Tributes to Len Tashman, Foresight’s Founding Editor
With his retirement on September 30, 2022, Len Tashman ended a 17- year reign as Foresight’s Founding Editor and over 20 years serving on the IIF’s Board of Directors. Len’s reputation as an exacting editor is well deserved (as evidenced by the tributes that follow), yet his insistence on intellectual rigor, coherence of thought, and clarity of writing is what distinguished Foresight from competing practitioner-oriented publications. To honor Len’s legacy, we are rebranding the Foresight Hall of Fame Award as the Len Tashman Best Paper Award, with winners inducted into the Foresight Hall of Fame.
On behalf of the IIF Board and its members, I want to thank Len for his many contributions – both as a scholar and an editor – to improving the practice of forecasting.
George Athanasopoulos, President International Institute of Forecasters
From Mike Gilliland It’s been said that an editor is someone who thinks peeing in your drink improves the flavor. If that’s the case, Len must have been overly hydrated when he edited my first Foresight submission – for Issue #2 in 2005 – as he cut my 2,500 words down to 800. Overcoming my initial dismay, I realized that what remained were the 800 good words the readers needed to hear – not the other 1,700 bad words I wanted to say. Thus was my first encounter with the wrath of Len’s red pen. No matter how enamored one is of their own writing, a good editor will always be their best friend. A good editor finds the flaws in logic and the gaps in evidence, not just the typos and awkward language. And an effective editor has the gravity and conviction to compel even the most recognized and respected authors to meet a standard of excellence. Len did all these things – through 67 issues of Foresight across 17 years of publication.
As Foresight’s new Editor-in-Chief, I don’t know that I’ll be able to live up to Len’s standards. But he has paved a path of excellence for me to follow.
From Liza Woodruff I first met Len when I was struggling to care for two children under the age of three and one enormous, energetic puppy. Imagine my delight when this virtual stranger befriended my family and offered to include our dog on his frequent hikes and outdoor adventures. Len’s kindness saved me in those days, and our friendship has grown and changed over the years.
Though many of you might be aware of Len’s achievements as editor and forecaster, I know him as a discriminating wine aficionado, an accomplished chef, and a skier, runner, hiker, world traveler, professor, parent, and friend. I have always enjoyed working with Len. He is a kind and patient boss who gave me the opportunity to grow into the job as designer. I am sad to see his time as Foresight’s Editor come to a close, but happy in the knowledge that he will now have time for all the other things he enjoys. Cheers, Len! Thanks for all the good times. We will certainly miss you.
From Paul Goodwin I have been writing for Foresight since its launch in 2005 and have always been impressed by the efficient and conscientious way in which Len handled the articles that I submitted. His encouragement and constructive suggestions have been invaluable. Launching and establishing the journal was far from being an easy task, and some people were skeptical about its prospects. The fact that it has survived and prospered for 17 years is a testament to Len’s dedication, editorial skills and, indeed, his foresight in recognising that there was a huge need and appetite for a journal that covered the practical aspects of forecasting.
From Jim HooverThere is a real difference in the relationship between forecasting practitioners and academics who perform research in the forecasting domain. Forecasting is an area where academics long recognized the need to diffuse the findings from research and make them accessible to those whose day job is to develop forecasts. Joint activities connecting the theories about forecasting with practitioners included key efforts and activities like the M Competitions, books like Principles of Forecasting: A Handbook for Researchers and Practitioners, and Forecasting: Principles and Practice, events like the International Symposium on Forecasting, and journals like Foresight.
Len Tashman has always stood in that interface between researcher and practitioner. He has taught many in the field (including me) about best practices and techniques for forecasting. He has helped craft the conversations between the researchers and practitioners in ways that permit those who practice in the field to improve their forecasts. Thanks, Len, for the unique roles that you have played in furthering this critical field that supports so much of the business across the world. May you enjoy your additional free time. We hope you continue to provide your insights to the field, even in your retirement.
