A Day of Great Sadness – Dr. Geary A. Rummler Has Passed Away

I just got an email from ISPI HQ notifying the Past Presidents of the passing of Geary A. Rummler, PhD, CPT, from an apparent heart attack in Tucson.

Geary is/was my mentor, my professional guru – among many others for sure – but Geary was #1. And I’m probably too old for that to change now.

I first became aware of Rummer and Gilbert and their firm Praxis in 1979 when I began my post-college career.

I worked for his brother-in-law, Roger Varney, for my last 9 months at Wickes Lumber in Saginaw Michigan in 1980/1981. I had spent the prior 9 months working for and with a couple of his disciples (who themselves had worked with Geary’s brother Rick at Blue Cross-Blue Shield in Detroit). I was an early adopter, a Rummler- ite. I then met Geary personally at the NSPI Conference in Dallas in the spring of 1980. It was the year I also met Harless, Mager and Thiagi too, among many others at that conference. I think I’d already met Harold Stolovich at the local NSPI chapter at a monthly meeting.

I have all of Geary’s books. This is Geary’s latest book: Serious Performance Consulting – I have a treasured, signed copy at home – not at the office where it would certainly have disappeared.

I got a chance right after Wickes to work at MTEC – Motorola’s Training & Education Center in 1981 – for Bill Wiggenhorn – where I worked on several major projects as the TPS – Training Project Supervisor with Geary as my hired gun consultant – so I learned a lot from him and from Carol Panza who was with Geary at the time. I was in the video session at MTEC with Geary that I put up on Google Video (link down below). I spent quality time for days and days with him in his office in Union NJ working on MTEC projects. I fondly remember walks around the block (once or twice) as mid-morning breaks and after lunch. Lunch was at a place called The Office.

There are other Blog Postings that I have written (or need to write yet) that go into those ISD and PI projects and other involvements I had with Dr. Rummler over the years – but I won’t go into many of those here. I’ll do that later.

We kept in touch over the years mostly at NSPI – then at ISPI events. But I did talk with him on the phone typically a couple of times a year. I always had ISPI stuff to talk with him about. Back in 2002 he agreed to co-author an article with me – trying to update the definition of HPT – Human Performance Technology. I told him every year at every ISPI conference, when I sat in the front row for each of his sessions, that I was back for my booster shot. And that it would be “easier to heckle him” from the front.

At the last ISPI conference in NYNY I did get a video of him in the series of “HPT Practitioner Podcasts” that I had started within ISPI. I wish we had sat down for a more rambling interview in addition to the tight script that I was using for that series. I had already been giving thought to what I might interview him about at the next conference.

He sent me this photo several years ago/ maybe a decade ago. I have also worked with him and his son Matt (this must be from 1999) in his Tucson office – behind the main house. See the photo of the two of them below.

I got to spend a dozen days in total visiting and working with him in Tucson when I brought him into my GM and Siemens Building Technology client projects.

He found work for me too on occasion.

In the photo below with his son Matt – he is wearing my firm’s “CADDI hat” (CADDI was my firm after SWI and prior to EPPIC – which was/is prior to my current Wachovia gig) that I had brought to Tucson for him – just for fun! He had the photo taken after I had left – and then he sent it to me. I think he suggested that I use it in CADDI marketing.

Geary had a great, dry sense of humor. Which is very evident in the video of him presenting to the MTEC staff back in 1981 – which he recently allowed me to make both public and downloadable! If anybody knows of more Rummler video – let’s get it on the web!!!

Working with him at MTEC made it a very difficult decision to leave when I did – on October 31 of 1982 – in the middle of two Rummler projects – although it was the right one for me. And we did stay connected.

One of those two projects led to Motorola’s Six Sigma efforts. Many do not know the real background about Six Sigma and Geary’s role in that – as documented by Geary’s partner at The Performance Design Lab, Alan Ramias (along with PDL partners Rick Rummler (Geary’s son) and Cherie Wilkins were Geary’spartners), in his article The Mists of Six Sigma – which I had encouraged Alan to write/document after hearing the stories about this for almost 20 years.

Alan, who had worked with me at MTEC as a TPS – had inherited my two projects with Geary when I left. So I wondered what happened to my white paper idea, that my boss Paul Heidenreich turned into a project called the “Do-It-Yourself Geary Rummler Consulting Kit” – which became – OPS: the Organizational Performance Systems workshop – where managers brought in their real problems and via a series of meetings met to solve the problem one step at a time – with homework assignments in between the working meetings for data gathering and analysis – where the focus was on the process/processes and the product and process requriements/metrics. Enter quality tools – and what a blend as they might say!!!

Geary Rummler brought the process perspective into TQM and Six Sigma.

That famous “swimlane chart” – yeah, he invented that. I have hand drawn copies from the early 1980s (and earlier Praxis documents from the mid-1970s) of his approach to modeling processes. His thinking about process was a great influence on me – and I already thought that way.

Check out the little symbol template on his desk in front of him in the next photo. I have one he gave me back in 1981 somewhere in my collections of stuff. I’ll have to go find that now. And re-read a couple of books he gave me for airplane reading back in 1981/2 when we traveled together between Chicago, Newark, Phoenix, Ft. Worth and Ft. Lauderdale – where my Motorola manufacturing, purchasing and materials organization Clients were, and his shop in NJ.

Many of you know that my PACT Processes (lean-ISD) methodologies were extensions of his performance orientation and performance analysis/modeling methods – and that when I asked him in 1999 to review the book lean-ISD and approve my language about portions of the methodology being derived from his methods – he did so – wrote a wonderful review/endorsement – and he even designed a different cover from the one that I was thinking about using. It’s the one that is in use.

Geary was always very generous to me. And pretty damn humble for someone so accomplished.

When I was in his offices in the late 1990s he had a giant 4 on a flip chart sized piece of paper, taped to a wall. Eventually I had to ask.

“The game is won in the 4th quarter,” was his reply.

Damn. The good do die too young!

Geary A. Rummler – how many performance improvement professionals of many stripes did you influence – both directly and indirectly!?! Tens of thousands minimally I would venture. Probably hundreds of thousands. And his influence won’t stop now. It will continue.

May peace be with your wife Margaret, and your 3 sons and their families.

I know the ISPI family is in great shock and mourning. So is the PDL, ASTD, BPM and other communities/families you were also networked with.

I am in great shock and saddened.

I will post additional details as I receive them.

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