Quality Circle In A Nutshell

A quality circle is a team of employees who come together regularly to identify and solve problems specific to their work area.

Understanding quality circles

The quality circle is a participatory management technique where employees meet in teams to identify, discuss, and solve work-related problems.

These teams, which consist of no more than twelve individuals, are normally led by a supervisor or manager and seek to facilitate better standards in the workplace. 

Employees who participate in quality circles are sometimes trained in formal problem-solving methods such as the Pareto analysis, cause-and-effect diagrams, and various brainstorming techniques.

After completing any one of these analyses, individuals are encouraged to discuss their conclusions with superiors who have the power to implement solutions.

Quality circles are not a new concept in business, with a study commissioned by the New York Stock Exchange finding that 44% of companies with more than 500 employees were using them as early as 1982.

While hard data are harder to come by today, Harvard Business Review believes that at least 90 of the top Fortune 500 companies have a quality circle program in place.

Some companies, such as IBM, Xerox, and Honeywell, use them extensively.

Objectives of quality circles

It may appear on the surface that the only objective of a quality circle is to solve workplace problems. In truth, however, there are numerous benefits for employees and the organization as a whole:


Quality circles enable employees to hone important collaboration skills and solve critical problems by working together. 

Personal development

In a similar vein, individuals within the team develop better communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills.

The perspectives, knowledge, and experience of one person are also enhanced by those shared by another.


Quality circles allow employees to feel like their opinions or contributions are valued by the organization.

An attitude of continuous improvement increases employee motivation and the efficiency of processes and procedures.

Structure of a quality circle

The structure of a quality circle is somewhat flexible, but in many cases is comprised of the following stakeholders:


The employees who participate in the process, undertake formal training, and present solutions to management.


Those employees who choose not to participate in the quality circle but have important ideas to put forward.


A member-elected individual who ensures meetings run smoothly and serve the desired purpose.

Some quality circles may also appoint a deputy leader.


These individuals establish quality circles, train leaders and members, and report information back to the steering committee.

Steering committee

Individuals within upper management who ensure meetings remain on track and act on employee recommendations.

Coordinating agency

An agency that manages the budget, organizes employee training, and ensures quality circles are incorporated into business operations.

Key takeaways

  • A quality circle is a team of employees who come together regularly to identify and solve problems specific to their work area.
  • It may appear that the only objective of a quality circle is to solve workplace problems, but they also serve to increase employee skills, motivation, and productivity.
  • Various stakeholders participate in the quality circle process. These include members, non-members, leaders, coordinators, steering committees, and a coordinating agency.

Read Next: OKRSMART Goals.

Related Management Concepts


Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”

Smart Goals

A SMART goal is any goal with a carefully planned, concise, and trackable objective. To be such a goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Bringing structure and trackability to goal setting increases the chances goals will be achieved, and it helps align the organization around those goals.


Micromanagement is about tightly controlling or observing employees’ work. Although this management style might be understood in some cases, especially for small-scale projects, generally speaking, micromanagement has a negative connotation mainly because it shows a lack of trust and freedom in the workplace, which leads to adverse outcomes.

Delegative Leadership

Developed by business consultants Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the 1960s, delegative leadership is a leadership style where authority figures empower subordinates to exercise autonomy. For this reason, it is also called laissez-faire leadership. In some cases, this leadership type can lead to increased work quality and decision-making. In a few other cases, this type of leadership needs to be balanced out to prevent a lack of direction and cohesiveness in the team.

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Active Listening

Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone speaks and displaying understanding through verbal and non-verbal techniques. Active listening is a fundamental part of good communication, fostering a positive connection and building trust between individuals.

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a model used by leaders to help individuals adapt to complex or rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components (precious or expendable, experimentation and smart risks, disciplined assessment). Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.

RASCI Matrix

A RASCI matrix is used to assign and then display the various roles and responsibilities in a project, service, or process. It is sometimes called a RASCI Responsibility Matrix. The RASCI matrix is essentially a project management tool that provides important clarification for organizations involved in complex projects.

Flat Organizational Structure

In a flat organizational structure, there is little to no middle management between employees and executives. Therefore it reduces the space between employees and executives to enable an effective communication flow within the organization, thus being faster and leaner.

Tactical Management

Tactical management involves choosing an appropriate course of action to achieve a strategic plan or objective. Therefore, tactical management comprises the set of daily operations that support long strategy delivery. It may involve risk management, regular meetings, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.

High-Performance Management

High-performance management involves the implementation of HR practices that are internally consistent and aligned with organizational strategy. Importantly, high-performance management is a continual process where several different but integrated activities create a performance management cycle. It is not a process that should be performed once a year and then hidden in a filing cabinet.

Scientific Management

Scientific Management Theory was created by Frederick Winslow Taylor in 1911 to encourage industrial companies to switch to mass production. With a background in mechanical engineering, he applied engineering principles to workplace productivity on the factory floor. Scientific Management Theory seeks to find the most efficient way to perform a workplace job.

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