You don’t attain the ripe outdated age of 101 with out accumulating just a few tales, and by all accounts, Arjay Miller had them in spades. The previous Ford Motor Firm “Whiz Child,” a part of a bunch of younger males employed en mass by Henry Ford II following the Second World Warfare, joined his colleagues in turning round a once-revolutionary automaker that had fallen behind the instances.
After attaining this objective, Miller discovered himself president of the corporate, solely to surrender the soft, high-flying government existence for the low-paid tutorial life he appeared to favor.
Miller, 101, died of a stroke at his Woodside, California house on November third. Stanford College, the place Miller served as dean of the Stanford Graduate Faculty of Enterprise for 10 years following his departure from Ford, reported the loss of life on Tuesday.
From his rural upbringing in Nebraska, Miller’s path took him to California, the place his training consisted of a bachelor of science diploma in finance and banking from the College of California, Los Angeles. This could quickly turn out to be useful.
With eyesight too poor for abroad service in World Warfare Two, Miller’s skills led him to the Military Air Drive’s workplace of statistical management — a constructing filled with vibrant minds capable of tabulate knowledge in a world bereft of computer systems. When the battle ended, 10 of these males, Miller amongst them, grouped collectively and pitched themselves to potential employers. Ford Motor Firm, newly headed by an inexperienced Henry Ford II (seen above, to the best of Miller), seized the chance.
The automaker, as soon as the envy of the world, was dropping cash yr after yr. It wanted new product, trendy gross sales and accounting practices, and a change in tradition. The Whiz Youngsters, as the boys got here to be identified, spent 15 years doing precisely this. With Henry Ford II on the helm and the 10 former statisticians unfold in regards to the firm, Dearborn was capable of capitalize on the postwar financial increase.
It’s essential to notice that the Whiz Youngsters weren’t given free reign. Early on, senior executives breathed down their necks.
“It was unbelievable,” Miller as soon as stated in an interview with Automotive Information. “Throughout World Warfare II [Ford] misplaced cash on cost-plus contracts. Now that takes some talent, to lose cash on a cost-plus contract.”
Theft by staff was rampant, and the cost practices for each staff and suppliers was horribly outdated — a legacy of the brand new boss’ grandfather, Henry Ford.
“It was simply elementary,” Miller stated of the issues the group confronted. “It was like capturing fish in a barrel.”
Finally, one of many group’s members, Robert McNamara, started exerting extra affect than the others, spearheading initiatives just like the Ford Falcon compact automotive and getting rid of the ill-conceived Edsel model. McNamara turned firm president in 1960, solely to go away for an opportunity to function President John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defence (a task that introduced him a lot infamy).
Miller took the president’s chair in 1963, serving underneath CEO Henry Ford II till 1968. In its obituary, The New York Occasions cites “coverage variations” as the explanation for Miller choosing a brand new president. It’s not arduous to guess with whom these variations occurred — Miller’s alternative, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, was fired the next yr by the identical man that lured him away from Basic Motors: Henry Ford II. A rising government within the Ford ranks — the Okay-car man himself, Lee Iacocca — took over Knudsen’s job in 1970.
Miller stepped down as vice-chairman of the automaker’s board of administrators in 1969 (remaining a member till 1986) and headed to Stanford. He then served as dean of the Stanford Graduate Faculty of Enterprise till 1979.
Because the final Whiz Child, Miller’s loss of life closes a captivating chapter within the historical past of the American automotive trade. Of their time, the Whiz Youngsters noticed no scarcity of scorn from throughout the trade and their very own firm, with the design aspect of the enterprise complaining that knowledge and numbers couldn’t sculpt or promote a wonderful automotive. Miller stated such characterizations — of being perceived as chilly and indifferent — at all times bothered him.
“We weren’t a bunch of accountants,” Miller informed AN. “We knew the significance of individuals.”
Actually, in his tutorial life Miller preached the advantages of ethics and ethical duty, believing that public coverage and enterprise, when mixed, may result in optimistic social change. The previous government was inducted into the Automotive Corridor of Fame in 2006.
In 2014, Miller endowed the Frances and Arjay Miller Fellowship in Social Innovation, recognizing two college students every year for his or her work in social innovation.
[Image: Stanford Graduate School of Business]