NZIM 60 Years On – Cause for Celebration

NZIM was forged in the dying years of World War II. New Zealand in 1944 and ’45 was in the middle of great upheaval, change and progress. Thousands of young men – proportionately large slice of the workforce – had been sent to “the front”. The first general purpose computer, ENIAC, was installed by what became IBM, and Abraham Maslow penned his hierarchy theory to provide framework for gaining employee commitment – gospel that became tablet of stone for marketers.
In the October 1, 1944 issue of Better Business magazine, writer Martin Collins profiled the man who was articulating the case for very different way of thinking about promoting the interests of professional business and enterprise in New Zealand. The softly-spoken Wellington College old boy was, according to Collins, known as “Ron” to his cronies and busy young executive with “nice [fashion] tastes in his light grey suits with blue ties”. He also played golf and had keen interest in international affairs.
At the time of the interview Collins could not, of course, predict that his subject, the 33-year-old Ronald Greenwood, would become one of New Zealand’s most important and influential business figures, particularly in the world of management education.
A month later Greenwood became the first president and founder of the New Zealand Institute of Industrial Management, the organisation that became the New Zealand Institute of Management.
The young and dynamic Greenwood conceived the idea of national institute for the management profession while working at the Wellington accountancy firm Ernest Hunt, Turner & Co.
Greenwood’s work involved implementing costing systems in various companies. The business world was, he decided, demanding increasingly more from managers who, in turn, were not well prepared to meet these demands. The solution was simple. Provide them with more training and guidance.
The pressures imposed on the economy by the war had led to rapid increase in the number and diversity of New Zealand industries. It called for higher production volumes and correspondingly greater need for effective process controls in industry.
Greenwood’s formal proposal called for the establishment of New Zealand Institute of Industrial Management to give industrial managers, supervisors and executives the potential to both educate themselves and simultaneously enhance their profession.
He was remarkable man, and the formation of the Institute was undoubtedly forward-thinking for its time. Again, it is important to recognise the context of the times. New Zealand was still emerging from the depression when large portion of its workforce was despatched overseas. The economy and enterprise suffered major loss of manpower in industry and in particular loss of skilled managers.
Greenwood registered for active service but due to his involvement in the manufacture of war-requirements (electro-chemical products) was deferred from overseas service. He remained, however, in the Royal New Zealand Air Force civil reserve. In 1942 he again applied for posting on active service with the RNZAF and was accepted for training for the rank of pilot officer.
The Armed Forces Appeal Board declined his release to the RNZAF when he applied for second time to serve abroad. The company he worked for was, they said, an essential wartime industry.
Greenwood decided there must be some way in which he could make more personal contribution to the war effort. He eventually chose to facilitate the rehabilitation of New Zealand servicemen returning from overseas service. He developed his “NZIIM Proposal” to accelerate the promotion of servicemen in industry.
The Institute would, he said, be non-political organisation concerned only with education, research and study. It would give status to managers “commensurate with the responsibility they carried”. It would, in other words, be centre of excellence where the specialised experiences and problems would be shared with others.
In 1944 Greenwood was reported as saying: “Unless we do this job and get it going, returning servicemen – many of whom have learned leadership overseas and who have the capacity to become the best types of foremen – are going to be at disadvantage because they have nothing in industry by which to re-orientate themselves.”
On April 19, 1944, meeting sponsored by the Wellington Manufacturer’s Association was held to establish the New Zealand Institute of Industrial Management. Nearly 300 people heard Greenwood’s argument and approval of the proposal was given by representatives of industrial concerns, technical colleges, government departments and labour unions.
New Zealand was, said the enthusiastic Greenwood, entering new era in which successful leadership in industry required people to not only have natural aptitude for leadership, but they also needed specific training in the principles of business and scientific industrial management.
“The executive must be trained to not merely administer his own unit, plant or industry, but to realise the social significance of what he is doing. Planned employment on the national scale, reduction of distribution costs, technical improvement of output, new emphasis on goods and services which were previously left to state enterprise because there was little profit to be made… these are the changes that are looming in the industrial field,” he said.
A motion was carried at the meeting to establish the Institute and Greenwood then personally contacted 10 major Wellington companies and obtained £100 from each towards the establishment of the NZIIM. Among the original contributors were Golden Bay Cement, Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Sincerity Suits. All forked out on the understanding, sought by Greenwood from the Tax Commissioner, that such contributions would be tax deductible.
The Institute adopted its first constitution in 1945 and it was formally open for business. Branches were opened in Auckland and Christchurch in 1946 and Dunedin in 1950 and divisions based on the country’s four main provinces were soon in place, with auxiliary branches in the smaller centres.
The Institute was incorporated in 1946 under the Incorporated Societies Act and in 1951 it changed its name dropping the word “Industrial” to become the New Zealand Institute of Management to reflect the extension of the Institute’s activities from industry to embrace the full spectrum of the commercial sphere.
In the early days, NZIM looked to the Melbourne Division of the Australian Institute of Management for guidance in administering membership and services and setting up diploma courses.
The Institute arranged with local colleges and technical institutes so foremen and superintendents could learn the key fundamentals of good management then required including: “securing cooperation; wage problems; management’s place in industry; representing men to management and management to men; differences in men; discipline; giving and receiving orders; labour turnover and difficulties with subordinates; organisation of business’ production planning and scheduling; accounting and costs; education and training and industrial relations”.
After the Institute held its first Annual General Meeting in 1946 it had 300 members.
By 1965 when the Institute celebrated its 21st birthday the number had increased 10-fold to nearly 3000 members. Today, NZIM has 6500 corporate and individual members and issues diplomas, statements of achievement and variety of management qualifications to 15,000 students, from secondary school to senior level management. NZIM expects to be promoting management excellence in this country for another 60 years.

David Chapman FNZIM is CEO of NZIM’s National Office.

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