From Elaine Deschamps Len has been a mentor not only to me for two decades, but also to my team of six forecasters at the Washington State Caseload Forecast Council. In 2017, he came out to Olympia for a personalized training catered specifically to our needs as state budget forecasters, and we still refer to his material often. Len has a gift for making complex material interesting, engaging, and even humorous. He’d say, “With the long forecast horizon you’re dealing with, my friends, it’s the Wild Wild West!” As a scholar, Len made significant contributions on the topic of forecast accuracy measurement, which he shared as part of our training. Afterwards, I remember our group debating the pros and cons of the various measurements on our lunchtime walks to the Olympia Farmers Market. Len’s Forecasting Tutorial track at the Boston Forecasting Summits was a great way to brush up on my forecasting methods.
We are all grateful for Len’s dedication and tireless work to create Foresight, and to grow it into the reputable journal it is today. I’m always happy to see him at the ISF, with his welcoming smile and irresistible laugh. And I’m grateful to know Len not only as a wonderful mentor and fellow numbers nerd, but also as a dear friend.
From Ralph Culver My man Len Tashman is the best damned editor I’ve ever worked with, and that’s saying something, because I’ve been in this business a long time – and Janus knows I’m not talking about the business of forecasting, which I knew absolutely nothing, or next to nothing, about when my name first appeared on the Foresight masthead as a manuscript editor over 14 years ago. I mean the business of providing professional editorial services, and it is to Len’s credit and my good fortune that when he hired me he honestly really didn’t much care if I was up on black boxes and random walks and Delphi and MASE. What Len wanted from me from the beginning – what I think he wanted from everyone he worked with on Foresight – was strictly in line with his vision of what he always wanted the journal to be and, from my perspective, what he was so successful in making it: an academic/technical journal focused on a supremely complex and rapidly changing professional practice that is written in, as the poet Marianne Moore put it so beautifully, English “which cats and dogs can read.” And – this is paramount – he wanted to achieve this extremely tricky goal by editing submissions in a way that never, ever dumbed down the material or subject, but that made the articles clearer, more direct, and more readable, palatable to practitioners, academicians, and researchers equally. He met this goal in issue after Foresight issue through persistence, smarts, and by giving editorial direction to me and the other staff that was succinct and focused – and expressing his confidence that we would do our jobs.
It’s been an honor to have had this once-in-a-lifetime editorial relationship with you, Len. Thanks for everything. Now go do all that fun stuff you’ve been waiting to do, for crying out loud!
From Niels van Hove My journey with Foresight and Len goes back to my first published article in 2016 – but I actually never met him. Our contact was by email, but nevertheless we had a very fruitful and insightful collaboration. I indeed have thrown my hands in the air out of desperation upon waking up in Melbourne to Len’s edition of my article in my inbox. However, Len did not only make my articles better, he made me a more complete author and a more critical thinker. For this I want to thank him.
Most important, Len’s vision of bringing together academia and practitioners to enhance the practice of forecasting and business planning still stands. In my opinion, this blending of thoughts and minds is still a shortcoming in many disciplines. Len was ahead of his time to address this. His legacy lives on, and I see it as my duty to continue to contribute to it.
From Ellen Bonnell Len is the kind of guy you meet and instantly like, and then every time you see him you like him even more and your respect for him grows – until all of a sudden you have a very special friend, a great collaborator, and a role model for how to treat people and the world. For me, he has become the kind of friend you never want to lose. You always want to listen to him, and you always want him to be a listener.
I have one little anecdote to share. Way back in the early 2000s when Len conducted the “Forecasting 101” track at our Forecast Summits, I enrolled a reluctant team member in the track. The team member was very smart, very capable, a database genius, and was pretty sure he knew much about forecasting. At the end of the day, the team member said, “You know, Len is actually really good – I was totally engaged and I learned way more than I thought I would.” Thank you, Len.
