Industry & Consumer Information with Johnson Opoku-Boateng: Quality circles (3)


This will be the last in the series for Quality circles. This article will look at the core functions of various layers in the structure of Quality Circles. The importance of kaizen projects cannot be underestimated, and Quality Circles if properly instituted become a vehicle on which improvement projects can ride. Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning continuous improvement. This Japanese business philosophy takes its root from processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees.

Structure of a Quality Circle

A senior manager is nominated to ensure the overall coordination of activities for the teams. The steering committee comprises the Coordinator and Facilitators who shall have oversight responsibility for activities of the established Quality Circles. The steering committee is now taken through a series of training programmes which include: group dynamics, team-building and facilitation, effective communication, conflict resolution and problem-solving techniques.

The establishment of Quality Circles must fit into the overall business strategy. Top management should understand clearly what needs to be done, how the circles are going to work, the logistics needed and, finally, the need for implementation of crystalised ideas.

Quality Circle Coordinator

The Quality Circle Coordinator’s role is key to success of the overall programme. A senior manager is nominated by the steering committee for this role, to have oversight responsibility for the various quality circles that may be established. The Coordinator chairs the steering committee meetings and reports to top management. He/She ensures the programme is run seamlessly, effectively and in a self-sustaining manner.

He is also responsible for assisting the Quality Circles deliver on chosen projects. The publication of a newsletter on all activities embarked on by the various Quality Circles is a good way of cataloguing successes of the programme, and it is the responsibility of the Coordinator to ensure this is done.

In many cases, programmes within organisations stay within individual departments; but in the case of Quality Circles, the organisation as a unit must be aware of the improvements being made through activities of the Circles – and this should be disseminated by the Coordinator. Members of Quality Circles need training. The Coordinator is tasked to prepare training materials and ensure the members are adequately trained.

Giving opportunity for Quality Circles to present to management is one way of motivating the members. The coordinator must regularly liaise with Circle Facilitators to ensure meetings are held on time and presentations adequately done for top management. 

Quality Circle Facilitator

Facilitators for quality circles are nominated by the steering committee. They are usually senior managers or supervisors at the departments where Quality Circles are established. Departmental Heads, their assistants or any other senior person can play the role of a Quality Circle Facilitator. The Facilitator gives guidance to the Circles for the conduct of meetings based on the procedure agreed on by the steering committee, and also ensures that meeting minutes are adequately taken to reflect activities and deliberations.

It is the responsibility of the Facilitator to arrange the required training for Circle members with support from the Coordinator. This includes logistics such as a suitable training room, teaching aids and any other resource that would be needed for training. He/she is the first point of call when the Circle faces challenges in the execution of its activities. The Facilitator should be in a position to seek external support as required by the Circle, resolving all issues that may come up.

Quality Circle Leader

In order to have smooth deliberations at the Circles level, the Circle members choose a leader from among themselves. This position is not permanent and, hence, is occasionally reviewed. A rotational system is usually employed to ensure that each member of the Circle gets the opportunity to also lead.

The Leader is the convener of Circle meetings and responsible for maintaining all documentation related to activities of the Circle. He/She liaises with the Circle Facilitator and the Coordinator during training programmes for Circle members. It is also the responsibility of the Leader to ensure all members are involved in the setting of goals and reviewing progress of all activities. The Leader champions the Circle culture and encourages a participatory approach to problem-solving. Last but not least, it is the responsibility of the Circle Leader to prepare for management meetings by putting together presentations on behalf of the Circle. 

Quality Circle Members

Every Quality Circle needs volunteers. These are people drawn from the department or areas where the Quality Circle is formed. They are responsible for identifying problems in the work area and ensuring these are presented for consideration by the team during meetings. Circle members actively participate in meetings by generating workable ideas for each problem identified. Team cohesion is one of the basic training programmes organised for Circle members. The main function of the Circle members is to identify problems and come up with simple workable solutions using problem solving tools. 


Improvement initiatives in organisations can be enhanced by the activities of Quality Circles. Looking at it as an integrated system and not a separate activity helps in leveraging the benefits. Most Japanese businesses have ridden on the back of Quality Circles to make great gains. Putting the three articles together presents a comprehensive roadmap for the establishment of Quality Circles in your business. Quality improvement and productivity are two major benefits of setting up working Quality Circles. The journey must start from now.

Johnson Opoku-Boateng is the Founder & Lead Consultant, QA CONSULT (Consultants and Trainers in Quality Assurance, Health & Safety, Environmental Management systems, Manufacturing Excellence and Food Safety). He is also a consumer safety advocate and helps businesses with regulatory affairs. He can be reached on +233209996002, email: [email protected]; [email protected]





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