'Quality' is a critical factor necessary for the ongoing survival of an organisation. However, Management cannot grapple with this problem alone. It needs the assistance and support of all its people.
At a time when extreme pressure is being placed on organisations to perform 'and effectively manage their resources, a most costly and valuable resource is being under-utilised:-
"The employee's personal capacity".
Quality Circles is a people building philosophy which originated in Japan. It provides a unique opportunity for industry to tap the intelligence and creativity of its workforce, to stem complacency towards poor quality and service and its inherent high cost.
The key features of Quality Circles are:
1. Membership is voluntary.
2. Circles meet frequently and at regularly scheduled periods.
3. Members receive training in problem-solving techniques.
4. Circles learn to identify and prioritize problems; investigate and analyse causes.
5. Circles develop and implement solutions.
6. Solutions are submitted to management for approval where it is outside the circle's realm of responsibility.
Quality Circles are for the workforce and run by the workforce. Management's role is one of support and commitment to the concept.
The dominant benefits one can achieve from Quality Circles include:-
• Increased involvement of employees, and improvement of attitudes and behaviour of people at all levels of the organisation.
• Improvements in Quality and Productivity.
• Reduction in barriers between management and workforce.
• Improved Communication.
Late in 1986, the Southern Region of SEQEB set about the implementation of Quality Control Circles (QCC). To date the intervention has proved very Successful .
The objective of' this research paper is to present an overview of the concepts, objectives and operation of Quality. Circles using the available literature, and relate this to the practical experiences encountered by SEQEB during implementation of its Qec programme.
In general, the findings within SEQEB are consistent with the views presented in the literature. In particular, the experiences in SEQEB demonstrate the importance of observing some of the basic philosophies of the Quality Circle approach, namely:-
• The importance of Voluntarism
• The need for Management Commitment and Support Ensuring the right organisational environment exists
• The power of recognition as a motivator and reward
• The need for open and honest disclosure.
In addition, some of the strategies adopted by SEQEB the conventional approaches presented in management offer the literature, variations to namely:-
• Use of middle managers as facilitators
• Integration of Quality Circles as part of a Total Quality Control programme.
• Ensuring some early successes to generate enthusiasm
• Emphasis on 'Make Work More Enjoyable'.
This paper endeavours to give some insight into those issues which must be considered and addressed by management. It is hoped that it will be a useful guide to other departments/divisions in SEQEB and external organisations who are contemplating the implementation of Quality Circles.