Remembering Rummler

RIP Geary A. Rummler, Ph.D. – April 16, 1937 – October 29, 2008.

Today is the anniversary of his birthday – April 16th. The Good Doctor – as I always referred to him – was THE KEY Mentor to me over the decades. And I’ve had many.

At NSPI/ISPI and ASTD and Lakewood conferences in the 1980s and 1990s, I’d always seek out his sessions and plant myself in the first row. He’d see me and say hello and I’d say I was there for my annual booster shot.

Day 1 – August 6, 1979

On my first day out of college in my new job at Wickes Lumber I was given 3 items to read/study. That Praxis Newsletter on Guidance (Job Aids/Performance Support) is from September/October 1970. I was told we would be defaulting to Job Aids versus Training – until our clients stopped us because they hated that. they wanted Training. So we embedded Job Aids into our Training.

Before that 1st evening back at the hotel, my orientation to Performance Analysis began, ala a derivative of a derivative of a Geary A. Rummler approach to Performance Analysis. His name was mentioned many times over the next 8 months until I met THE MAN at an NSPI Conference in Dallas the next April.

Later that first week at Wickes I was given a binder with the handouts from a 1972 and a 1973 Praxis workshop my boss or co-worker had attended. On page 4xx was this

Day 1 Minus 7 – June 1981

Bill Wiggenhorn, who had recently hired me for a start date of June 15, 1981, invited me to come in one week early to attend a one-day workshop put on by Geary. Here is a video (finally produced a few years later and shared with me by Sam Volpe. Geary gave me permission to post this on the Internet.)

I came in one week before my official start date from Saginaw Michigan to attend this one-day session in Schaumburg Illinois. Then I worked with Geary on a dozen or so projects over the next 16 months before I left to join a small consulting group.

Here is the handout from that 1981 session:

And in late 1981- early 1982 he began an effort to design our MTEC Performance-Based Training Design (Analysis-Design-Development) methodology – and he mapped it in the swimlane format that he was so fond of.

Another item that I valued was this flowchart…


I heard him say this back in 1980 – and over the years the phrase changed slightly.


I met with Geary to review my first solo book, lean-ISD, in his Tucson offices for two days. He didn’t like the cover of the draft I shared with him, so he had a new one created and gave me that and this quote.


Part of my intention to run for the ISPI Presidency was to help Clarify HPT. I asked Geary to assist me with that effort – as I was still thinking about his 1983 article in the Society’s Journal – and we co-authored the following as the kick-Off to what became my Presidential initiative – which Judy hale allowed me to start during her presidency and Jim Hill allowed me to continue during his reign.

More about that Rummler-inspired initiative can be read over here at this site.

RIP 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 and son Rick Rummler) 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

  • Linking Organizational & Individual Performance Through Measures – Rummler 1994 – 90 minute audio file
  • Article about the roots of Six Sigma at Motorola and Rummler’s role in that by Alan Ramias, who was a co-worker at MTEC with me, and inherited several projects when I left that were with Geary, including what Paul Heidenreich, my boss, called: The DIY Rummler Consulting Kit” – the result of my 1982 White Paper on integrating Rummler, Rackham and the Quality stuff from Deming and Juran, Crosby.
  • Finding Business Issues – with Geary Rummler – CADDI Newsletter Summer 2001 –  here.

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…


And there’s this. NSFW.

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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