“Whiz Kids” Brought Financial Expertise and Modern Management to Ford Motor Company

As Ford Motor Company and the world struggled to recover from World War II, Henry Ford II hired 10 young former officers from the U.S. Army Air Force. As they began to apply their talents at the company, they were dubbed the “Whiz Kids.”

Meet the Whiz Kids

The Whiz Kids had gained fame during World War II by creating a management information system that provided data on airplanes, personnel and munitions to aid top generals in making important decisions.

Henry Ford II realized the talents needed to create such a sophisticated management system would be invaluable to the revitalization of his company. Henry II hired the Whiz Kids, and the new recruits, whose average age was just 30, set to work. They visited one Ford department after another, asking so many questions that employees nicknamed them the "Quiz Kids," which later became the "Whiz Kids."

Building a Better Business

During their fact-finding mission, the Whiz Kids discovered that the company had no cost accounting and was estimating its expenses by weighing or measuring the sacks of invoices that arrived in the accounting department. There was no balance sheet, crude property records and scant bookkeeping. Only the banking slips, generated by the bank, provided any clues.

Three of the Whiz Kids—J. Edward "Ed" Lundy, Arjay R. Miller, and Robert S. McNamara—prepared the first financial review and began the task of building a system of financial controls. Along with their fellow Whiz Kids, these three financial disciplinarians brought quantitative analysis and the science of modern management to Ford Motor Company.

Besides Lundy, McNamara and Miller, the Whiz Kids included Charles Bates "Tex" Thornton, George Moore, Wilbur R. "Gene" Andreson, Charles E. Bosworth, Ben Davis Mills, Francis C. Reith and James O. Wright.

The Whiz Kids helped Henry Ford II and his management team create a corporate structure with individual accounting systems throughout the company. Each division became a separate "profit center." That term passed into the corporate lexicon, and the Whiz Kids became famous worldwide for their role in the transformation of Ford Motor Company.