Learning from Geary Rummler

Those of you who have talked with me a lot or have read some of my work (especially No Magic Bullet) know how highly I think of Geary Rummler.  The performance world lost a true friend and original pathfinder when he passed away in 2008.

I was fortunate to get a number of unique opportunities to collaborate with Geary.  He and I both served on ASTD’s Board of Directors at the same time—we had some great discussions.  He took all of the kidding from some of us about his last book (Really Serious Guide to Performance Consulting) in good spirit.

He contributed greatly to a couple of articles I wrote for T+D (about the most common mistakes of new performance consultants and the future of the profession).  I had promised all people I interviewed confidentiality (though Geary with his typical attitude insisted that he didn’t care he knew what he’d said).  Now that he’s departed, I can admit he was one of the good friends and trusted performance leaders that gave so freely and allowed those articles to earn the praise they got.

When I was asked to write the chapter on the history and development of the performance field for ASTD’s Handbook for Learning Professionals, Geary was essential.  He was one of the first people I turned to and he diplomatically (not a word often used with Geary) steered me away from a stupid approach to the chapter that would not have served anyone well.  He was a goldmine of content and most of all he was himself.  The combinations of emails, letters, and phone conversations with him on that project were a lot of fun.

Geary’s contributions to the performance field around a systems approach to analyzing and fixing performance are one of the “big ideas” that still doesn’t get enough praise from those of us in the field.  I think this (even with my previous background in systems thinking) probably had more influence on my own performance work than any other insight or content I’ve picked up in doing this work.

Geary was clearly one of the good guys.  So for those of you who believe in an afterlife know that going to Heaven, he’d immediately set to work partnering with St. Peter to create a better process for admission through the Pearly Gates but ultimately would probably decide that there was more work to do with Satan in terms of process improvement (lots of obvious work-arounds and those eternal fires clearly indicate some environmental influences).  God bless you Geary!

Joe Willmore, President