Lyndall Urwick, Management Pioneer: A Biography
Lyndall Urwick was the dominant figure in British management between the late 1920s and the early 1960s. His writings and his passion in pursuit of management as a scientific and systematic activity rather than the rule-of-thumb approach to decision-making all too prevalent in Britain exercised a huge influence on management at the time; and ultimately management as we know it today.
Urwick was greatly affected by his experience of the First World War and at Rowntree's. He went on to become Director of the International Management Institute between 1928-33, before forming a very influential management consultancy, Urwick Orr and Partners, which he chaired for the rest of his career. He was also deeply involved with almost all the institutional developments in British management up to the 1960s, including the Management Research Groups, the Institute of Industrial
Administration, the British Institute of Management, the Administrative Staff College, and the management education side of the Anglo-American Council on Productivity.
In pursuit of what he called his 'mission at large', he gave hundreds of talks in his lucid and charismatic style, many of which were published as articles or booklets. These talks were not only in Britain but in Australia after his emigration there in 1961, in America, where he became the best-recognized foreign exponent of management, and in a range of countries around the world. But he will probably be best remembered for his writings, not only on organization theory, where he is recognized
as a great synthesizer and leader in the classical school, but on a wide range of other topics, including the history of management, leadership, marketing, and management education and development. Truly he was a man of many parts.
Edward Brech (1909-2006) joined Urwick Orr and Partners in 1938 as a management consultant, initially working with Lyndall Urwick to produce the renowned three volume work The Making of Scientific Management. In Urwick Orr he played a leading role in the introduction of management training and techniques and also wrote copiously on his own account. In 1959 he was seconded to Unilever and in 1965 was appointed as Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Training Board. On his retirement he returned to research, initially through the pursuit of a PhD, which he was granted at the age of 85. He built on his PhD to produce a monumental series of five volumes collectively titled The Evolution of Modern Management in 2002 and then moved to this biography of his old employer, mentor and co-author, Lyndall Urwick, on which he was working when he died. Andrew Thomson graduated from Oxford in 1959 and worked in marketing with Unilever before taking a doctorate at Cornell and a series of academic positions at Glasgow University. Then in 1988 he became the first Dean of the Open University Business School at a time when it grew from small beginnings to become one of the largest business schools in the world in its student numbers. He also was the Chairman of the Council of University Management Schools (1985-87), Chairman of the British Academy of Management (1990-93) and Chairman of the SERC-ESRC Joint Committee (1985-88). His academic interests have ranged from industrial relations to management development and management history. He is now an Emeritus Professor at the Open University. John F. Wilson is Professor of Strategy at the University of Liverpool Management School. He has previously worked in the universities of Manchester, Leeds, Belfast, Nottingham, and Preston (UCLan). He is co-author with Andrew Thomson of The Making of Modern Management: British Management in Historical Perspective (OUP, 2006).