The Whiz Kids

Posted: 18 Feb 2012

See all articles by Tom Nicholas

Tom Nicholas

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

David Chen

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Date Written: March 8, 2011


In October 1945, Henry Ford II received a telegram in his office at the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan written by Charles "Tex" Thornton, a U.S. Air Force colonel. The telegram presented an opportunity for Ford to deploy a system of statistical control which had been developed and applied successfully in the management of the Army Air Forces. Henry Ford II had recently assumed control of his grandfather's troubled automotive empire, and was looking for experienced auto industry men to help him make Ford a dominant name once again. Thornton had no industry experience whatsoever, but seemed convinced that his ideas could be applicable to Ford's company. Perhaps the Ford Motor Company could use an injection of new ideas. Hiring Thornton and his men could end up being Ford's most inspired move. Or his most disastrous.

Learning Objective: To examine the early application of statistical control at the Ford Motor Company.

Suggested Citation

Nicholas, Tom and Chen, David, The Whiz Kids (March 8, 2011). Harvard Business School Accounting & Management Unit Case No. 811-042, Available at SSRN:

Tom Nicholas (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02163
United States

David Chen

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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