Quality Circles and Six Sigma Teams

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QUALITY CIRCLES AND SIX SIGMA TEAMS

In years past, the traditional business approach to decision making in the United States allowed managers to decide what was best for the company and act upon that decision. In the past decade or so, the U.S. business culture underwent major changes as total quality management was adopted. One aspect of total quality management is team building. Team building occurs when a group of employees are organized as an entity to undertake management tasks and perform other functions such as organizing, developing, and overseeing projects. The result of team building is that more workers take over managerial responsibilities. Fewer lines of demarcation separate workers from managers and union from nonunion. Workers are invited to work on a par with managers to remove obstacles that prevent a company from delivering a quality product. The old “us and them” point of view is being replaced by a cooperative relationship between managers and workers in reaching common goals under team building. One particular type of team that was introduced to U.S. companies by the Japanese is the quality circle. A quality circle is a small group of workers, usually from the same department or work area, and their supervisor, who meet regularly to consider quality issues. The size of the group ranges from 4 to 15 members, and they meet as often as once a week. The meetings are usually on company time and members of the circle are compensated. The supervisor may be the leader of the circle, but the members of the group determine the agenda and reach their own conclusions.

The Six Sigma approach to quality makes use of teams of various “belts” to work on Six Sigma projects. Such Six Sigma project teams are usually led by a black belt, who is a company employee, works full-time on Six Sigma projects, and has received extensive training in Six Sigma methodology. Virtually all Six Sigma team members possess at least a green belt and have at least some...
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