Glacier Metal Company (The Glacier Project)

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Tavistock Institute of Human Relations
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The Glacier Metal Co. Ltd was a large UK manufacturer of plain bearings, with products used by many engineering companies, particularly the motor industry.

In 1949, the Government financed research work into the social aspects of industrial organisation, with a project undertaken jointly by the company and the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. The research considered the labour turnover process in two factories, considering an employee's movement through a company as a "distinctive social process with a pattern of its own".

The project served to address industrial relations problems, identifying culture as a key element for intervention in organisational life. Elliot Jacques, in his role heading the project, used the concept of the use of social structure as a defence against anxiety. The findings of the project were later published in Jacques' 1951 book, The Changing Culture of a Factory.

This project was initiated by the Human Factors Panel of the Committee on Industrial Productivity set up by the Lord President of the Council under the Scientific Advisor to the Government, and administered by the MRC. The Human Factors Panel also funded a Tavistock training programme, which offered postgraduate education for field workers. All six industrial fellows participated in the Glacier Project, alongside another Tavistock project. Each was also placed in a therapy group and given a personal tutor. One year into the two and a half year programme, the participants returned to their industries to share what they had learnt so far.

A later project was undertaken in 1968-1969 with the Glacier Metal Company, which considered the training of designers, draughtsmen and other technicians at Glacier.

A K Rice's papers relating to the Glacier Project can be found in SA/TIH/C/1.



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