posted 4 Mar 2009 in Volume 12 Issue 5
The Knowledge: Jack Grayson
To people not directly associated with the American Productivity and
But Jack Grayson, founder and chairman of the organisation four decades ago, remains quite active at the age of 85 and wants to live to be 113. “By the time I reach 113,” he says, “deCODE will give me more reports to help me so I can go on to the next phase of my life which is to reach 150.” A company that does genetic scans, deCODE predicts, among other things, life expectancy based on genetics, prevention and lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Grayson works fulltime on APQC’s education initiatives to bring process benchmarking to the forefront of the K-12 education system.
Several lifetimes already
He has already packed several ‘lifetimes’ into his current 85 years. Before founding APQC he was a New Orleans newspaper reporter, a special agent of the FBI, a manager of a cotton farm in northern Louisiana, a member of an export-import firm, an owner of race horses, a pilot of a single-engine airplane, and a skydiver (on his 75th birthday).
But his claim to national fame came in 1971 when he was appointed chairman of the US Price Commission during the period of price-wage controls necessitated by an international economic crisis not unlike the one the world faces now.
The commission was established when President Richard Nixon froze wages and prices for 90 days, got Congress to repeal certain excise taxes and took the US off the gold standard.
Nixon’s strategy worked. Though few liked the controls, Grayson was accorded national recognition by the press, business people and labor unions for his fair and firm administration of controls.
Value of productivity
During this time Grayson learnt how important productivity was to the economy and noticed growth in American productivity was slowing. When he returned from public life to rejoin the private sector he founded the American Productivity Center (APC), later to be expanded to APQC when he added the focus on quality in the 1980s.
He went back to
After the name of his ‘think tank’ was expanded from APC to APQualityC, the acronym seems to have become frozen, even though the organisation continues to expand to meet the changing needs of modern management, including KM. In fact – with the Ps and Qs in its name in conflict with many KM views – APQC is still the acclaimed leader of KM research, thought leadership, process development and education in the
When APC was founded in 1977 as a non-profit organisation, United States Steel Corporation ran ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal quoting Grayson saying “We improve our business system or lose our world competitiveness.”
His vision for APQC was to “empower people and organisations with data, benchmarks and best practices so they can transform their organisations”. Then and now Grayson’s goal has also been to transform the entire
Leading role in Baldrige
APQC played a leading role in developing the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the Open Standard Benchmarking Collaborative, and over the last decade a number of knowledge management process management tools.
Grayson has a simple way of demystifying process management. “Getting up in the morning is a process. Driving your car is a process. Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a process. Going to work is a process.”
It follows that business is a collection of processes:
Developing strategic plans;
Creating an organisational structure;
Designing and inventing products;
Producing products and services;
Marketing and selling products;
Managing facilities and supplies;
Today APQC has a staff of 90 and a budget of $12m. Thirty per cent of that comes from 500 corporate members while 70 per cent is generated from fees for service. The heart of APQC still runs on Grayson’s founding view.
Knowledge is everything at APQC, even where the Ps and Qs are concerned.
But what is knowledge without learning? While Carla O’Dell was developing a powerful knowledge management initiative in the ’90s and early 2000s, Grayson was leading the creation of APQC’s education initiative to help educational institutions restructure academic and administrative process by identifying, adapting and implementing best practices found in all sectors including education, business, health care and government.
The practical academic
This is from yet another side of Dr C. Jackson Grayson, graduate with a bachelor’s from
His academic career has included professorships at Harvard, Stanford, Tulane and Southern Methodist University (SMU) and he has taught in business schools in
No wonder then that this man – who has at least once been called a ‘maverick’ – thinks differently.
Also meaningful is the fact that this educational initiative dovetails with all the other expert areas of APQC – benchmarking, process management, innovation, quality improvement, knowledge management, data management, knowledge sharing and the transfer of best practices.
In Jack Grayson’s world, all these things are never ‘either/or’. Never narrowly focused, Grayson believes in variety, constant learning, experimentation… and fun! He’s a CPA and has served on the boards of directors of a number of large corporations but, as you can see, his focus is not confined to business.
Grayson is the first person in the world outside of the scientific community to have his genome scanned as part of deCODE’s private service. For him, it isn’t so much about extending life as it is about reaching his maximum potential.
“I’ve spent my lifetime helping people and organisations maximise their potential and I feel like I’ve got several more decades in me.”