Quality Circles/Gemba Kaizen Appreciation Training CourseTarget audience:
Anyone concerned with people development, Quality Circles, Quality Control Circles e-Quality Circles, Gemba Kaizen, Kaizen and continuous improvement. Those who are facilitators of quality circles or whose career path may include this activity. Quality Circles are an essential element of a Hoshin Kanri beased management system and this would also be a beneficial course to complement other participative programmes such as Six Sigma Green Belts and Black Belts and those concerned with such Lean Concepts as Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)and 5S/5C. Reference also David Hutchins new book Hoshin Kanri - The strategic approach to continuous improvement.
What are Quality Circles?
Quality Circles definition
"A Quality Circle (Kaizen team) is a small group of between three and twelve 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." [Hutchins, D. Quality Circles Handbook. Pitman, 1985]
Duration: One day
Cost: on application
Location: 'In house'
Quality Circles Appreciation Course Objectives:
At an International Quality Circles convention in Japan in 2004 both Toyota and Honda announced that they have both set targets for 100% global participation of their workforce in Quality Circle activities with huge incentives (non financial) to do so.
Also in the Far East, Quality Circles are very popular in Schools which link through the ICSQCC movement initiated by the City Montessori School in Lucknow India. Schools Quality Circles have now spread to schools in countries throughout the middle and Far East. There are Quality Circles of both children and staff and the Quality Circles movement has spread beyond school to internatiuonal groups of ex students throughout the world in old boy networks.
The Quality Circles movement itself is co-ordinated through the annual ICQCC (International Convention for Schools Quality Control Circles) conventions which are held annually throughout the Far East.
The reason why the West has such a jaundiced view of Quality Circles is because it has never understood them in the first place and this as true today as it was 20 years ago.
This course is to show why organisations which do not have Quality Circles or something very similar, will always underachieve by a minimum of 20% against rivals which do. How to build Quality Circles programmes into an organisation and causing the minimum disruption to existing initiatives. Answers to the concerns of Quality Circles cynics, how to get a Quality Circles programme started and how to develop and sustain continuous performance improvement.
Quality Circles Appreciation Course description:
The course is designed to make participants aware of the critically important features of the underlying philosophy, objectives, potential benefits, support structure and training required for Quality Circles facilitators, Quality Circles leaders and Quality Circles members in order to successfully implement and sustain a company wide Quality Circles (Gemba Kaizen) programme.
The term Kaizen (which literally means 'improvement'. Gemba Kaizen means 'Workshop Improvement') confuses people into believing that this must be in some way intrinsically different from Quality Circles but it is not. Quality Circles and Kaizen are identical in every way. The term Kaizen was brought to the West by a very perceptive Japanese Professor in the mid 1980s who recognised a market opportunity resulting from the insatiable appetite for all things Japanese at that time. He was also lucky or planned his marketing to coincide with the then reduced popularity of the term Quality Circles in the West. Those organisations that had made unsuccessful attempts to introduce Quality Circles but wanted to make a fresh start eagerly accepted the new term in order to avoid the bad name they had created for Quality Circles.
Benefits of Quality Circles (Gemba Kaizen)
Approximately 80% of work related problems in terms of cost are management solvable which means that 20% are not. Unless the workforce becomes fully involved in the business improvement process which is achieved through Quality Circles and Kaizen activities it follows that the organisation will always be some 20% at least below optimum performance which could be life threatening.
Quality Circle activities enable companies to obtain the ultimate benefit from:
The Quality Circles Appreciation course programme includes:
- Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) - involvement of the workforce in process improvement.
- Lean manufacture includes all of the following participative concepts -
- SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) and set up time reduction
- 5S/5C or CANDO.
- Autonomation (JIDOKA) - using single part production methods and the Kanban approach.
- Root Cause Analysis.
- Poke Yoke (mistake proofing).
- Quality related Cost reduction.
- Flexible Work groups.
- Improved overall performance
- Review the effectiveness of existing participative programmes.
- Advise on how to maximise performance.
- Examples of Quality Circle successes around the world.
- How to conduct introductory presentations to all levels of management and the workforce. If necessary hold discussions with management groups and the Unions where relevant.
- Quality Circle Steering Committee training.
- Quality Circle Facilitator Training.
- Quality Circle Team Leader training (it is advisable that the trained facilitator and the team leader train the teams as part of their development rather than the external consultant)
- On going Quality Circle programme support.
Please click below for registration form which may be faxed, emailed or mailed to DHI
Quality in Education
Quality Circles Appreciation Training Course
Quality Circles Facilitator Training Course
Quality Circles at Wedgwood
Article: Quality Circles Society
Article: Ringing the Bell with Quality Circles
Book: The Quality Circles Handbook
Also please read chapter 17 of David Hutchins new book 'Hoshin kanri -The strategic approach to continuous improvement' entitles Quality Circles (Small group improvement activities such as Quality Circles, Kaizen, Autonomous Work Groups, Self managing Work Groups).
