ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Managing Quality with Fusion

A new quality management model takes the best of Six Sigma, ISO 9001, TQM, Lean Enterprise, and other quality programs and processes and fuses them into a system that promises to reap results.

You know the phrase “been there, done that”? It may as well have been coined for companies caught up in the fickle merry-go-round of quality improvement processes. Perhaps yours is one of them. Each time a hot new initiative hits the streets, you’ve signed on to it—sometimes with enthusiasm and drive (if it’s good enough for Jack Welch and Thomas Galvin, it’s good enough for me!), other times with a furtive eye-roll (okay, let’s get this charade over with!).

You got your ISO 9001 designation. You have employed Benchmarking, Just-In-Time Management, Total Quality Management, Quality Circles, Reengineering or any of the 30-odd programmes du jour that have taken the business world by storm in as many years. You’re now grappling with Six Sigma or Lean Enterprise but somehow your heart just isn’t in it. After all, you’ve been down this road before, and each time you have been disappointed with the results.

Enter Fusion Management, a system that combines the best that these business improvement trends have to offer. Unlike most management systems—business process improvement strategies and performance excellence models that seem to appear and then disappear with fad-like frequency—Fusion Management offers a way to actually reap the results you are looking for: better product, leaner operations, and an environment where excellence can thrive.

According to quality experts Stanley A. Marash, Paul Berman and Michael Flynn, authors of Fusion Management: Harnessing the Power of Six Sigma, Lean, ISO9001:2000, Malcolm Baldrige, TQM and Other Quality Breakthroughs of the Past Century, each of the programs touted as the next great business solution has fallen short of its promises. Yet each has something valuable to offer. The trick is knowing what works and what doesn’t, and how to implement real improvements in your organization that will reap real results.

“The problem is there is no ‘one size fits all’ quality management program that is going to work for everyone,” explains Marash. “What is needed is a new recipe that combines the best that the fad programs have to offer. Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no two corporate fingerprints are the same. Fusion Management takes into account what works best for your organization.”

Fusion Management takes seemingly competing approaches to quality and customizes them to fit in with your stretch goals and corporate culture. The Fusion Management Model offers a phased, logical approach that ensures that your business, quality, performance and regulatory initiatives are merged. Following is an overview of how the system works.

Step One: Define the "As-Is" Condition

The phase one assessment defines the existing business processes, management systems and process controls. The resulting short-term plan outlines the steps necessary for deploying Fusion Management throughout the organization and includes measurable goals, objectives and responsibilities, as well as a target timeline. Executives are interviewed to address such questions as: What is the general understanding of the concepts of Fusion Management, Six Sigma, Lean, TQM, continual improvement, managerial breakthrough and performance excellence? What management systems and process improvement tools are currently in place? How effectively are they operating? With which quality/excellence initiatives has the enterprise been involved?

It is here that a short-term fusion plan is prepared, a macroflowchart and responsibility matrix are developed, and business processes are analyzed. An important aspect of Fusion Management is that results are measured and process improvements are built into the management system.

Step Two: Launch Leadership Councils

In this phase, the organization establishes the management structure that ensures successful implementation of Fusion Management. A leadership council, which includes the entire senior executive team, will be responsible for implementing Fusion Management. The council, in turn, designates executives to serve as project mentors or champions—key management personnel who oversee, mentor and support the project teams. These mentors and champions receive intensive training in Fusion Management methodology, project management, and team-building techniques.

Step Three: Develop An Integrated Strategic Plan

The foundation of Fusion Management is integration, so that your organization does not “just document what you do and do what you document.” An ongoing cycle of internal audits, preventive and corrective action and top management reviews is key to building continual improvement into the organization's infrastructure. It is this orientation that assures that additional tools, such as Six Sigma methodologies, will be totally integrated into the process. This phase also incorporates Six Sigma tactics, enabling the enterprise to achieve breakthrough 10x (order of magnitude) improvements, as well as other tactical level initiatives such as Lean Enterprise and Total Quality Management. Performance excellence and the development of an integrated strategic plan, as well as success measurement and benchmarking, are also integrated in this phase.

