Kim Mellor, pioneer of workplace innovation

Euwin and UK WON are grateful to Kim for his generous sponsorship of the Conference and Dinner

Throughout his career, Kim has been passionate about “liberating people and liberating organisations”.  

After studying mathematics at Oxford, he gained a fellowship at Harvard in 1947. There he studied Human Relations with Professor Fritz Roethlisberger, author of the first comprehensive findings of the Hawthorne experiments. Kim was particularly influenced by the emerging work of Dale Carnegie (“How to win friends and influence people”), W. Edwards Deming and the Tavistock Institute.

Joining Metal Box in 1949 as “an apprentice in a boiler suit”, Kim quickly realised that the company’s approach to management was shaped by the culture of the UK’s private school system. It was, he argues, designed to crush individuality and suppress creativity. 

As he rose through the company, Kim was always happier on the shopfloor than in the office. He felt closer to frontline workers than to his fellow directors and was always something of a non-conformist.

He sought to reshape the company’s working practices in ways that empowered employees at every level. Kim was keen to identify people who were restive in their current roles and offer them opportunities to develop new ideas.

By 1957 Kim realised that the company’s traditional business was dying because of the advent of plastics and other materials. At weekends he made samples for new products at home, then on Monday mornings he worked with the shop steward in the tool room to create new prototypes. Kim’s friendship with Alan Atkins, the shop steward, has continued ever since. 

Studying human relations at Harvard, Kim realised that by focusing on the things people can agree on, the issues that separate them soon dissolve. He always saw trade unions as important partners in sustaining competitiveness and employment. Kim even worked closely with the unions in British Steel, the company’s major supplier, to stimulate employee-driven innovation in products and processes.

Kim retired in 1985 as Metal Box’s Director of Corporate Strategy. He has since been involved in a wide range of entrepreneurial and charitable activity. 

In 2011 Kim married Kate Baxter, who he had last seen in 1956. Kate is founder and President of Muzika Charitable Trust  which has worked with children and adults in Romanian care homes since 1990.

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