Evaluating the outcome of Quality Circles
In the period from about 1980 to 1983 many companies in this country were adopting programmes of Quality Circles, some claiming substantial financial returns from them. However the Circles clearly had far greater potential, for example in developing individuals and in encouraging greater involvement of the work-force in decision-making. A limited preliminary survey discovered virtually no evidence of quantifiable benefits dervied from a Circle programme. Few companies appeared to have clear objectives when introducing programmes of Circles, while none were found to be evaluating them, even informally. A more detailed study was then carried out of the Circles in a medium-sized engineering company, using interviews, questionnaires and case histories. The selection and training of the Circle Facilitator were found to be key factors in evaluating the Circles. The findings pointed also to the vital importance of setting clear objectives before instituting Circle programmes, with a time scale for their achievement. Training was shown to be a major factor in the success of the Circles, while most importantly, failure appeared more likely when the Circles were not integrated into a wider programme for quality. The final stages of the work were accordingly carried out in a company whose programme of Quality Circles was intended to form part of a company-wide quality improvement scheme. The impact of each programme on the other was examined. Primary factors for success were shown to be willingness to accept changes whilst being prepared for them. Another important factor in the evaluation of a Circle programme was found to be the nature and extent of the training provided for it. Absence of trust emerged as one of the principal reasons for Circles failing to succeed while a contributory factor was when Circles were seen by employees to be merely a tool of management.