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An interview with Stanley Marash


Interview by: Alistair Craven

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Stanley A. MarashStanley A. Marash, Ph.D., P.E is Chairman and CEO of STAT-A-MATRIX. Founded in 1968, STAT-A-MATRIX (SAM) is the world's leading consulting and training organization dedicated to improving business processes, management systems and quality and regulatory compliance.

Dr. Marash also consults and lectures throughout the world to heads of state and corporations on regulatory and compliance processes, Six Sigma, and reinventing government.

It has been argued that - as in many business initiatives - people are crucial to the success of failure of a quality programme. What can be done to encourage belief and participation throughout an organization?

Stanley Marash:

While a quality programme will not succeed without committed staff, it is just as crucial to have leadership commitment. 90-95 per cent of failures are due not to deficiencies in the people, but in the system, which is management's responsibility. Employees look at management to address the problems that are not controllable by people.

In order to encourage belief and participation throughout an organization, the "people" must see that the management are "leaders" who recognize their responsibility for the system definition, measurement, analysis, improvement and control (DMAIC).

People follow "leaders" who understand the system and support the organization's goals. Belief and participation in the quality programme are only possible when the Executive Team demonstrates leadership of and commitment to the programme.

In his interview with Management First, quality guru Armand Feigenbaum has warned against what he calls a 'backward creep' in quality performance, emphasizing that quality must be measured against the customer's requirements. What are the challenges facing organizations wishing to measure quality initiatives?

Stanley Marash:

One of the greatest challenges facing organizations wishing to measure quality initiatives is differentiating between measures focused around "business results" and those focused around "quality results." Although they are not mutually exclusive, they are normally handled separately.

As stated above, 90-95 per cent of deficiencies are management controllable, not operator controllable, so we must address the problem of defining the measures that must be assessed in the management arena.

Measures against the customer's requirements are the most important-but we must ensure the validity of the measure. Our practice is to ensure the validity of our measures in the early activities to ensure that the integrity of our measures is not questioned. The finance department is involved in the process to demonstrate that we have credible measures to start with, followed by converting data to information and ultimately to verify and validate our business results and their impact on supplier, processor and customer.

One of the reasons quality programmes have failed is that the measures were challenged and, in many cases, small occurrences of questionable measures caused organizations to dismiss opportunities.

If we are able to address valid information, we can improve in many different ways.

Famous CEOs such as Jack Welch have made Six Sigma a cornerstone of their managerial achievements. But does Six Sigma continue to command the corporate spotlight as it did in years gone by?

Stanley Marash:

In the last few years, large corporations applied Six Sigma because of the examples set by CEOs such as Jack Welch, Larry Bossidy (Allied Signal) and others who reported multimillion dollar Six Sigma achievements.

Six Sigma is now at the point where the CEOs want their suppliers and customers to work together with them to address cross-organizational business process performances. In many cases, the large corporation says we want you to "do" Six Sigma, but leave the mid-size company alone to determine a path. Other organizations invite suppliers and/or customers to work together on business results for breakthrough performance.

The mid-size and small organizations are having difficulty assigning Black Belt and Green Belt personnel to work full-time on Black Belt or Green Belt projects. One reason for this difficulty is that they find it hard to believe that they will achieve anything close to the multimillion dollar project savings.

Our experience is that small companies will see significant returns by focusing on their most critical projects with their suppliers and customers. This has been demonstrated to address further opportunities for "breakthrough" business results that would never have been brought to the surface and resolved had they not been successful in applying the Six Sigma approach.

Performance management appears to be a growing area of interest within the quality domain. How do you see these two areas fitting together?

Stanley Marash:

More and more organizations are realizing that they have to look at quality management in a different light. In fact, in many organizations, it has been purposely decided not to utilize personnel from the quality management domain because " will send the wrong message." The message being that performance management is different than previous initiatives, and we have appointed a senior executive to drive it.

In fact, it is still true that many organizations have quality managers that are not at the same level as other functional parts of the organizations. For example,

  • They don't have respect.
  • They are not reporting to the most senior executive.
  • They typically do not have financial experience.
  • Etc.

