Dr. Linda P. Beckerman

I just found out that Linda Beckerman died last September 18.

Linda was a close colleague when we were both at Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA.  She was one of the most creative people I have ever known, in the “How in the world did you think of that???” category. Let me give one example:

One day, the president of the company told our boss that he wanted the mail system fixed. This may not sound like much, but in a large organization like Lockheed, spread out over a number of buildings, mail was the lifeblood of the company. A few facts about the case:

  • This was well before the Internet, and our internal e-mail system was slow and cumbersome. Attachments were problematic at best.
  • It typically took between 3 days and never for physical mail to go between departments. Probably the origin of the term “snail mail.” At the IBM building downtown, employees on different floors were known to send company mail via FEDEX, that is, through Memphis.
  • We were a union shop, so it was an offense even for staffers to walk down the hall with company mail

What she did, which I thought was brilliant, was not design a better mail system, but come up with a process that got the unionized employees in the mail room to create (evolve might be better) a new system.  How good was it? When 100% of our mail was routinely delivered the same day it was collected, we quit measuring. To better appreciate this, one of the first things I had been warned about in my company orientation session some five years earlier was the pitfalls of company mail.

You can read all about Linda’s solution in the paper we wrote.

Linda is probably best known on the Internet for a paper she wrote on the nature of war, “The Non-linear dynamics of war.” After leaving Lockheed Martin in 1989, Linda moved to Orlando, where she was, among other things, a game designer, dog walker, and ultimately head of a systems engineering effort for SAIC.

She was unique; she will be missed.

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