Business productivity concepts and tools come and go…they help sell books, ensure speaking engagements, recruit evangelists, and add new terms to our corporate vocabulary. One collaborative quality improvement approach that has stood the test of time in the manufacturing arena for over 50 years is Quality Circles. With minor adjustment, we can use the Quality Circle approach to incrementally increase both quality and throughput across multiple business sectors.
We will discuss the advantages of using SharePoint to enhance collaboration within a Quality Circle model in subsequent posts, but for those who may not be familiar with Quality Circles, here is some background:
As part of the post-World War II continuous improvement, or Kaizen (“good change”), approach to help rebuild Japanese industry, Quality Circles were introduced primarily by Kaoru Ishikawa in the early 1960s. A Quality Circle is typically defined as a group of 3-12 volunteer employees who perform similar work within a specific area or department.
- Members identify, conduct root cause analyses and solve problems by making recommendations for improvement to work processes and policies.
- Quality Circles meet on a recurring basis during work hours on a schedule agreed to by senior management. This activity should be incorporated into personal performance reviews to encourage membership and increase participation.
- A Quality Champion, or spokesperson, for each Circle is elected by the members, typically on a rotating annual or 6-month schedule.
- The Quality Champion is trained by a Facilitator or Coach to lead meetings, represent the group to management, help members identify, analyze and solve work-related problems, and present their recommended solutions to management for resolution.
- Where applicable, the group itself may implement solutions to improve organizational performance.
- As a Quality Circle matures, it becomes self-managing and the need for facilitation and coaching is reduced considerably.
Quality Circles bring value to the organization through continuous quality improvement via direct involvement of employees in a quality process that promotes:
- Pride in achievement and improvement in morale
- Increased levels of contribution, personal growth and job satisfaction
- Problem identification, resolution, and avoidance
In addition, staff participation in decision-making and problem-solving improves:
- Process quality
- Work product quality that in turn improves the company’s brand
- Team productivity
- Communication between staff and management
- Knowledge sharing and collaboration with other quality circles
In our next post, we will look at the Quality Circle operating model in detail and talk about how we can leverage SharePoint to increase both the efficiency and collaborative experience of all stakeholders.