From Geoff Allen Back in the early 2000s, the IIF was doing well financially, and someone suggested that to fulfill our educational mission we should start a practitioner journal. The Board enthusiastically agreed, with the usual reluctance of volunteers to actually do it. Fortunately, Len was made of sterner stuff and undertook the various tasks, of which editorship was only one, to get the new publication off the ground. As a stand-alone unit of the Institute, Foresight’s early years were a sea of red ink. Some board members vehemently insisted that the enterprise be shut down. Len equally – or rather, more vehemently – insisted that it not. Fortunately, he prevailed; and the rest, as they say, is history.
Well done, Len. The members of the Institute owe you grateful thanks. Enjoy a much delayed and well-deserved retirement. Now, time to hit the slopes!
From Robert Fildes The idea of a journal crafted to meet the needs of practising forecasters was launched in 2004 by Len Tashman (an academic) and supported by Eric Stellwagen (a practitioner). Their task was to persuade the International Institute of Forecasters board of such a journal’s financial and intellectual viability. In this, Len had an uphill struggle. While there was no objection to the principle – it was, after all, a founding objective of the Institute and the International Journal of Forecasting to bridge the gap between theory and practice – there were two major concerns that were less easily met: the flow of quality material to publish and the journal’s financial footing.
Money matters related to Foresight lingered on for many years, with some regarding it as inappropriate that the financial success of the Elsevier-published and academic IJF should support a practitioner journal. Shouldn’t practitioners pay for the privilege of reading the latest ideas that would add value to their organizations? In the end, the IIF decided that this was an important part of its objectives: forecasting was not just a thing of academic beauty, but had to have impact on the real world. So the IIF established Foresight as a fundamental part of its activities along with an academic journal (IJF) and the annual forecasting symposia (ISF). These three elements came to define what we understand to be business and economic forecasting.
Len was appointed Editor, and despite misgivings based on the failure of practitioner journals elsewhere to provide quality contributions from the practitioner community itself, Len proved persuasive, even with an editorial style best described as rigorous. While initially a sceptic myself, even from its earliest issues Foresight published articles and papers written by practitioners, including from companies such as British Telecom and Caterpillar, as well as software firms and consultants (e.g., SAS). More importantly, practitioners provided a stimulating perspective on the trials and tribulations of people trying to improve forecasting in an organizational context. They shared war stories of the difficulties of implementing academic research into business settings and overcoming the natural resistance that change induces. It is this triangle of research, software, and practicing forecaster that must be explored and utilized if new methods and processes are going to have an organizational impact.
After 17 years of Foresight publication steered by Len’s creative editorial guidance, we see that the organizational issues he has encouraged practitioners to write about can have the effect of stimulating new research agendas – highlighting where research driven solely by intellectual curiosity often fails. The gaps remain, but Foresight under Len’s leadership has plotted routes for successful practitioners to follow, and the interaction Len fostered of the often separate tracks pursued by academic and practitioner has strengthened both.
From Bill Tonetti I’ve known Len for about 30 years. We first met at one of the Forecasting Summits organized by Eric Stellwagen in partnership with the IIF. I was so impressed by Len that we invited him to speak at some of our annual user meetings. Len has a rare combination of practical business management depth, combined with the mathematical and scientific rigor of an academic. There just aren’t a lot of people who embody that mix of talents. To be scholarly, practical, and really funny at the same time – well, that’s even more rare, and that’s Len.
From Holly Lancaster It was a pleasure working with Len. I always looked forward to attending meetings (and gatherings!) at his lovely home in Genesee. He’s a gentle leader, an attentive host with the most, and a generous soul. Thank you for always taking care of our team!
From Roy Batchelor Len seemed always to be on a mission from the gods of forecasting, to bring the good news from academia to the business community, and vice versa. I remember his passionate (noisy, forthright, and other stronger adjectives) arguments at IIF Board meetings to secure the survival of Foresight in its early days, and to lever the Practitioner Track into the mainstream of ISF. The success of Foresight today, and the increasing representation of practitioners on the Board, are a great legacy.
