A quality circle is a small group of between three and 12 people who do the same or similar work, voluntarily meeting together regularly for about one hour per week in paid time, usually under the leadership of their own supervisor, and trained to identify, analyze and solve some of the problems in their work, presenting solutions to management and, where possible, implementing solutions themselves. There are two main tasks assigned to quality circles: the identification of problems; and the suggestion of solutions. A secondary aim is to boost the morale of the group through attendance at the meetings and the formal opportunity to discuss work-related issues
In Japan, quality circles are organized within a department or work area for the purpose of studying and eliminating production related problems. They are problem solving teams which use simple statistical methods to research and decide on solutions to workshop problems. Underlying the quality circle concept is the assumption that the causes of quality or productivity problems are unknown to workers and to management. It is also assumed that shop floor workers have hands on knowledge, are creative and can be trained to use this natural creativity in job problem solving. Quality circles, however, are a people building, rather than a people using, approach.