Albert Kenneth (Ken) Rice

1908 - 1969

Ken Rice went to Nottingham High School, where he won an exhibition scholarship to Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. He read mathematics at Cambridge University, but halfway through his studies he abandoned mathematics for anthropology. After university, Ken joined the Colonial Service and served in Kenya for several years before returning to Britain to work as assistant general manager at Lewis's, Birmingham; then personnel manager at G.A. Harvey & Co. in London. From 1945 to 1948 he was a deputy director of the Industrial Welfare Society in London (now The Work Foundation). He married Marjorie Ansell in 1935 and had two daughters.

Ken Rice joined the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in 1948 and worked there until he died in 1969. It was at the Tavistock that Ken developed his method of critically analysing society, in particular addressing problems facing managers in industrial settings. This culminated in his work in India for the Sarabhai firm at Ahmedabad where, in a few months, he replanned and reorganised the weaving section of the enterprise, increasing its productivity by 300 percent. This experience was recorded in his book, Productivity and Social Organization: The Ahmedabad Experiment.

Ken Rice worked with Eric Miller on a number of projects, including consultancy to an airline, a public school, the clergy, and for the Prison Commission. Out of this work he developed his ideas about group relations. Ken Rice directed the Tavistock Institute's group relations programme and training events, including Leicester Conference, from 19xx to 1969. He later wrote a book about his experiences running Leicester, called Learning for Leadership: Interpersonal and Intergroup Relations.

News of Rice's work in group relations and the original ideas in his book The Enterprise and its Environment spread to the United States. He was employed by the Washington School of Psychiatry for a time; and was later asked to reorganise the Yale University Medical School. He directed the first group relations conference in the United States, at Holyoke in 1965.

Ken Rice died suddenly on 15 November 1969, aged 61. His memorial service included tributes from his friends and colleagues, including Jock Sutherland, who described Rice's work at the Tavistock: "Ken's first endeavour with us was to create a small group of senior representatives of industry and administrators which met under the leadership of Wilfred Bion. Bion's influence on Ken remained a profound one and it established his future interest in group experience as a method for the personal development and understanding of those in leadership roles. His pioneering work in this field perhaps one with quite remarkable potential for the educational needs of our society was rewarded in the most gratifying way possible, its adoption by a wide range of institutions including industry, government departments and the clergy."

The A.K. Rice Institute in the United States was set up by Margaret Rioch, Eric Miller and other colleagues in memory of Ken Rice and to continue the work he had started in America.

Selected publications by A.K.Rice

Rice, A.K. (1958) Productivity and Social Organization: The Ahmedabad Experiment. London: Tavistock Publications. (Reprinted in 1987 by Garland).

Rice, A.K. (1963) The Enterprise and its Environment: A System Theory of Management Organisation. London: Tavistock Publications. (Reprinted in 2001 by Routledge/Taylor & Francis).

Rice, A.K. (1965) Learning for Leadership: Interpersonal and Intergroup Relations. London: Tavistock Publications. (Reprinted in 1999 by Karnac Books).

Rice, A.K. & Miller, E.J. (1967) Systems of Organisation: Control of Task and Sentient Boundaries. London: Tavistock Publications. (Reprinted in 2001 by Routledge/Taylor & Francis).

Top of page