like this: