Term Paper: Quality Circles Organizational Behavior

Pages: 10 (2642 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Management  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] The term quality circles are often utilized interchangeably with the idea of continuous improvement teams and similar expressions (Giroux & Landry, 1998). Failure among such circles is often regarded as due to lack of appropriate management commitment, as well as lack of "rigor during implementation" which can result in the failure of corporate cultural integration of such programs (Ahire, 1996; Giroux & Landry, 1998).


The literature presented suggests that a majority of companies within the U.S. have implemented quality circles or some similar type of "work team efficiency group" in an effort to improve organizational performance and increase worker participation and motivation. There are a large number of companies within the United States that have reported significant savings as a result of implementation of such groups. Statistics seem to suggest that an equal number of organizations have experienced failure as a result of QC implementation.

Quality Circles are based on the idea of work performance groups, where a small group of generally like-minded employees gather to analyze problems, develop recommendations and implement solutions to those problems. Evidence suggests that a large majority of employees actually frown upon quality circles, believing that they are not truly effective. From this standpoint quality circles may be viewed as a mechanism through which employees can perhaps meet and share ideals, but not necessarily accomplish long-term change. Many opponents of quality circles feel that managers jump on such circles as a quick fix to long standing problems, rather than conducting an adequate amount of research to ascertain true solutions to corporate dilemmas.


Despite the preponderance of negative information related to quality circles, this research suggests that quality circles can indeed be effective mechanisms for initiating and maintaining much needed change in organizations. Quality circles serve many purposes, including bringing like-minded employees together to share innovative ideas and recommendations. Any company would benefit tremendously from increased worker participation and involvement. Detractors of quality circles often point to statistics showing the frequency with which quality circles fail. However, research suggests that an equal number of companies have realized successful savings as a result of quality circle initiatives.

The research also seems to suggest that quality circles fail not because the methodology behind them is unsound, but rather because management does not sufficiently support long-term initiatives. For quality circles to truly work, they must first be embraced and adopted by management. The implementation of quality circles necessitates a change in corporate philosophy, strategy and often culture. Management needs to view quality circles as a potential long-term solution to corporate dilemmas, rather than a quick fix for spur of the moment problems.

Employees also need to understand that greater involvement and follow through is necessary for quality circles to work. A lack of management commitment is but one of the findings cited that leads to failure of such circles. Employees must also aspire to ensure that recommendations and proposed solutions are enacted upon. It is not enough however, for work groups to simply identify problems and propose solutions. Once solutions are implemented, quality circles need to embrace a program of continuous reform. Solutions should be evaluated over extended periods to assess whether or note they are succeeding or failing. If they are failing, quality circles should meet together to propose new strategies to "tweak" proposed solutions to realize a higher success ratio. Management need also not underestimate the potential for continuous improvement. If management embraces a program with the idea that it will provide only a short-term solution, then anything arising from the circle is doomed to fail. Management must embrace quality programs with the mindset that they might provide long-term solutions to existing and potential future dilemmas.

One last note, quality circles might be better utilized if employees are required to participate in them. Employees should view quality circles as a positive force within a corporate culture. Those circles that are implemented on a strictly voluntary basis are more likely to fail, because employees are not obligated to participate to the fullest extent of their ability. Employees must not however, develop the mindset that QC meetings are an obligatory talk only type of meeting where nothing gets accomplished. Organizations must alter their culture and philosophies to portray the message that continuous improvement programs can and will work within the culture.

Though overall the jury is still out regarding the effectiveness of quality circles, this researcher believes that quality circles can be effective when implemented using the correct resources and mindset. Quality Circles should be part of a larger total quality management plan. Corporate philosophy and culture must be re-directed so that the idea of continuous improvement becomes engrained in an organizations core value systems and mission statements. Management teams must be committed to developing and maintaining long-term solutions to corporate dilemmas. Lastly, a program of review and modification must be implemented for quality circles to work. Recommended changes and solutions should be evaluated on a consistent basis to ensure that solutions developed still meet the requirements of a company five, ten and twenty years down the line.


Ahire, S.L. (1996). "TQM Age vs. Quality. An Empirical Investigation." Production and Inventory Management Journal" 18-23.

Blair, John D. And Whitehead, Carlton J. (1984). "Can Quality Circles Survive in the United States?" Business Horizons, 27 (September-October): 17-23

Buehler, Vernon; Shetty, Y.K. "The Quest for Competitiveness: Lessons from America's Productivity and Quality Leaders." Quorom Books, New York: 1991.

Bowman, James S. "Quality Circles: Promise, Problems, and Prospects in Florida." Public Personnel Management, Vol. 18, 1989.

Business Week, (1982). "Will the Slide Kill Quality Circles?" January 11: 108-109.

Cole, Robert E. (1980). "Will QC Circles Work in the U.S. " Quality Progress, (July): 30-30

Dawson, Irving O. (1983). "Quality Circles in Government." (paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago September 1-4).

Dean, J.W. (1985). "The Decision to Participate in Quality Circles." Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 21 (3) 317-327.

Giroux, Helene; Landry, Sylvain. (1998). "Schools of Thought in and Against Total Quality." Journal of Managerial Issues, Vol. 10, 1998

Hayes, Robert H. And Abernathy, William J. (1981). "Managing Our Way to Economic Decline," Harvard Business Review, 58 (July/August): 67-77.

Hills, S. (1995). "From Quality Circles to Total Quality Management." In Making Quality Critical New Perspectives on Organizational Change. Eds. A. Wilkinson and H. Willmott. London: Routledge.

Jarrett, James E. (1985). "An Overview of Productivity Improvement Efforts In State Government," Public Personnel Management, 14 (Winter): 385-391.

Lawler, E.E. & Mohram, S.A. (1992). "Employee Involvement and Total Quality Management." San Francicso: CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Li-Ping Tang, Thomas; Tollison, Peggy; Whiteside, Harold. (1993). "Differences between Active and Inactive Quality Circles in Attendance and Performance." Public Personnel Management, Vol. 22, 1993.

Marks, Mitchell L. (1986). "The Question of Quality Circles; Proponents Say they Increase Worker Productivity and Satisfaction" Psychology Today, Vol. 20, March.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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