Kaufman was born and raised in Washington D.C. The son of a mathematical physicist/electrical engineer, Kaufman credits his father's influence for how he has approached his work. In a recent interview with Stephanie Moore, Kaufman explained how there are both two kinds of calculus - differential and integral. First we learn to differentiate, then we learn but don't always apply integration. This began to drive him to look for how everything integrates, "how it all goes together," which led him to develop his Mega model and the Organizational Elements Model (OEM) that links three levels of results with two levels of resources and methods. Kaufman's bachelor's degree from George Washington University in Psychology, Sociology and Statistics. He completed a Master's at Johns Hopkins University in Psychology and Industrial Engineering. This foundation in both psychology and industrial engineering, along with his emphasis on statistics and social sciences, played a significant role the development his Mega planning model for measurable societal value added as a strategic planning model for organizations. Kaufman completed his doctorate in Communications at New York University. He previously spent time at University of California, Berkeley completing additional doctoral work in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.
Kaufman's professional work has been in multiple industries. Prior to his academic positions, he worked for aerospace organizations including Martin-Baltimore (now Lockheed), Boeing and Douglas Aircraft Company primarily focused on human factors, training, and research. In 1998, he established Roger Kaufman & Associates, a team of human performance professionals who consult with organizations on strategic planning and performance improvement. Upon completion of his doctorate, Kaufman taught at several universities, UC Irvine (adjunct professor), Chapman University (Professor of Education), United States International University (Professor of Psychology and Human Behavior), New Jersey Institute of Technology (Research Professor of Engineering Management), and University of Central Florida (Industrial engineer faculty Affiliate). From 1997-2004, Kaufman contributed at Old Dominion University as Research Professor of Engineering Management.
Concurrently with most of this work, Kaufman was a professor at Florida State University (FSU), from 1975–2003, for the position he would eventually be awarded professor emeritus status in Educational Psychology and Learning Systems and awarded the Professorial Excellence Award. While at FSU, Kaufman established and directed the Center for Educational Development and Evaluation and also served as Director of the Office of Needs Assessment and Planning all with the Learning Systems Institute. During his time at FSU he worked on numerous initiatives for the state of Florida on needs assessment, evaluation, and societal planning, including work with the Florida Department of Education, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Division of Blind Services, Division of Adult & Community Education, the Governor's office,and the United States Navy (Chief of Naval Education & Training/Office of Naval Research) - to name just a few. In August, 2004, he became Distinguished Research Professor at Sonora Institute of Technology (ITSON) in Sonora, Mexico.
Kaufman has been the recipient of numerous professional awards including Fellow (American Psychology Association), Fellow (American Educational Research Association), Fellow of the American Educational Research Association, Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance (ASTD), and Meritorious Public Service Medal (US Coast Guard/Department of Homeland Security). He was co-founder of what is now the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). He has received 14 awards from the association including Significant Contribution Award, and Honorary Member-for-Life (their highest honor). He has served as President of ISPI and founded the New York Chapter of the association. Kaufman has published over 275 articles and 41 books on strategic planning, change management, needs assessment, assessment, evaluation and organizational improvement.
One of the defining characteristics of Kaufman's work is his emphasis on "need" as a noun, not a verb; it is a gap in results and consequences, not a gap in resources or methods. Kaufman explains when "need" is used as a verb, it presupposes a solution before identifying the actual problem to be solved. When using 'need' as a verb, an intervention has been selected prior to a clear definition of the actual gap in results that would be addressed. Once a gap, or need, is accurately identified, only then can a means be sensibly selected for moving from current to desired results.
Kaufman expanded this approach to "need" from looking at gaps in products to gaps in outputs and then outcomes: from building block results to results delivered outside the organization to external client and societal results - what the organization used, does, produces, and delivers and the consequences all of that adds measurable value for our shared society. Used in this way, cost-consequences estimates may be made to prioritize closing gaps on the basis of the cost to meet the need as compared to the costs to ignore the need.
Kaufman identified three types, or levels, of needs: Mega, Macro, and Micro. And Change, Choices, and Consequences published by HRD Press. The following table details the levels of needs and their definitions.
These levels of needs are also levels of planning for any organization and indicate a relationship between the levels. Alignment of objectives at each level is critical to ensure that planning translates into clear organizational operations and ensure that activities at each level add value back up the chain linking measurable to societal value-added. As a consequence, no level of results is any more important than the others. Rather, it is the alignment of all levels that is critical to achieving desired results.
Extensive examples of planning and aligned objectives can be found in Moore, 2010 and Moore, Ellsworth & Kaufman, 2008.
Kaufman has developed a model for strategic thinking and planning he calls "Mega Planning." Kaufman argues that many organizational planning models incorrectly begin, and end, with internal or organizational performance and therefore fail to provide organizations a chance to plan how they deliver value outside of their organizations. Traditional planning ends with "Macro" level results, which are organizational results such as profits, graduation rates, ratings, etc. While these are important measures of organizational performance, they do not indicate the impact of an organization on external clients and society. Kaufman's model is similar to some of the concepts behind "double bottom line" literature.
"Mega Planning" starts with the question of "What kind of world do you want for your children and grand-children?" with responses distilled in terms of consequences. An Ideal Vision defines the measurable variables for Mega planning including survival, self-sufficiency, and quality of life. He calls Mega planning (a system approach) "Mother's Rule" because if you ask just about any mother what kind of world they want for their children, they don't talk to means (credentials of teachers, money spent on social programs) but the survival, health, and happiness of their children.
At the Sonora Institute of Technology (ITSON) in Sonora, Mexico, Kaufman and colleagues have worked with the President of the Institute to create a certification, Master's degree, and Ph.D. based on needs assessment and Mega planning. Students at the Ph.D. level must be working in a company or head of a company and must apply the Mega principles in a real-world project. Evidence of ITSON's results were first described by Guerra and Rodriguez. ITSON also set up a Performance Improvement Institute for applied R&D where there are currently 20 organizations applying Mega thinking and planning.
Other applications include with the US Coast Guard, Concientia (Argentina), Ohio Department of Administration and the Ohio public employees union, the Australian Department of Defense, the New Zealand Army, the Republic of Panama, Refinor de Argentina, among 100+ public and private organizations committed to adding value to all internal and external clients.