21st Century Quality
Stanley A. Marash

BEAMing Up to Quality

Fusion Management at work in the telecommunications industry

As an outgrowth of STAT-A-MATRIX's membership in the Quality Excellence for Suppliers of Telecommunications Forum, the company became a participant in a telecom industry initiative that paralleled many of the ideas expressed in my articles and lectures about Fusion Management葉he process of blending the most successful elements of business management systems and continual improvement tools into a seamless whole, guided by a business excellence model that serves as a goal-setting and self-assessment tool.

 The QuEST Forum was originally formed to develop a quality management system that would be based on ISO 9001 but would add requirements specific to the telecom industry. This system would harmonize the industry's varied quality management approaches and practices into a single system that could apply equally to hardware, software, service requirements or any combination thereof, and would include a process of metrics or measurements to assess performance against industrywide standards.

 Today, the QuEST Forum has more than 135 members, including most of the industry's major suppliers and service providers. TL 9000 is now in its third release, dated March 2001.

 However, the QuEST Forum leadership soon realized, as was previously discussed, that conformance to a quality management system is a minimal requirement. By itself, it doesn't guarantee product or service quality, continual improvement or performance excellence. Moreover, there's been a widespread perception in all industries that ISO 9000 and its sector-specific derivatives have done little to measurably improve quality in the long run. Despite its many reported successes, if ISO 9000 (and by extension, TL 9000) procedures are treated as a set of documents that companies file away and drag out periodically to review for compliance audits, then any quality gains initially achieved will soon disappear, and ISO 9000様ike countless other programs that have come and gone謡ill simply fall into disuse.

 That's where BEAM comes in. Recognizing the need to take the telecom industry from thinking in terms of "conformance" to thinking in terms of "performance," and to help accelerate the transition from basic quality management systems to true performance excellence processes, the QuEST Forum formed the Business Excellence Acceleration Model Work Group用opularly known as the BEAM Team葉o encourage the use of business excellence models such as those of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the European Foundation for Quality Management. To facilitate the process, the BEAM Team published its Strategic Planning and Business Improvement Guidance Handbook. As stated in its foreword, the handbook provides:

   "An accepted set of key industry issues and associated guidance information, specific to the telecommunications industry, for companies to reference as a catalyst for improvement ideas"

  "A listing of key industry drivers for strategic planning purposes, explaining why these business trends are important in the industry today"

  "Industry examples of how others have approached improvement activities and their experience solving similar problems"

  "References to further information and resources, including, in future editions, references to 'best practices' presented at QuEST Forum meetings"


 What I find most impressive about the BEAM handbook is its emphasis on strategic planning and its insistence on business improvement as an ongoing process. Moreover, the handbook recognizes that there's no single "true" business excellence model that fits every size and type of organization, and that best practices must be tailored to suit each company's needs, size, business type, customer requirements and corporate culture. As it states, the handbook is designed to offer insights into areas critical to the success of telecom organizations. It emphasizes guidance rather than a prescriptive "how to" approach to planning and implementing continual improvement.

 To paraphrase a statement by Mary Hattrick of Marconi and Gene Hutchison of SBC葉he current co-chairs of the BEAM Team擁f we consider ourselves as handymen/women improving our houses, then our challenge is to have a vision of the "dream house" and then to select the best tools at the right time to work toward that vision. (For more information on BEAM, see Hattrick and Hutchison's article, "Moving from QMS Conformance to Business Excellence in Telecom," which appeared in the April 2002 issue of Quality Digest.)

 This brings us back to Fusion Management. The key to lasting success is recognizing that business processes must be fused into a whole so that tool kits such as Six Sigma and lean enterprise support the goals and objectives defined at the strategic level. The tools and methods must, in turn, be supported by a sound management system that institutionalizes them as normal parts of the daily business process. The BEAM Team's approach is strong evidence that industry is beginning to understand this concept.


About the author

 Stanley A. Marash, Ph.D., is chairman and CEO of STAT-A-MATRIX Inc. E-mail him at smarash@qualitydigest.com . Fusion Management is a trademark of STAT-A-MATRIX Inc. ©2001 STAT-A-MATRIX Inc. All rights reserved. Letters to the editor regarding this column can be e-mailed to letters@qualitydigest.com  .


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