Lt. Col. L. F. URWICK, O.B.E., M.C.
( at the European Management Conference, Torquay , on 20th October, 1954)
QUITE recently the Management Movement in Great Britain has lost its greatest pioneer and the British Institute of Management its first Honorary Fellow. Since I had the great good fortune to spend some of the most formative years of my apprenticeship to management in close association with him, you have given me the privilege of paying tribute to his memory at this Conference.
Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, Companion of Honour, was in my considered judgement a greater influence than any other business man who has lived in our time towards guiding this country to a wider, wiser and more enlightened view of the task of business leadership. Twenty-five years before the idea of Anglo-American Productivity teams had ever been heard of, he was directing his colleagues' attention to the lessons we could all learn from the practice of the best American corporations. He was a force for better relations between managers and workers, the full impact of : which is yet to be felt. Some of the experiments which he initiated and applied with outstanding practical success still read like "moon- beams from the larger lunacy" to our more conservative business managers. But, for those of us who were privileged to work alongside him - and with him it was always "alongside" and never "under" - it is the memory of the man, the human being, that endures like a spring of water in a thirsty land. I have known a few men in my lifetime - my own father was another of them - whose attitude to life was so ordered that one was never tempted, even for an instant, to doubt their integrity, to start that search for a secondary motive behind the outer pattern of their deeds and words which implies that their yea is not wholly yea and their nay means "it depends". He was a man, too, of perfect loyalty. To these may be added other virtues - a kindliness to others, a generous and sensitive sympathy with their feelings, a readiness to' share in the ordinary joys and sorrows of every man, regardless of rank or station, which made him a very able practitioner of what he preached. That sounds dull, "unco guid". But the whole was irradiated by a most delightful and constantly unexpected sense of humour .
This Conference meeting here today is in direct succession from the first management conference which he organised in this country at Oxford towards the close of World War I.
I am sure that the last thing he would have wished is that our proceedings should be in any way saddened by the thought of his passing. Rather it would accord with his lifelong attitude, that we should go forward with renewed vigour in the task of developing better management as an essential preliminary condition to better relations not only between the parties to industry but also between the nations - the task to which he devoted the major portion of his working life. Let us take courage and comfort that a faithful servant has earned his rest.