Excerpt from David Hutchins best selling book Hoshin Kanri - The Strategic Approach to Continuous Improvement
By organising the workforce into Quality Circle type teams, not only can the Quality Circles tackle and solve work related problems, there follows a transformation in job design. Managers begin to increase their trust of their staff, in turn the staff increases their respect for their managers and this continues progressively until a full state of self management is reached. At some stage in this process, the teams progress beyond solving problems and move towards the phase of making continual process improvements. In those countries where this has been allowed to happen, there has been no limit to this development process.
For example, in the chapter on Lean Manufacturing, the concept of JIDOKA is described. It is a complex idea that results in significant reductions in ‘work in progress’ and stoppage time. This concept was conceived by a Quality Circle at one of the Honda plants back in the 1970s and is today a fundamental part of Lean Manufacturing. Another Lean concept, 5S/5C also mentioned in that Chapter could not have evolved if it had not been for the prior existence of Quality Circles in Japan.
In Nissan, what Toyota refer to as Quality Circles Nissan label them ‘Gemba Kaizen’ activities. This has led to some confusion in the West where many believe they are different activities. In the West the term Kaizen is still popular in some organisations and thought to be different from Quality Circles
A Quality Circle is:
`A small group of between three and twelve people who do the same or similar work, voluntarily meeting together regularly for about an 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 the solutions themselves.'
1 `A small group of three to twelve people'
The Quality Circle should be seen as a team and not as a committee. The workgroup in which the members are employed must also see it as `their section's Quality Circle' and not as an elite group in their work area. Although some members of the workgroup may not wish to participate in the weekly meetings, Quality Circle members should actively encourage them to make suggestions and solicit their ideas on Quality Circle projects. Of course they should also make sure that they give them credit for their ideas and not claim them as their own.
If the work area contains more enthusiasts than can be included in one Quality Circle, additional Quality Circles may be formed progressively once the earlier Quality Circles have become established. Those as yet unfamiliar with Quality Circles specifically may fear that such a development can lead to conflict and rivalry between groups, but this is extremely rare. It is far more likely that they will co-operate with each other, even helping to collect data for each other's projects, and occasionally, if need arises, form cross Circle subgroups for the solution of specific problems. Such developments are a sign of maturity in Quality Circle activities and are to be encouraged wherever possible.
In cases where there are only one, two or three people in the work area, it may not be possible to form them into a Quality Circle, but usually, they will have considerable interaction with other more heavily populated sections. Not only will there be plenty of opportunity for them to become involved in the projects of Quality Circles in these areas, but it may frequently happen that the Quality Circle will repay the help that they give by working on some projects of their choice. Again this is a sign of maturity and cannot be expected in the early stages of development.
2`Voluntarily meeting together'
The meaning of the word `voluntarily' is hard to define, but basically, in the context of Quality Circles, it means that no one has to join a Circle. People are free to join and free to leave. If someone joins a Circle and subsequently chooses to leave it, there should be no pressure, inquests or recriminations. Obviously, if someone drops out of a Quality Circle it should be regarded as a danger signal that all might not be well in the group, and the Quality Circle leaver should be discreetly asked the reason for leaving. If there is a problem, and it can be overcome, then that individual may, if he chooses to do so, return to the group if the opportunity exists.
The fact that people join a Quality Circle because they want to, rather than because they have to, means that they are prepared to work and have accepted the basic rules which have been laid down.
The reality of this was very quickly learned by the Japanese when they first began Quality Circles in 1962. Those companies which recognised the value of voluntariness soon developed strikingly more effective programmes than those in which membership was compulsory.
Whilst the number of volunteers may be quite small in the early stages, when people may possibly be suspicious of management motives, the number should begin to increase dramatically as soon as the achievements of the earlier Quality Circles become known and confidence is gained.
If a pilot scheme of say five Quality Circles is successful, then in a matter of days, weeks or months, depending upon the circumstances, people should be saying `why can't we have a Quality Circle in our section?' or `why are all the Quality Circles on the day shift? Why can't we have a Quality Circle on nights?' and so forth.
When managers from other departments realise that the areas with Quality Circles are improving their performance, they will soon begin to request an equal opportunity.
The fact that membership is voluntary does not mean that the organisation has to wait until people knock on the door and request a Quality Circle to be formed.
In the early stages most of the initial members of Quality Circles have been invited to join but not compelled. They should be free to drop out at any time if they wish, even in the middle of training. In a sense, they are actually only volunteering to attend the next meeting, although dropping out is fortunately relatively rare.
3 `Meeting regularly for about an hour per week'
Whilst some variation in timing exists, it is generally agreed that when circumstances permit, the regular weekly meeting is preferred to once fortnightly or to irregular times on a weekly basis.
