What is a quality circle? What are its advantages and disadvantages? Early starts in Japan and the US. Developments in India and in Healthcare in Europe.

Quality Circle: A group of workers who do the same or similar work, meeting regularly to identify, analyze and solve work-related problems. Participation is voluntary, takes place during work hours, and the group consists of three to twelve members. The circle team members present their improvement solutions to management. Ideally workers then implement the solutions themselves. This furthers employee motivation and satisfaction.


Quality Circles have been around for nearly 60 years. Suggested by W. Edwards Deming in Japan during the 1950’s, they became active in the early 1960’s in Japan.

In 1960, Kaoru Ishikawa and the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers introduced the Quality Circle concept. It flourished in Japan. By 1974, it reached the United States when Lockheed introduced Quality Circles. By 1988, there were an estimated 750,000 circles in Japan with an estimated 5,500,000 members.

Advantages of Quality Circles helped fuel their growth.

  • Promotion of teamwork
  • Develops employee positive attitudes
  • Positive working environment
  • Increased quality and productivity

However, by the 1990’s they began to lose favor in the United States, mostly due to their disadvantages and the introduction of other quality improvement methodologies such as Six Sigma.

Disadvantages if not addressed:

  • Employees not sure of the purpose
  • Not enough relevant training
  • Participation not voluntary
  • Little or no management support
  • Quality Circles are not empowered to make decisions

The Quality Circle movement took off in India. As of 2008, the Quality Circle Forum of India (QCFI) reported the existence of 6450 circles.  For a discussion of the Global spread of Quality Circles around the same time frame, please see: Quality Circles: The Global Scenario.

Quality Circles were introduced into the healthcare arena. Now, in Europe there is widespread use in healthcare in over twenty countries.

This video from Maurice MKT and MGT introduces Quality Circles, and briefly covers their advantages and disadvantages.

Resources Used in the Blog and Others of Interest

Quality Circle 

The History of the Quality Circle  

The Historical Evolution of Quality Circle Movement (previously on https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/15949/12/12_chapter%204.pdf)

About QC Circle  

Father of the QC Circle: Kaoru Ishikawa 

Quality Circles After the Fad

The Disadvantages of Quality Circles 

The Disadvantages of Quality Circles (2nd reference)

Quality Circles: An Evidenced Based Care Sheet 

Collaborative Quality Improvement in General Practice Clusters 

Learning from Less Successful Quality Circles in Indian Healthcare 

Quality Circles: Determination of Significant Factors for Success and a General Model for Implementing a Quality Circle Process