The Whiz Kids were a group of ten United States Army Air Forces veterans of World War II who became Ford Motor Company executives in 1946.
The group was part of a management science operation within the Army Air Force known as Statistical Control, organized to coordinate all the operational and logistical information required to manage the waging of war. They participated in the broader revolution in logistical and organizational science that World War II fostered. After the war, some of the group discussed opportunities to go into business together.
They were led by their commanding officer, Charles B. "Tex" Thornton. The others were:
The group was part of a management science operation within the Army Air Force known as Statistical Control, organized to coordinate all the operational and logistical information required to wage war. Thornton had been recommended to the assistant secretary of War, Robert A. Lovett, by a mutual acquaintance who thought Lovett would find use for the ambitious and energetic Thornton. Upon finding mass confusion, Thornton developed the idea of an information gathering organization within the service and gained Lovett's support to create the organization, which recruited and trained officer candidates who were selected through intelligence testing. After the war, some of the group discussed opportunities to go into business together.
Thornton wrote to several corporations, offering their services as a group — all ten, or nothing. Henry Ford II had recently taken over the company from his ailing grandfather and, needing management help badly, agreed.
Starting at Ford
The group initially worked together as one organization, the planning department, headed by Thornton. McNamara was Thornton's deputy; Miller focused on reports for senior management, Lundy on financial planning, Mills on facility and program plans, Reith on administrative budgets, and Wright, Moore and Bosworth on administrative issues. Over a few years, they all attracted favorable attention for their work, and some began to move on to other assignments.
The "Whiz Kids" helped the company to implement sophisticated management control systems to govern the company, control costs, and review strategic progress. They also instituted modern recruitment and training programs and career planning aimed to provide Ford Motors with a financial talent pool.
Seven of the ten went on to senior management positions. Thornton left Ford in 1948 due to personality conflicts with executives Ernie Breech and Lewis Crusoe, moving on to Hughes Aircraft, and later was head of Litton Industries. McNamara went on to become the United States Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy, and the team he built there inherited the "Whiz Kids" name and carried on a similar ethos of ops research.