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by Laura Smith

Julia Gabaldón, president and CEO of Quality New Mexico, hosts the only weekly radio show on quality issues in the United States. Every Sunday, from 5 to 6 p.m., you can find her behind the microphone at 770 KKOB AM, discussing quality in manufacturing, health care, business, education and government. Recent topics have included “Experiences in Building a High-Performing Organization” and “Meaningful Results by Comparing and Benchmarking.” She’s joined by guests who offer their experiences for the benefit of the listening audience.

Gabaldón herself has a long history in the quality industry. A champion of the Baldrige Award and criteria, she’s a former Baldrige examiner and a current member of the Baldrige Board of Overseers.


QD: Tell us about your background. How long have you been in the quality industry, and how did you get started?

Gabaldón: I’ve led Quality New Mexico, the official administrator of the New Mexico Quality Awards, since its inception in 1993. Motorola’s Chris Galvin challenged our state to embark on a quality journey in the early 1990s. At the request of Senator Jeff Bingaman, Sandia National Laboratories appointed me to facilitate New Mexico’s quality initiative to enhance our state’s economic competitiveness. I’ve served as a member of the Board of Examiners for the President’s Quality Award and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and I currently serve on the Baldrige Award Board of Overseers. I’ve hosted and produced radio and television shows in New Mexico on a part-time basis for the past 25 years. I received my B.A. and M.A. from the University of New Mexico in Spanish/English and secondary education.

QD: Why a radio show? What kind of questions and/or comments do you get on the air?

Gabaldón: The Quality New Mexico Radio Show on AM 770 KKOB is a wonderful opportunity to promote performance excellence in New Mexico. The weekly show airs on Sundays at 5 p.m. and the shows are posted on the Quality New Mexico Web site at www.qualitynewmexico.org. I interview people from throughout the United States, including New Mexico Quality Award recipients and Baldrige Award recipients. My guests share their best practices, challenges and successes.

QD: There are many competing quality principles, programs and philosophies. Is it possible for a company or organization to be overmanaged?

Gabaldón: Overmanaged, perhaps. I believe the major issue is that we confuse people with all the quality programs and philosophies. We have to do a better job communicating how they link together to help us improve our
organizations. The Baldrige criteria for performance excellence is a proven framework for organizational excellence.

QD: Do you use any quality principles in your own business? If so, how did you choose this philosophy?

Gabaldón: We use the Baldrige criteria for performance excellence as our business model. We have our organizational profile and assessment at the Piñon Level. In New Mexico, we have a staircase to performance excellence: Piñon (Commitment), Roadrunner (Progress) and Zia (Excellence), so we have to be a model of performance. We plan to apply for a Baldrige Award in the not-for-profit category in the near future. We have a passion to improve New Mexico, to make it a “State of Excellence.”

QD: With international manufacturing growing so quickly, how can American manufacturers compete?

Gabaldón: Our global marketplace is a reality. U.S. manufacturers can compete by becoming stronger and healthier organizations. In addition, our educational, government and health care systems can improve by becoming customer-focused and high-performing organizations.

QD: Is there a company or organization, in the United States or abroad, that you think is doing an exceptional job in providing quality products or processes?

Gabaldón: I’d have to say our own Los Alamos National Bank, which in 2000 became the only bank in the nation, and the only business in New Mexico, to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Their customers love them!

QD: What can be done to increase the public’s awareness of quality?

Gabaldón: I encourage our business leaders to get involved in their respective state quality award programs and with the Baldrige National Quality Program. We have an incredible opportunity to improve everything we do on behalf of our customers—from restaurants to schools to hospitals. The public will notice.

QD: Which should be more important to consumers: price or quality?

Gabaldón: Price is important! Quality is important! If an object is defect-free, delivered on time and with a smile, quality wins.

QD: Where do you think the quality movement is headed?

Gabaldón: Business leaders in the United States have not fully embraced the Baldrige criteria for performance excellence as their business model. We have an opportunity to improve our nation’s competitiveness. The quality movement can help us achieve a quality United States.

About the author
Laura Smith is Quality Digest’s assistant editor.