Glimpses Into Wilfred Brown\'s Life

- Richard Brown is the eldest son of Wilfred Brown. Has been involved in personnel and HR for some 35 years. Not currently in a full HR role, but doing interim work. His father's work influences every part of the work that he's doing.
- Elliot always maintained a professional distance between himself and my father. He was employed in Glacier by the Works Council, not by the company itself. This enabled him to have some independence of his. Own. But there was also intense, personal clashes, but differences of opinion.
- When he became Managing Director of Joint Manager of Glacier in the late 30s, he was only 27 years old. In that same year he established the works council within Glacier. He was a committed socialist, a member of the Labour Party. His diary gives insight into the pressures he was under by his subordinates.

Speaker A My name is Richard Brown. I'm the eldest son of Wilfred Brown. In terms of my professional career, I have been involved in the field of personnel and HR for some 35 years. I'm not currently ...

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Speaker A My name is Richard Brown. I'm the eldest son of Wilfred Brown. In terms of my professional career, I have been involved in the field of personnel and HR for some 35 years. I'm not currently in a full HR role, but doing interim work. So I'm not really active in the field of applying either my father's or Jake's work, but it influences every part of the work that I'm doing, so it's forever present. I think that it might be helpful for the audience, as it were, to learn about something of the firsthand of certainly my early life and having a father around like Wilfred Brown and seeing him working with Elliot. Now, one of the interesting things about that particular relationship is that when Elliot was involved with Glacier from sort of 1948 onwards till the middle 60s, is that he always maintained a professional distance between himself and my father. This is important because he was employed in Glacier by the Works Council, not by the company itself. And this, I think, created the right environment in which he was seen by the mums of that work council as if not totally independent of the management hierarchy of the company, at least to have some independence of his. Own and enabled him to make inquiries and ask questions throughout the organization and get the answers in the way, I suppose, which today we would see as commonplace amongst consultants. But I think at that time was something that was really quite novel. Consultants, if a Cambridge organization, were very much seen as part of the management rather than part of the generalized workforce. So, for example, my mother and father would quite frequently invite other members of the organisation, even quite junior ones, home to dinner. I can never actually remember that happening with Elliot and his wife, although they did meet at restaurants occasionally. It was infrequent. And I think that is perhaps one of the ways in which he gained standing within the Works Council. My feeling is that after the first few years it was clear to everybody in the organization that he was independent and was prepared to argue, I think, at times at length with my father, so that he destruct that, so that it wasn't perhaps as necessary as before. But I think that there was also, and I'm pretty sure of it, quite intense, personal, I don't think clashes, but differences of opinion between Elliot and my father. And I suppose that's because of their intellectual closeness and their passionate commitment, I suppose, to the ideas and the things that we're trying to do. Looking back at my father's life, and in fact, it was thinking about dates, because recently I was asked to go for security clearance, and I had to give a lot of details about my own father and then to recognize that he was born in 1908. So when he became Managing Director of Joint Manager of Glacier in the late 30s, he was only 27 years old, having arrived in the company some six years earlier as a salesman. So he'd progressed from salesman to joint managing direction in the space of six years. He in fact did manage marry the wife of the owner and chairman of the company but I think that was a byproduct of it rather than the cause of it. Unfortunately people may not be aware that his first wife actually died in childbirth in 1938. So not only was he imagining director at that stage but to lose a wife and child at the same time must have been a pretty traumatic experience for him. His recollections of the war were very mixed. He saw all three brothers in law gorf into the army and he was in very much a reserved occupation because the manufacture of plane bearings was essential for the war effort so he had to stay at home. I'm not sure he ever really truly expressed his any views about that but I felt at times that he did have some concerns about it. But I think in the end of it he recognized that the contribution he was making was significant. I was born in 1942 because in 1941 they thought the Great Britain was in the position of starting to win the war but in fact in 1942 it was clear that they weren't winning the war. So I was born and he actually in that same year established the works council within Glacier. I cannot think that this shows a certain devotion towards the principles which he held dear to because he was from quite early on a committed socialist, a member of the Labour Party. In fact before this government he joined an organization called Commonwealth which was another new political association which was sort of a democratic institution, not that I know an awful lot about it but he did stand for the city of Wednesminster with two weeks to spare, missing the majority by 2000 votes. I think he was a lot going on in his life in the looking back at his history in terms of the late in the late 40s, when Jacks was brought in, he brought it into the organization on the backs of a study commissioned by the then labor government in conjunction with the TUC to look at industrial democracy. It was then called then because he not only had an organisation which had got a works council within it, but he was also a socialist and the numbers of socialists who were managing director of companies at that stage literally must have been able to fingers of one hand, I would think. I'm not aware that there were any others at that time who would have socialist leanings and I was always under pressure by his peers and other things as to why he should be a member of the Labor Party but that's another story, as it were. He, in the late 1940s was under a considerable amount of pressure. They were under court cases, high court case, suing them for patent infringements from the war. He established this work with the Tevistock. He was himself going through a period of psychoanalysis to deal with some of the pressures, and I think it must have been a pretty difficult period for him during his life, but the company went through quite severe financial pressures. But during this time they established the Works Council and I think basically from sort of 1942 onwards, it was, if not plain sailing, at least in the position of the company, was moving forward in the steady track. Interestingly enough, Glassier always invested heavily into research and development, under which he came quite a lot of criticism because a lot of organizations really didn't feel the need for that type of investment. But I think it paid off for the end. In the end. I'm not exactly entirely sure when he started writing books, the first one, which