Performance management is an attempt to address the items listed above. That attempt leads the organization to look elsewhere for the leader of the new activity, not in the quality department, but in finance, operations and so on.

"There has been no true breakthrough in the discipline of quality since 1931. There have only been fads and what I call programmes du jour. Each has merit, but too often companies get caught up in the more superficial aspects of these programmes - choosing smoke and mirrors over real opportunities for process improvement."

Organizations wishing to place senior executives (whether or not they have quality related experience) as heads of quality, performance excellence and other functional areas will find this a vehicle for Fusion Management.

It has been estimated that up to 60 per cent of TQM processes fail. Why is there such a high failure rate?

[The following extract, entitled "Management Fads and Why They Fail" is taken from Dr. Marash's book "Fusion Management: Harnessing the Power of Six Sigma - Lean - ISO 9001:2000 - Malcolm Baldridge -TQM and Other Quality Breakthroughs". You can purchase this book by clicking here.]

© QSU Publishing Company 2003

Stanley Marash:

Several years ago I was invited by the European Organization for Quality (EOQ) and the United Kingdom's Institute of Quality Assurance (IQA) to participate in the EOQ's forum, "Quality in Integrated Management." At this conference, I was asked to synthesize the presentations and to offer insights on the future of quality approaches and philosophy over the next five or more years. The four topics selected were:

  • Standards approach to management
  • Breakthrough management
  • Business excellence awards
  • Integrated management

About eight years have passed since that conference, and these four topics are clearly still central to management discussions in the new millennium.

After reading the papers that had been provided for my review, I began to think about the various quality-related programmes I had been exposed to since 1960, when I began my career as a quality professional. Doodling on a pad, I quickly listed 32 programmes that had come and, for the most part, gone - an average of almost one per year. These are listed in Figure 1-1.

Most organizations have tried at least a few of these programmes, sometimes more than one at a time. Many of them are so taken with management by imitation that they introduce new programmes at an average rate of one very three years, almost always capturing only the superficial aspects of the programme. The employees of such organizations learn to pay lip service to each new management fad without letting it interfere with "real work," knowing full well that is will soon go away. It was in response to this approach that I coined the term programme du jour - programme of the day.

As I studied the list, I began to look for trends or patterns. Why had some companies succeeded while others failed? And why had some succeeded initially only to fail later? The circumstances of individual companies differed - in their culture, history, personalities - but this is what a statistician would call "noise." Could there be a signal underneath the noise? The more I studied the list and considered the history of each movement, the more I realized that there are, indeed, perpetually recurring causes of failure.

Benchmarking Process Management
Breakthrough Management Profit Improvement
Business Excellence Awards programme Management
Business Partnerships Quality Circles
Companywide Quality Control Reengineering
Concurrent Engineering Reinventing Government
Continuous Quality Improvement Rightsizing
Cost Reduction Statistical Process Control
Downsizing Strategic Planning
Holistic Management Total Quality Control
Integrated Management Total Quality Management
Just-In-Time Value Analysis
Management by Objectives Value Engineering
Managerial Breakthrough Vendor (Supplier) Partnership
One-Minute Management Voice of the Customer
Outsourcing Zero Defects

• Lack of Executive Leadership - Management fails to demonstrate its commitment by deeds to the process it is launching. Indeed, many such programmes are initiated and led by mid-level managers with little, if any, involvement by executives. Even when executives become involved, their efforts are seldom substantive. The organizations that are successful over the long term, regardless of the programme implemented, invariably feature the personal leadership of executive teams.

• Failure to Deploy - Management fails to support the programme beyond the initial training or to deploy the programme beyond the pilot department or group. After an initial round of improvement is achieved, no mechanism is established to keep the process going. programme activities are perceived as "homework," rather than "real work," and because many projects concentrate on "low-hanging fruit," the programme stalls once its larger and less tractable problems are encountered. Other times, different groups within an organization adopt different programmes - and then spend valuable time and resources hurling buzzwords at each other rather than searching for common ground. Successful organizations, on the other hand, synthesize their own programmes from many sources, actively engage all groups at all levels and develop permanent structures to identify and resolve problems.

