1st Friday Favorite Guru: Geary A. Rummler

This month – August 2012 – we start on the First Friday with another of my favorite gurus…

Geary Rummler

I had a great relationship with Geary. He was one of my many mentors.

I first met Geary at an NSPI Conference in Dallas in April 1980. I was working alongside his brother-in-law at Wickes Lumber in Saginaw and two who had worked with his brother Rick at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in Detroit. When I left Wickes and joined Motorola in the spring of 1981 I got a chance to work with Geary (and Carol Panza) on a bunch of projects – as they were “my” consultants – meaning I got to carry their pencils. Here we are in Phoenix at my boss’ office in 1982.

Here is my copy of “Serious Performance Consulting” which I bought at the ISPI Conference bookstore at the Tampa Conference in 2004 – which happened to be “my” conference – for as President it was my job to pick a theme and pick the Keynote Speakers.

One of the Many Things I Learned From Geary

I think perhaps his most famous contribution, something he developed with his college buddy, Dale Brethower, is the General Systems Model. Once I asked Geary why Dale and he had separately published this model with their own copyrights on it. Who created it, I asked. Geary told me that he believed that Dale was holding the marker pen when they were creating this on flip chart paper.

Here is a version of that, created by my graphic artist on staff for the CADDI Winter 2000 Newsletter, available – here.

What I Also Learned From Geary

I learned from Geary many things in projects when I was at Motorola in 1981-2. We worked on a half-dozen or so efforts – and they were always a great learning experience. The adaptable mental models he used for analysis data – that he drew out on paper; and the daily debriefings and postulations and planning for confirmation. He bought books for me that he thought I should read. We worked together on several ISPI Committees and Task Forces. He gave me work and I found work for him with a couple of my clients.

He reviewed my book “lean-ISD”  face-to-face with me in his Tucson office and then by himself after I left. He wrote a great review for the book and my ISD methods  – and he also designed a new book cover – without my prompting. He was always so generous.

Lean-ISD - Rummler

Video: Geary A. Rummler – 2008

Video: Geary Rummler at MTEC – 1981

Other Resources

Another Video: Geary Rummler on Needs Analysis – 1986

More Video: Geary Rummler on Performance Engineering – 1986

My Favorite Memories of Geary

Debriefings about the day’s discoveries/confirmations – before, during and after dinner. And chats about fictional books we were reading, including the Travis McGee Series (John MacDonald). He bought a copy of The Right Stuff for me in a Florida airport so we could discuss the book.

He sent me my first Robert Parker book, a few months after I had left Motorola …

Many of us recall the stick figures he drew representing “people.”

Dinners with him at NSPI/ISPI Conferences (Spring and Fall) over the years.

Walks around the block where his office was located in Summit NJ after lunch.

Walks on a desert trail in AZ after lunch.

And many, many more memories.

And – he (re)designed my 1999 book cover – unasked for but gratefully accepted – for lean-ISD…


And he wrote a great quote for the book’s marketing.

And one of his most famous quotes…


Share Your Stories

If Geary has been a valuable influence and/or resource for you – please share your stories about that in the comments section below. And thank you for sharing!

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16 comments on “1st Friday Favorite Guru: Geary A. Rummler

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