A regular meeting time is habit-forming, and the day of the meeting will soon be associated in the minds of the members as `Circle Day' and in such cases, members are much less likely to forget to attend or inadvertently commit themselves to other tasks which conflict with the meeting time. This sometimes happens in other cases.
Two diametrically opposite attitudes are frequently taken to the idea of Quality Circles meeting for an hour per week. Some people cannot imagine that much can be achieved in such a short time; others are more concerned that they might be losing 8 hours per week production from a group of 8 people. In the latter case, the facts show otherwise, for two important reasons.
1 Quality Circles will usually agree to hold their meetings at a time which causes least interference with work schedules. For example, in process work, they may hold their meetings during a maintenance period, job changeover, or after completion of the weekly work schedule. When this is impossible, they may agree to hold the meeting at the beginning or end of the shift, or during the lunch break. Of course, in these cases agreement as to payment will have to be reached.
2 One of the most striking benefits of Quality Circles is typically an increase in productivity which will more than compensate for the lost time. This is because Quality Circle members are usually extremely conscious of the factors that interrupt their work, and these problems are likely to become early targets for a Quality Circle.
In the case of those concerned about the short length of Quality Circle meetings, it must be recognised that Quality Circles do not work in the same way as committees. Normally Quality Circles do not keep minutes as such, or spend half the meeting time discussing minutes of the last meeting; they just get down to work straight away. The techniques used by the Quality Circles and described in the next section are extremely effective when used in this type of small group activity, and both members and others are usually amazed how much they achieve in only one hour per week.
4 `In paid time'
We say in `paid time' rather than normal working hours because there are some cases, such as those described above, when it becomes difficult or impossible to hold the meeting during scheduled work periods.
This may be particularly relevant in shift work operations, when Quality Circles may sometimes span shifts. If the Quality Circle comprises members from each of three or more shifts, it may be possible to hold the meeting during an overlap between two shifts, but the members from other shifts will either miss the meeting, or have to attend outside shift time. The pay arrangements for this will have to be worked out between all concerned, not, of course, overlooking the views or the arrangements of non-Circle members. Contrary to popular belief, Quality Circle members in Japan are also paid for their time when these situations arise.
5 `Under the Leadership of their own supervisor'
Some people ask why the supervisor should be the Quality Circle Leader. They may say `why cannot the Leader be selected or elected from the members of the group?' Whilst there may be circumstances where this arrangement may be desirable or necessary, they are very few and far between. Even when this is the best alternative, it is rarely ever better than using the appointed supervisor.
Some managers who are unfamiliar with the working of Quality Circles sometimes fear that they will lose control and that the Quality Circle is a way of by-passing them. Supervisors might certainly fear this if they did not have the opportunity of being Circle Leaders. Additionally, they would fear that their workpeople might use the Quality Circle as a means of highlighting the supervisor's shortcomings and therefore regard the Circle as a threat.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Management's motives in setting up Quality Circles are to make better use of the existing structure, not to create alternatives. Quality Circles are concerned with work-related problems and not with grievances, wages, salaries or conditions of employment. If these items are contentious then the group must take them up through the appropriate channels in the usual way. Quality Circles are not part of the bargaining, negotiating or grievance machinery, neither do they impinge upon the activities of those who are responsible for these aspects of a company's affairs.
Because the Quality Circle is purely concerned with work-related problems, and because the supervisor is the appointed Leader of the group, it follows that direct supervisors should at least have the first option to be the Circle Leader.
However, once the group has been formed, the members, and others in the work area will quickly realise that it doesn't matter who the Leader is because Quality Circle decision-making is a totally democratic process. When the Quality Circle members are in the meeting room together, everyone has one vote, and no one's opinion is any more or less important than anyone else's.
The smart Quality Circle Leader will soon learn that it is not easy to be both the Leader and to think up ideas at the same time, and so may, after a short time, offer to rotate the Leadership of each meeting around the group. Not only will this enable the official Quality Circle Leader to contribute his or her own ideas, but it is also a very effective part of the people-building process, and gives confidence to the members of the group. A Leader who develops in this way will usually gain considerable respect from the members as a result.
From the Leader's and the organisational point of view, this development may lead to further advantages. If the work area is large, and there are others wishing to form a Quality Circle, the Leader may allow the original Circle to become self-propelled while he forms a new Circle in the section. When this Quality Circle has developed, the supervisor may then keep an eye on both groups.
Should there be any reason why the supervisor cannot be, or does not want to be, the Quality Circle Leader, then assuming the desire is there amongst the members of the work group, an alternative must be found.
First of all, the supervisor must be given confidence that the Quality Circle, if formed, will not constitute a threat to his or her authority, and the group should be made very much aware of this. The group must be encouraged to discuss its work with the supervisor and where possible solicit his or her ideas. When it comes to the management presentation, the supervisor should always be invited to attend.
