A Serious Anomaly: TQC without Quality Circles

Article

Dewar, Donald L.   (1988, ASQC)   Quality Circle Institute, Red Bluff, CA

Annual Quality Congress, Dallas TX    Vol. 42    No. 0
QICID: 3396    May 1988    pp. 34-38
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Article Abstract

In 1962, Professor Kaoru Ishikawa (in conjunction with the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers) asked a number of Japanese companies to participate in an experiment. The companies would allow their employees to sit down with a foreman to study quality control in regular sessions. Incredibly, only one company was willing to go out on a limb and take what in those days was considered to be a bold step by doing as Professor Ishikawa suggested. That single Japanese company was Nippon Telephone & Telegraph, and the group they started eventually came to be known as a Quality Control Circle. The rest is history. Since that time, an estimated 15 million Japanese workers (registered and unregistered) have become members of QC Circles.

The history of Circles in the United States is slightly different. Circles were in the forefront of a movement that could have been titled "The Reawakening of America." Thousands of U.S. companies initiated Circles and then stood back to anxiously await the miracle cure for all its ailments. Occasionally, miracles did indeed occur. But sometimes the Circles died a premature death when management lost interest and enthusiasm waned.

Then a new phenomenon appeared on the horizon from the Land of the Setting Sun. It was called "Total Quality Control (TQC)." TQC required that managers be active participants in the quality improvement process. One of TQC's basic cornerstones was the premise that more than 80 percent of all the problems in the company were caused by the managers themselves! TQC required that everyone -- including managers -- would be trained in quality improvement methods and techniques. The commitment had to be substantial on the part of managers since there was a substantial investment in terms of time and money.

But some American companies were surprised to hear that the Japanese -- many with thriving, mature TQC programs in place -- considered Quality Circles to be an integral part of TQC. In fact, Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa has stated that Quality Circles may be as much as 40 percent of a company's TQC effort. Some American companies have said: "This is the United States -- not Japan. Do we really need Quality Circles in our TQC program?" The presenter strongly believes that Quality Circles are an essential and vital part of any company's attempt to implement a successful Total Quality Control process. He provides a number of examples and case studies to support his beliefs.

Keywords

History,Human resources (HR),Total Quality Control (TQC),Quality circles


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