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More often referred to simply as a quality circle, a quality control circle (QCC) is a management approach that involves input from a number of different sources within the structure of a company. The purpose of a quality control circle is to identify the presence of a specific performance issue within the company, determine the origins of the issue, and then develop a process that helps to correct or resolve the problem without triggering additional issues elsewhere within the operational structure. First identified as a specific management technique in Japan, the process is now utilized in a number of companies around the world, ranging from small local businesses to multi-national corporations.
Forming a quality control circle involves the identification of key individuals with similar or related job responsibilities within the operation. Ideally, this group will be in a position to observe the level of efficiency that takes place within their specific areas of expertise and identify potential issues that could negatively impact that efficiency and lead to the production of inferior products. In order to share their observations and obtain assistance in overcoming these potential obstacles, the circle will normally meet on some type of regular basis, with the understanding that more frequent meetings may take place when and as necessary.
Within the structure of a quality control circle, a group facilitator is normally identified by the group, along with someone who is responsible for taking official notes of the meeting and making those documents readily available to all parties involved in the process. Typically, a QCC will include some sort of accountability measures, making it easier to assign specific tasks associated with resolution of a given issue and follow up on the progress of those tasks. Some circles will be highly structured and somewhat formal, while others will operate with a more casual approach, while still retaining enough organization to effectively identify and resolve quality issues.
There is no single right way to form a quality control circle. The size and general nature of the company involved will often impact the organizational structure of the group. In addition, the circle may function strictly in an advisory capacity, making suggestions that owners and senior managers take into consideration. At other times, the quality control circle may be granted broad powers to develop and implement processes that address a quality issue. When this is the case, the circle normally reports the findings and the intended actions to company owners on the front end, and provide status reports on the back end as the issue moves closer to resolution.