• Seeking Shortcuts - Management adopts the superficial aspects of a programme, hoping by name-magic to imitate the successes of the pioneer organizations. Yet, the pioneers usually developed well thought-out processes involving many contributing elements. Organizations that adopt some elements and ignore others fail to attain the synergy that the pioneers achieved and later proclaim: "We tried X programme and it didn't work." In some cases, management does nothing more than attach a new, trendy label to an old way of doing business.

• Inadequate Measurement - Management does not measure success properly. These organizations typically don't lack measurements - indeed, they are often guilty of overmeasuring. The problem with these organizations is that their measurements are detached from business results. Projects concentrate on making internal processes more efficient while overlooking customer satisfaction, because the former is easier to measure than the latter. Successful organizations, on the other hand, focus on the long term as well as the short term and on external as well as internal issues and tie their measurements to validated business results.

A common pattern emerges. A few pioneer companies adopt or develop a programme and achieve great initial success. The business press takes notice and other companies seek to emulate the pioneers. But as the idea spreads, it becomes diluted. Senior management tries to adopt the model without ever really comprehending what is required to make the programme successful. These followers want the results but are unwilling to put in the same effort as the pioneers. They fail to measure their results and they lack clear, focused goals. It is almost as if ideas have a half-life, like fissionable materials, losing substance as they pass from organization to organization.

What is needed is fusion, not fission.

In fission, a process of decay causes material to split apart, creating a great deal of heat and, over time, lead. In fusion, simpler elements combine to form more complex elements, which take on features and qualities that the constituent ingredients did not possess. Hence, we call our concept "Fusion Management."

Your work in Six Sigma and the integration of quality, regulatory and business management systems has led to the development of your book Fusion Management. Can you tell us what the book is about?

Stanley Marash:

There has been no true breakthrough in the discipline of quality since 1931. There have only been fads and what I call programmes du jour. Each has merit, but too often companies get caught up in the more superficial aspects of these programmes - choosing smoke and mirrors over real opportunities for process improvement.

As CEO of one of the largest management system training and consulting firms in North America, I draw on more than 40 years of experience working with some of the largest corporations in the United States, Europe and Asia to cut through the hype surrounding such well-known quality techniques as Six Sigma, Lean, ISO 9001:2000, Baldrige and others. Fusion Management can help your organization achieve true performance breakthroughs by unlocking the best quality secrets of the past century. With Fusion Management you will understand why your management system initiatives may be wasteful or duplicative, learn why past management initiatives failed, gain knowledge to avoid future failures and become skilled in applying the best modern management approaches to your business to achieve quantifiable business results.

You are founder and CEO of the STAT-A-MATRIX organization where you consult and lecture throughout the world to heads of state and corporations on regulatory and compliance processes. What have been some of your key challenges in this role?

Stanley Marash:

In the past, the greatest challenge has been to remain a step ahead of the latest programme du jour. Currently - as in the past - organizations are influenced by regulatory and compliance factors as the greatest drivers for applying a new management system. Most often, as soon as many of the organizations have finished their audit or done one project, they put away their focus and revert to their previous approaches.

The challenge here is to get the Senior Executive Team to focus on the customer and on the model that incorporates a strategic plan that fuses together the Strategic, Business Plan, Quality Plan and Regulatory Plan.

Finally, an article on our Web site states that whereas the 20th century has been described as the "century of productivity", predictions are being made that the 21st century will be regarded as the "century of quality". However, the shape that quality management may take is very unclear. What are your opinions of the future role of quality?

Stanley Marash:

The function called "quality" will be absorbed. For instance:

  • Many people would like to see the word "quality" taken out of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award;
  • Organizations are changing the roles of quality in their enterprise and the reason for continuing to have a quality department will go away as regulators and certification bodies agree NOT to require a function called "quality." Many enterprises with Six Sigma activities will keep the quality and Six Sigma activities separate;
  • Customer focus will continue to grow while cross-enterprise teams continue to work together to improve quality, productivity at customer and supplier activities.

The "century of quality" will not appear to be the same in the 21st century, but what is really happening, "Fusion Management," will cause the transition to take place by taking the best of each experience and developing a whole new approach.

To find out more about Stanley Marash and the STAT-A-MATRIX organization, visit