In situations where the supervisor neither wishes to participate in the Quality Circle, nor is prepared to allow a Quality Circle to be formed in the work area, it is up to management to make a decision whether one of its appointees should be allowed to continue in a position which obstructs both the wishes of management and workpeople alike, and the action taken in such circumstances is beyond the scope of this book. It is, however, encouraging to note that such situations are extremely rare.
6 `To identify, analyse and solve problems in their work'
The key point about this part of the definition is the fact that the Quality Circles identify their own problems in their own work area. That is not to say that other people may not make suggestions. Indeed, the essence of Quality Circles ultimately should be that the Quality Circles really become managers at their own level.
People can only manage if they are fed with information, and the more information which is fed to the Quality Circle from management, management specialists, people in other departments and so on, the more effective the group will be. `Self-control' is the foundation of Quality Circle activities.
When people arrive for their very first Quality Circle meeting, they may have been attracted by the possibility of using the Quality Circle as a means of highlighting the faults of others. For example, they may complain about the quality of the products they receive from the previous section; poor quality materials, tools and equipment; inadequate service from specialist departments, and so on. However, when they join the group they realise that this is not at all the purpose of the Quality Circle. They are told that `whilst we can complain about those other people, we cannot do anything about them'. In almost all cases, there are plenty of problems in their own work area, which can be under their control, and where they can apply their own knowledge and experience to get results.
It is this aspect of Quality Circle activities which gives the members the greatest satisfaction. Because they are not meeting to criticise the work of others, they find that they can make real progress with their projects. When asked what they like most about Quality Circles, one of the most frequent answers comes back: `we find we can get things done'. `These problems have been around for years, and now we are making progress.'
8 `Presenting solutions to management'
This is the focal point or highlight of all Quality Circle activities around the World: the presentation to management. Sometimes after weeks of collecting data, trying out new ideas, having discussions with all kinds of people, when the members of the Quality Circle have installed their proposal, or are convinced of the value of their improvement, it is necessary to present their ideas to their manager.
The group is usually proud of its achievement and the teamwork involved. It will probably have worked very hard, may have spent lunchtimes, evenings or even week-ends working on its ideas if its members have been enthusiastic enough, and frequently they are. Consequently, the presentations of their ideas to management are the culmination of all this activity.
It would be unfortunate if they were unable to convince their manager of the benefits of their ideas, simply because they were badly presented or because the members were forced to present their ideas in the form of a report which might not be read. Therefore, training newly formed Quality Circles in presentation techniques is extremely important. They may use two or even three meetings to plan and prepare their presentation.
It would also be unfortunate, if an unthinking manager, given the enthusiasm and hard work of a Quality Circle, was `too busy to listen'. It would probably mean the end of the Quality Circle. Therefore, management has an obligation to allow the group to make a formal presentation of its proposal, and to make constructive comments afterwards.
It is important that all members of the Quality Circle participate in the presentation as members of a team. Whilst there is no obligation on management to accept the ideas of a Quality Circle, they must be given serious consideration. If management decides to turn down a proposal, it really owes it to the Quality Circle to give a good explanation for its rejection. Fortunately, Quality Circle projects are usually so carefully thought through that outright rejection by management is quite rare.
6 `Implementing the solutions themselves'
Because Quality Circles are usually concerned with problems in their own work rather than with those over the fence in the next department, they can often implement the solutions themselves. This is particularly true of housekeeping problems, reduction in waste material, energy saving and so forth. They also frequently find better ways of doing their own jobs. For example, a Quality Circle in the credit control department of a division of a fairly large company formed a Quality Circle. For their first project the members decided to analyse one of their work routines that they found to be particularly tedious. The result was that they reduced the work content by 16 hours per month. In the process of this work they highlighted another problem which, when solved, saved a further 17 hours a month, making a total monthly saving of 33 hours. For their third project, they decided to brainstorm all the possible ways they could make use of the time saved. Someone suggested that they might follow up the invoices with a telephone call. The effect of this idea was to reduce the average credit period by nearly two weeks, thereby making available to that company a considerable sum of money.
This concept demonstrates how people can effectively become involved in the success of an organisation through the development of self-control in `small group' type activities. These activities can be organised in several different ways, and can include task force operations, value analysis teams, value engineering, project groups, action centred groups, 5S Housekeeping activities, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) etc. Each plays a different but important part in participative activities. True `self-control' can only be introduced through Quality Circle type activities.
The Quality Circle is a specific form of small group activity, and serves a distinctly different purpose from other kinds of group, team or committee activities. Footnote: This definition which has been widely copied throughout the Western World was originated by David Hutchins in the late 1970s and is based on the Japanese definition originally published by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers in 'Koryo to QC Circles'. We trust that whenever it is used, that credit be given to these sources.