How the West Found Baldrige

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

What do the American West, Six Sigma, cowboy ethics, commerce, and quality improvement have to do with one another?

They are all elements of the story of Malcolm Baldrige, U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Ronald Reagan; Baldrige was passionate about the American West and U.S. business. That passion continues to be honored today not only by a national program in his name but by state and sector Baldrige-based programs that spread the Baldrige process to local communities.

But it’s Quality New Mexico, which uses as its slogan “the state of quality,” that has a very new mexicopersonal connection to the Baldrige family.

A recent article by Nigel Hey, “The Story of Mac Baldrige and Quality New Mexico,” outlines how Mac Baldrige and his commitment to increase U.S. business productivity and customer satisfaction led to the birth of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program to support the competitiveness and sustainability of U.S. organizations, and how that national program took root in New Mexico.

The story begins with Motorola’s 1981 initiative for a tenfold improvement in quality that included the development of Six Sigma and the manufacturer’s implementation of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence.

“To achieve the quality goal demanded by Six Sigma, Motorola required that suppliers start their own Baldrige-based quality programs,” writes Hey. “One such supplier was AT&T, which created an internal Chairman’s Quality Award based strictly on the Baldrige Criteria and required each division to submit a Baldrige application covering its internal quality program.” One of AT&T’s suppliers was Sandia National Laboratories, based in Albuquerque, NM.

In 1991, at the invitation of U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Motorola’s COO Chris Galvin spoke to business leaders in Las Cruces, NM, explaining that quality was “his company’s main weapon of defense against the onslaught of new foreign competitors.”

After site visits to Motorola headquarters and to a state Baldrige-based program helping organizations improve in Minnesota, New Mexican business leaders and Senator Bingaman became convinced that a Baldrige-based program in New Mexico could help state organizations stem the tide of lost business to foreign competition and increase job opportunities.

In 1993, with the support of Sandia National Laboratories, Quality New Mexico was born, with the vision of turning New Mexico into a quality state.

Read the full story here of how Baldrige expanded to New Mexico and the value it brought across the United States.

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