Len has also been on a mission to conduct large sample tests of valid alternatives to mass-produced American beer, conducted at various ISF meetings around the world. I remember some decisive results being achieved in a basement bar in Prague, but details are hazy (like the beer).
From Steve Morlidge I can’t remember when I first met Len (you’d think you would recall something like that!), but my life has been richer for the experience. Len has always been positive and cheerful despite me being – as I suspect – on the more difficult and defensive end of Foresight authors. And as an iconoclastic outsider to the forecasting community with limited technical skills, no track record, and a healthy dose of imposter syndrome, without his support and encouragement I would have stopped contributing to forecasting debates a long time ago.
Not that he is without opinions, as anyone who has been nailed by Len at a conference and treated to his political views du jour will know! I’m just sorry we in the UK have also fallen short of Len’s high standards. The consolation for me is that he has handed over the reins to someone who shares his ability to be serious without being serious.
From Carolyn Allmon I first met Len at one of the Forecasting Summits and signed up for the forecasting education track. I was impressed by his expertise and ability to teach, making methods and the accompanying mathematical concepts so clear and understandable. Following our initial meeting, Len asked me to serve on Foresight’s Practitioner Advisory Board, on which I serve to this day. Because he saw value in what I could contribute to the journal, Len invited me to review several books and pending articles over the years. His manner was always humble, helpful, kind, and thoughtful whenever we were in touch and I sought his input to a forecasting problem. He will be greatly missed by all of us practitioners as a resource and forecasting expert – but remains someone we can still call our friend!
From Simon Clarke I can’t quite place when I first met Len. I think it might have been when, needing an expert to convince an otherwise skeptical set of business stakeholders, he was drafted in to lend credibility and authority to what otherwise was going to be a tough sell. This started a 20-year connection that has spanned multiple conferences, speaking engagements, and training sessions. All of which were performed with great humor and a mischievous sparkle in his eye. The commitment to finding the bridge between the academic and practitioner communities is what I’m most grateful for. This has manifested itself in Foresight and conferences, and has been invaluable in educating and advancing the practitioner community in their understanding of what is possible.
On a personal note, I’m grateful for Len’s encouragement and belief that I have had something interesting to share even when I have thought my experiences and musings to be largely unremarkable. I also must thank him for his understanding and patience; I have not always been the most punctual or disciplined of contributors. He has an undeniable talent for extracting more from people than they ever thought possible, and that along with his editorial “suggestions” has made the breadth and quality of content as strong as it is. I hope that Len enjoys his retirement and can spend some quality time without looming deadlines and lagging input!
From Joe McConnell I met Len Tashman in (I believe) 2003, and he has truly been one of the finest people I know. Early on, Len knew I had a very ambitious vision about what could become of the field of forecasting in the realm of dynamic, competitive business. As I have worked out that vision over the years, Len has always been an enthusiastic and thoughtful supporter. Now, as I near fruition on that vision, I am most grateful for his friendship and collegiality! We share a love of fine wine and fine skiing. On one occasion, back in Sydney in 2004 at an ISF (abetted by more than a few opportunistic ISF attendees), we went through an entire case of assorted Shiraz – a good time was had by all. I look forward to topping that by a large margin. Cheers!
From Mary Ellen Bridge Earlier in the fall, when I read through your wonderful summary of the history of and the great tributes to the many people who have made it such a success, I realized you must have gone through several emotions in writing it—pride, satisfaction, sadness, perhaps relief? An ending to a big part of your life. Congratulations on all your achievements! Now and then I remember the actual physical meetings our small staff had, sometimes at your home in Charlotte, VT, and our conversations about the number of subscribers and the reactions of the board members to getting the fledgling publication off the ground. And thanks for offering me this copy editing job about 16 years ago. Though I often don’t understand all the articles, I constantly admire the expertise of the authors, as well as their writing abilities. Godspeed to you in whatever lies ahead, Len, and please keep in touch.