A quality circle is a volunteer group composed of workers who meet together to discuss workplace improvement, and make presentations to management with their ideas. Typical topics are improving safety, improving product design, and improvement in manufacturing process. Quality circles have the advantage of continuity, the circle remains intact from project to project. Quality Circles were started in Japan in 1962 as another method of improving quality. Quality circles are regular short meetings set up to aid work-related problems.
• 5 – 10 people attend the meeting in work time • Supervisor is nominated and runs the meeting • Flip Charts, audiovisual equipment, notice boards etc. are utilized • Problem areas are put forward by the group • Problems are prioritized • Information is collated, ideas are generated via brainstorming, force-field analysis etc. • Effectiveness, costs, savings, consequences to other departments etc... considered • Final solution is put forward to manager and implemented by the Quality Circle group CASE STUDY: QUALITY CIRCLES AT WEDGWOOD
David Hutchins introduced the concept of Quality Circles to senior management, middle management and Unions at Wedgwood during December 1980. Training of the first 12 leaders started in January 1981, and the first of six Quality Circles started training at the end of that month, followed by six more a month later. David Hutchins then returned to train 12 more leaders in March 1981, and the process has continued at a steady pace since the outset. Training then spread to all the local firms within the Wedgwood Group. These are all situated within a 5-mile radius in North Staffordshire.
Within a year of starting 80 Quality Circles were operating. In order to organize this operation Wedgwood has so far six full-time facilitators, all of whom were previously from production or training departments within the group. The next aim is to involve at least half the workforce in Quality Circle activities, which will mean running some 400 Circles. Circles meet for 1 hour each week during working hours in specially prepared Quality Circle rooms. The main Wedgwood factory is soon to have a new complete Quality Circle Centre with a lecture room, six Quality Circle meeting rooms, office accommodation and a storeroom for records.
Quality Circles usually choose their own problems and spend anything from a month to six months analyzing and solving each particular project. When the solution is found, a presentation is made to senior management or board members. The whole process of problem solving follows strict procedures and stages. Firstly problems are identified, and then one is selected by the Quality Circle voting for it. After this the cause is thoroughly investigated, and the facts are verified by data gathering and double checking. On occasions the actual cause which had been assumed was not the same as that which showed up after the data gathering.
Armed with facts and a solution, a presentation is made to get approval for implementation of the project. Once this has been granted, the whole process of establishing controls and general monitoring begins so that the solution can be standardized. The whole procedure from the initial cause and effect chart on to the final result is recorded on a composite sheet which takes the reader through all the charts, drawings and graphs to the final results which are constantly checked and audited. So far all projects have been implemented, but it is important that a regular check is made to see that the improvement is maintained.
The types of projects embarked upon and subsequently put into being are: • Improved identification marks on the back of tableware. Redesign of lining brushes. • Planned maintenance scheme for aerograph guns. Complete revision and standardization of fettling tools. Design of automatic gift box opening machine. • Truck redesign. Workshop layout scheme. New storage pen identification scheme. • Elimination of clay wastage. Improved handle application. Complete redesign of casters bench. Co-operative improvement at interface of adjoining processes. Improved security. SENSITIVITY TRAINING LABORATORY
Sensitivity training laboratory also known as T-Group learning, D- Group learning (development) or laboratory training, is an experience-based, unstructured form of learning where learning or development takes place by sharing experiences, particularly those generated in the group. It is a participant centered learning oriented towards participants’ know-how. It accepts the participants as they are and draws upon them as resources for working in the lab. The belief is that effective learning influences the attitudes and behaviour and it comes through emotional and intellectual involvement.
The goal of this lab is personal growth through increased self-awareness and interpersonal competence. It also aims to make the group members more sensitive to the emotions of others and themselves, so that they learn about the consequences of their own actions by focusing on their own actions and the feelings of others. As they work in a group they recognize the various undercurrents at work – consider the fact that the facilitator is present only to mediate and that too in a limited capacity. The participants are on their own so far as individual decision-making is concerned.
Their unadulterated feelings and basic emotions are the only mainstay of their judgement-making process. In other words, they constantly run the risk of over or undervaluing the sentiments and actions of their peers, thereby diluting or concentrating the density of their inferences in the process. This leads them to recognize their inherent leadership-styles, their innate sensitivity to others and their overall ability to hone their emotions so as to subsume the views and biases of their peers, in their analysis. They have a better overall understanding of their perceptions of other people as well as peer-perceptions regarding them.
The aim is to harmonize group-behaviour and bring the members into congruence, as well as enable them to harness the power of this enhanced understanding to increase the efficacy of their roles as team players and managers. Design and Conduct of Sensitivity Laboratories These labs are of various types: • Stranger labs, where the members are from different organizations and fields of work. • Cousin labs, which has members from the same organization, and • Family labs, which have members from the same department. Process of the Training:
In the beginning as the group meets in an informal atmosphere with the trainer there is intentional lack of leadership and any formal agenda like the way one is used to in other systems of learning. As the trainer does not comply with the traditional expectations of the participants from the teacher, there is a complete vacuum. People look askance and find means to fill this vacuum. This brings in focus the interaction processes in the group. And each one starts forming his role in the group. Now as the group moves forward the trainer becomes open and empathetic and expresses his feelings in a minimal way.
But the major involvement is from the group. The feedback is received from the members who come to know about their own behavior. And thus new patterns of relationships emerge. The members serve as resources to one another and facilitate experimentation with personal, interpersonal and collaborative behavior. The group discovers new ways of handling problems as a whole. Thing like who is a listener, leader, helper emerges. There are underlying emotional issues. There are questions like: who am I in this group (identity), what are my goals and needs (what do I want?
), how much power and control do I have, how much do I trust others and generate that trust, do I resist authority, do I assert personal dominance, do I seek support from the others and so on. all these and more issues come to the fore front. And in the final phase all these issues are explored in the relevance of the experience back home. Thus this period of about 7 days aims towards personal growth and understanding of self and environment there is continuous feedback during the whole process The whole process is full of stress for the trainer as well as the people involved. But the outcome is one that may relieve stress as a whole.