Step Four: Train Leadership And Staff

Training is an ongoing process that is essential to successful Fusion Management. In this phase, key staff members are selected to begin projects in the deployment stage. Incorporating Six Sigma facilitator and role designations, potential projects are identified and personnel are selected for master black belt (internal facilitators for Six Sigma activity), black belt (oversight managers for individual projects) and green belt (supporting players in individual projects) designation.

Step Five: Deploy The Fusion Management Process

Too often, programs fail due to deployment problems. In Fusion Management, it is the responsibility of the leadership council to ensure that proper deployment occurs through the senior executive process. Fusion Management deployment draws on Six Sigma tools to implement projects by defining and measuring significant opportunities for improvement, incorporating the DMAIC process where data is used to analyze, improve and control situations to ensure that problems do not recur. In addition, business result measurement relies on the cooperation of the enterprise’s financial department whose Fusion Management function in this phase is to aid in the identification of projects that represent large opportunities for improvement. Champions and master black belts continue to identify areas of opportunity for achieving the enterprise’s strategic goals, while the senior executive team is responsible for measuring business results.

Step Six: Cascade Business Results

In this last Fusion Management implementation phase, a cascading approach is used to interlink the leadership councils in order to monitor the effective rollout of the process. In this way, each level of leadership is represented at the next level downward and upward. The result is that each facility, division, group and business unit follows a process that results in ownership at each level in the organization. The result is consistency of approach and transfer of lessons learned. While a small company with one facility may not need to implement this phase, it is recommended for as soon as two facilities or divisions or product lines are involved. It is absolutely essential for larger companies to successfully implement Fusion Management.

Ensuring Continual Improvement

Because Fusion Management Programs are customized specifically for your business, you’ll be far more likely to actually implement them. Furthermore, the very nature of Fusion Management forces you to stretch yourself and venture far outside your comfort zone—which, in turn, ensures your success far into the future.

“Fusion Management places great emphasis on organizational malleability,” explains Marash. “Successful enterprises are designed to be able to assimilate new ideas and new methods. That is how they are able to continue to grow effectively and efficiently. The Fusion Management process addresses the need for both continual improvement and breakthrough innovation. They are both integral parts of the never-ending journey towards excellence.”

Editor's note:

Fusion Management: Harnessing the Power of Six Sigma, Lean, ISO9001:2000, Malcolm Baldrige, TQM and Other Quality Breakthroughs of the Past Century (QSU Publishing Co., 2003, ISBN: 1-932191-02-X, $24.95), is available at bookstores nationwide and major online booksellers. For more information, visit or

SIDEBAR: Four Reasons Why Management Fads Are Doomed to Fail

Benchmarking…One-Minute Management…Just-In-Time…Total Quality Control…Zero Defects. It’s hard to keep track of all the management initiatives that come down the pike. You’ve tried them all, and all of them have disappointed you. Oh, sure, maybe you saw a slight, albeit temporary improvement in your quality, but nothing to write home about. And soon you dropped your efforts in favor of the next programme du jour—and the cycle continued.

According to quality experts Marash, Berman and Flynn, authors of Fusion Management, such management fads usually are doomed to fail. They offer the following reasons why:

1. Lack of Executive Leadership—Management fails to demonstrate its commitment by deeds to the process it is launching. Indeed, many such programs 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 program implemented, invariably feature the personal leadership of executive teams.

2. Failure to deploy—Management fails to support the program beyond the initial training or to deploy the program beyond the pilot department or group. After an initial round of improvement is achieved, no mechanism is established to keep the process going. Program activities are perceived as “homework,” rather than “real work,” and because many projects concentrate on “low-hanging fruit,” the program stalls once its larger and less tractable problems are encountered. Other times, different groups within an organization adopt different programs—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 programs from many sources, actively engage all groups at all levels and develop permanent structures to identify and resolve problems.

3. Seeking Shortcuts—Management adopts the superficial aspects of a program, 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 program 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.

4. 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.

Too often, companies try to adopt a popular program without really comprehending what makes the program successful. “They want the results but are unwilling to put in the same effort as the pioneers,” the authors write. “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,” they conclude. “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.'"

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