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Quality circles are groups of individuals who come together for the purpose of evaluating a particular operation or procedure, determining how well that process is functioning, and seek to find ways to enhance that function. A quality circle may be used effectively in a business setting, or as part of the ongoing checks and balances within a non-profit organization. The members of the quality circle may be employed by the organization, be students from a local educational institution, or be consumers or supporters who have an interest in the goods or services offered by the organization.
In a business setting, a quality circle is normally a volunteer group of employees who focus on a specific aspect of the operation, such as a department. The group serves to not only evaluate the current quality of the products produced, but also how efficiently those products are created. A departmental supervisor who acts as the leader and facilitator for the group may lead the quality circle. It is not unusual for the circle to elect a team leader who functions as the liaison between the group and management.
As part of its responsibilities, a quality circle will identify and analyze each aspect of the area under scrutiny, making it a point to identify both the strengths and the weaknesses that the group members see with the current process. Doing so allows the circle to effectively brainstorm on potential changes or enhancements that would help to minimize or eliminate these weaknesses while not having any type of negative impact on those qualities identified as strengths. Generally, no aspect of the functions under consideration are exempt from investigation and evaluation, including management processes, selection of raw materials, or even the packing and storage of the finished products.
A quality circle can also be utilized effectively in other settings. Non-profit organizations may provide supporters the opportunity to come together on a regular basis to evaluate fund-raising or public awareness projects that are operated by the entity. At educational institutions, a quality circle may provide valuable insights and suggestions regarding the structuring of a degree program, the organization of a university department, or suggestions for possible future class electives. In any setting, the ultimate goal of the quality circle is to identifying improvements that will aid the organization in continuing to grow and move closer to realizing its goals.
The use of a quality circle within an organization can often make it possible to identify little issues that are difficult to be seen otherwise. Drawing on the expertise of the members of the group makes it possible to not only identify issues that should be addressed, but also develop solutions for those issues. Often, this process allows circle members to increase their sense of belonging and investment in the business or institution, and feel they are making a positive contribution to the organization.