Urwick, Lyndall Fownes (educator and management consultant)

Reference: MS 5619Date: c.1910-1983Extent: 33 boxes

Lyndall Fownes Urwick, (1891-1983), was one of the most influential British management thinker of the first half of the twentieth century and was a key figure in the scientific management movement. Urwick’s influence, not only at home but also abroad, was recognised, not least in the United States by the award of several key management accolades. These include the Gold Medal of the International Committee for Scientific Management (CIOS) 1951, life membership of the American Management Association in 1957, honorary fellowship of the British Institute of Management 1960, the Henry Laurence Gantt Gold Medal 1961, and the Taylor Key, 1963. In the case of both the Gantt medal and the Taylor key, neither had ever been awarded to a non-American.

Urwick was born on 3 March 1891 at Malvern, Worcestershire, the only child of Sir Henry Urwick and his wife Annis (née Whitby). He was educated locally in Malvern and then as a boarder at Boxgrove School, Guildford (1900-05), before entering Repton School (1905-10) from where he won an open history entry to New College, Oxford (1910-13). On graduating in 1913 with a second class degree in modern history, he joined the family glove-making firm of Fownes Brothers and Company (formed 1777), in which his father was a partner. During the First World War he joined the 3rd Worcestershire Regiment in August 1914 as a second lieutenant. He saw action in 1914 at Mons, Le Cateau, Marne and Aisne, and in 1916 at Vimy Ridge and the Somme. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917, was demobbed as a major in 1918; he received an OBE in the January 1919 Honours List.

On demobilisation Urwick returned to Fownes Brothers, of which he had been made a partner in 1917. Disagreements with the other partners led to him leaving Fownes Brothers at the end of 1920.  Urwick linked up with Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, in the Spring of 1922, moving to York as an assistant to Oliver Sheldon in the Organisation Office. While at York he was responsible for developing a loose-leaf volume of standard instructions regarding organisational procedures, etc. Most significantly, in the latter part of 1926, Urwick, together with Seebohm and C.F. Merriam, chairman of British Xylonite, was instrumental in establishing the Management Research Groups, which brought together firms interested in new developments in management and organisation.

In September 1928 Urwick moved to Geneva to take over as director of the International Management Institute (IMI), an off-shoot of the International Labour Office (ILO). He retained this position until the Institute closed in December 1933.  Urwick developed close contacts with those advocating scientific management, both in America and throughout Europe, and was closely connected with the International Committee for Scientific Management (or, as it is more usually known, CIOS – the Comité International d’Organisation Scientifique). In September 1934, having returned to London, Urwick joined forces with John L. Orr, a Scottish engineer and former sales manager of the British Bedaux Consultancy, to form an all-British management consultancy, Urwick, Orr and Partners Limited (UOP) of which he held the positions of chairman (1934-61), managing director (1945-51) and president (from 1961).

During the Second World War Urwick joined the embryonic Office Research Section of the Treasury, heading the first team of outside specialists advising the Treasury between 1940 and 1942, and was a member of the Mitcheson Committee on the Ministry of Pensions (1941-2). Between June 1942 and some time in 1944, Urwick assisted his old friend, Sir Donald Banks, in the organisation of the Petroleum Warfare Department. He ended his wartime involvement with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. On returning to civilian life in late 1944, Urwick set about expanding UOP and pushing the topic of management education. During the 1940s he became chairman of the Education Committee of the Institute of Industrial Administration (1944), chaired the Ministry of Education Committee on Education for Management (1945-46) which provided a strong impetus for management education and an integrated management syllabus, and chairman of the Education Committee of the British Institute of Management (where he was a joint vice-chairman from 1947-52).

Urwick was also a key figure in the establishment, in 1948, of the Administrative Staff College at Henley-on-Thames (now known as Henley Business School, University of Reading). In 1951, Urwick resigned as managing director of UOP, but nevertheless spent two or three days each week in London discharging his duties as company chairman. He also continued to involve himself in lecturing at the company’s training centre and presiding over UOP’s twice yearly conferences. Also in 1951, Urwick was appointed as chairman of the Anglo-American Productivity Team on Education for Management which visited the USA. Over the next few years Urwick was much in demand overseas and carried out lecture tours and undertook investigations into management related issues in a number of countries, most notably America and India.

Throughout his life Urwick was not only a keen advocate of scientific management and of management education, but also a prolific writer on these subjects. Even after retiring to the warmer climes of Australia c.1965, Urwick continued to both write articles and present lectures, including courses at several Australian universities, during the late 1960s and early 1970s. His last published work appeared in 1980, only three years before his death on 5 December 1983, at the age of 92, at Longueville, Sydney, Australia.

The  collection includes records relating to Urwick’s period with Rowntree & Company at York (1922-28), including his role in the development of the Management Research Groups and his period as director of the International Management Institute at Geneva (1928-33). Although there is relatively little material relating to his work as part of Urwick, Orr and Partners since 1934 (most of the surviving papers for Urwick, Orr and Partners, management consultants, are in 2001 held by Price Waterhouse Coopers), the archives do throw important light on several important activities in which he was engaged post-1934, including his role in the Treasury during the Second World War, his activities in encouraging the development of management education in Britain after 1945 and his advisory activities in India, Norway and many other countries. For the entire period covered by the collection, i.e. from c.1910 to c.1983, its main strength is the preservation of typescript copies of every lecture and conference communication that he presented between 1910 and 1980. The collection is also notable for the series of correspondence with other leading proponents of the scientific management movement such as Mary Parker Follet, and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth. There is also material relating to his involvement with various management organisations, in particular the American Management Association and the British Institute of Management. While the archive comprises mainly written and printed materials, it also includes a large number of photographs, including those of participants at various national and international management conferences/ events and, more significantly, a set of eight early management training films ‘The Lectures of Lyndall F. Urwick’.

Source: Schedule of the Lyndall Fownes Urwick archive, created by M.D. Matthews and T. Boyns, Cardiff Business School, c.2001, and https://www.managers-net.com/Biography/biograph7.html

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