Wilfred Brown: Most Important CEO You’ve Never Heard Of

I recently wrote an appreciation of Wilfred Brown, the Managing Director of Glacier Metal Company, accomplished management author, and government servant. I wrote this for the recent GO Society summit in Toronto, as a part of their new CEO Honor Roll. I had written the Wikipedia article on Lord Brown ages ago and have intended to do more but haven’t. …

At rehearsal of Oliver Twist (Broadway, ca 1912). Bain News Service via Library of Congress.

Job Role (Social Role) Defines Your Behaviour: Wilfred Brown & Elliott Jaques

Behavior is as much defined and limited by the role that a work inhabits as his personality and the quality of his relationships within the company. Lord Wilfred Brown, the Managing Director of Glacier Metal Company for decades and a major management thinker in his own right, was insistent on this point. You can even take this farther than he …

Wilfred Brown, ca. 1970. From the Glacier Institute of Management's film series

Exploration in Management: Free training by Wilfred Brown on requisite organizations

The most important CEO management thinker you’ve never heard of — Lord Wilfred Brown, Managing Director (CEO) of Glacier Metal Company in the UK — gives you the lowdown on how organizations can be structured to create trust, democracy and shareholder value in this amazing management film training series from the early 1970s. This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky theory from an …

Trust Is Necessary To Society. The Glacier Model Builds Trust

There’s a fascinating paper at the IMF by social capital guru Francis Fukuyama (Social Capital and Civil Society – Prepared for delivery at the IMF Conference on Second Generation Reforms) that covers his reasoning behind social capital being called “capital” at all. Besides being interested in how to create societies, I’ve always found him a lucid writer who discusses a …

ADLER typewriter Model n°7 (Frankfurt / Germany). Unknown model date (probably ~1930/40). By Dake

Workplace Democracy, Participation and Power

From Organizational Participation: Myth and Reality by Frank Heller, Eugen Pusicć, George Strauss, and Bernhard Wilpert. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 294 pp.

These experts (Heller is from Tavistock) have a brief mention of Wilfred Brown’s participative management at Glacier Metal Company.

In some individual cases the transition from autocracy to a variety of organizational forms where influence is more widely distributed can be achieved by deliberate intra-organizational processes, as for instance in the formation of the Scott Bader Commonwealth (Hoe 1978) or the democratization of the Glacier Metal Company (Jaques 1951; Wilfred Brown 1960). In the case of Scott Bader, the founder of the business was a devout Christian who, after a prolonged strike of his workforce. came to the conclusion that he no longer wished to be the sole owner. In the Commonwealth he created, every employee became formally a part owner and two potentially participative decision-making councils were set up. The Managing Director of the Glacier Metal Comapny, Wilfred Brown, was a very unusual person. He combined intellectual and socio-political interests (he was for a time a Minister in the British Labour Government with a very sympathetic attitude to social science which led him to engage a psychoanalytically oriented consultant, Elliot [sic] Jaques from the Tavistock Institute in London, to help introduce a participative-humanistic organization (Jaques 1951).

These two well documented cases, while not unique, are examples of substantial structural and to a lesser extent behavioural changes consequent on a policy decision by a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In both cases the CEO stayed on the scene for sufficiently long to consolidate the structural changes and in both cases these changes survived the death of the founder for a number of years. [145-6]

Elliott Jaques’s “Intellectual Odyssey”

Douglas Kirsner of Deakin University spoke with Elliott Jaques before he died, and wrote up the results from the perspective of another psychoanalyst. Jaques abandoned psychoanalysis but would later refer to that as perhaps going overboard. It’s an interesting read for those of you who are interested in what he thought of things at the end of his life. This …

Adam names the animals

Name It to Change It, Because You Can’t Change What You Can’t Talk About

If you want to succeed at a creative project — and all change projects are — you will need to be particular about naming. As Dr. Warren Kinston has shown in his (please oh please soon) to be published framework on Creative Team Endeavors, naming is key. Wilfred Brown and Elliott Jaques emphasized in their works about Glacier Metal Company. Management is full of bad, fuzzy terms. Real science knows that you have to get particular in order to get something controlled.

It was a ironical email from Warren that got me thinking about this again. He was looking for some copyediting of some of his documents. One of the replies was fascinating:

Fox Glacier. (c) 2005 Robert Young (robertpaulyoung). Via Flicr (CC BY 2.0)

How Unionization Benefits the Firm (Wilfred Brown, retired CEO of Glacier Metal Company, speaks out)

Wilfred Brown, Managing Director and Chairman of the Board at Glacier Metal Company (where Elliott Jaques came up with Stratified Systems Theory and levels of work) supported unions at his factories. Even managers can best defend themselves “if they have properly elected representatives.” From a conversation he had with Wolfgang Hirsch-Weber in the early 1980s.

Lord Wilfred Brown’s Training Films Now Available Online

The GO Society has quietly put up the Exploration in Management training films. These films, produced for the Glacier Institute of Management and narrated by Lord Wilfred Brown, the retired Managing Director of Glacier Metal Company and Prochancellor of Brunel University, show how the radical ideas Brown developed with Dr. Jaques work from a manager’s point of view. I’m glad …