was Exploration and Management, but I guess he must have started in the late 50s, when much of this work was starting to coalesce. Certainly I have his Trotter diary, personal musings which he put together, which I'm going to get copied and put up on the website, but it gives insight into the pressures which he was under by his colleagues, as it were, and subordinates inside Glacier and I think the quite difficult position that he found himself in when they first started doing work. Because, as he makes note in his notes, that Elliot had been talking to wide sections of the employees within Glacier, including the senior management, and he recognized that perhaps Elliot knew more about the workings of the company that he did. And I guess it's a measure of the professionalism of Jax as well as his own, forbearance that managed to see through what must have been quite a difficult period. He Expresses Doubts you'll be able to read later on about the capabilities of his management team. At the same time, the effect upon his family came in two ways. I think my second brother, who's two years younger than I am, found it very difficult. He was always very rebellious towards my father and he's now proved to be dyslexic as well, so that I don't think he's had the easiest of life amongst all this. My third brother, who was arrived in the scene after my father had been through psychoanalysis, I think had much easier time of it. As my mother said, for the first time, she saw him pushing a pram down the street, which is not something that he'd done before. He was, I suppose, throughout this time, always involved in all sorts of committees. He was chairman of the governors of Acton Technical College, which transposed into Brunel College of Advanced Technology, which then turned into Brunel University. He wasn't at times the most tactful men to other intellects that perhaps weren't as sound as he was considered attacked. A vice. So that I think from time to time he created perhaps enemies, I think, who were in positions to influence later positions. And he was not a man that had a great many friends. He had friends who had come out of the tapestock and he knew we knew Harold Bridger, who'd been working there very well. We knew Eric Trist and Bueller and we met their children. There were others that we met from Ralph Robotom, I think, came across, I can remember meeting. And one of the features of a lot of our entertaining was that my mother was a good pianist. So after supper we would get them to sing and was interesting to note that there would be much reluctance at the start. But the time 02:00 in the morning we were all silently wishing the people would now go home because the evening should have been over. I suppose that was a pleasant aside of his. He was determined golfer. He'd been down as low as four. And in fact achieved that quite unusual thing of going around a golf course in less strokes than his age which is not given to many people. Very hard man to beat. But perhaps that's an aside. He had a stroke in the suppose by cruel stroke of fate was paralyzed and lost his power of speech which for a man that and could not write. So for a man that could not live by the pen and by the word I think it was an appalling fate. He died five years later. In terms of what he did. He worked for Rio Tinto to a large extent he was set on the board of that working I can't remember the names as a consultant he spent a lot of time lecturing around the world. He got involved with a company called Ambrosetti in Italy, which was interesting organization. Ambrosetti was self made man. He'd gone as a young man to Harvard Business School, which was unusual for an Italian, had gone back whilst working for one of the big companies. Gone back and whilst there was continually being asked by his business friends and associates because it's a society of familiar society where everybody's interconnected with everybody else about what they should do in these particular situations and could they help with some problem. And soon found, I suppose himself that he was spending rather more time on this than he wanted to do and then a full time job and opted to leave his full time job and do this consulting work which proved very successful. And he also recognized, I think that a lot of his, in his words, a lot of his compatriots would have liked to gone off to business schools to study. But if you're running a business, you don't have the opportunity to go away. And very often the models that were being deployed were effective to American or French or British institutions, but didn't necessarily apply to the Italian society. So he decided in the end that if Mohammed couldn't go into the mountain, he was going to move the mountain to Mohammed and established then an extraordinarily successful series of bringing world class leaders in terms of in their particular field. Michael Porter, for example, went over there and lectured to groups of chief executives, about ten or twelve at a time, on their chosen subject for a whole day within a classroom situation. Not a model that actually worked in the United Kingdom, because he tried it. But my father went many times to give discussions on a whole range of work. Ambrosetti thought the world of him in terms of doing this thing, and I think that it gave him a platform to talk to these Italian managers. If there's any country which it might well embed, you may find that it's the Italians that do it, which is interesting thought. I don't see any evidence of it yet, but I had a lot of time for Italian senior managers because they were passionate. They read books, they did go on development courses, they did come and study, they did ask questions. British managers as a whole don't do that. So the Italians are going to win. If they manage to shuck off their bureaucracy, heaven help the rest of the world, because they're designed, they leave us cold standing. So anyway, we'll just wait and see what happens with that. He got involved with papers, he got involved commissions, he spent time with a German philosopher developing a number of books and thoughts and principles. He was involved with drawing up pamphlets, he put in pamphlets about sort of constitutional change. He was associated with consulting bodies, he drafted constitutions for the Dutch works councils. So he got a busy life as a consultant. It kept him fully occupied. And of course, he was writing books in a big way, I think of about five or six books that he wrote from sort of mid 50s till the late 70s, which at the time when you were trying to do a full time job as well, I must say, I don't know where he got the energy from. He just worked very long hours. And I think I can only conclude that these ideals which he'd had about trying to make society a better place drove him on and on in terms of these things. But there we are, he's gone. I think that it would be, as I said, I miss him from time to time in terms of being able to cast comments and reflections about what's being done and said in his name. I think we're like a mini system. There's tendency towards decay, and every so often it needs to have somebody to come along and give it g up. Let's hope that there is, within the groups we're trying to form here, people that can be seriously engaged with the sort of work that he's doing and will provide fresh energy and initiatives to present it to another generation of them.

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Richard D.B. Brown
Recruitment Manager
TPS Consult Ltd
TPS Consult Ltd.

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