I first met David Hickson in March 1961. He was one of four people interviewing me for the post of research assistant at the
then Birmingham College of Advanced Technology, later to become the University of Aston and the home of the Aston programme
of organizational studies.
David had arrived at that position by an unusual route. After a time as Assistant Secretary of the Bristol Stock Exchange,
he had gone to the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology to pursue his ambition of becoming a personnel
manager. However, Reg Revans spotted his potential as a researcher and he went on to do a Master's degree, studying restriction
of output in a machine shop. It was from there that he was recruited by the new head of the Department of Industrial Administration
at Birmingham CAT, Tom Lupton, and his career as an academic researcher took off. Fortunately for me, the group of interviewers
decided to hire me and so began a lifelong association with David as a friend and colleague.
It is a great pleasure and honour to be able to chronicle some of the many events of David's life that have given him such
an esteemed place in our occupation, generally, and to EGOS, specifically. He was an important contribution to the Aston studies.
Two qualities began to be apparent during that programme. One was his keen sense of the relationship between theory and data.
Yes, he wished to spend time sorting out concepts, but equally, it was important to him to collect and analyse data. Another,
was his tremendous attention to detail; no one could get away with shoddy work in David's presence. Nothing was to be missed,
no stone to be left unturned. These are qualities that have been with him all of his life and have been important to the mark
he has made on our field.
But during this time, he was able to appreciate the role of theory more and more and when he was invited to spend time at
the University of Alberta, the project he led there bore all the hallmarks of his approach to research. What became known
as the strategic contingencies theory of power showed his commitment to theory, his concern with data, and the rigour and
thoroughness of his approach to research. From this came his invitation to apply for a professorship at the University of
Bradford, where he was to spend the central part of his academic life, from 1970 to now. It was also from the work that he
had initiated at Alberta that his lifelong interest in decision making became crystallised.
For the past 28 years, David has worked extensively on issues related to decision making. The book that he and others produced,
entitled Top Decisions is an important, far-reaching contribution. It was, and remains, a pathbreaking, benchmark study. During
this time, David has dealt with issues of the production of strategic decisions, the shape of the decision making process,
the implementation of those decisions, and the nature of organizational processes within which decision making is embedded.
David Hickson's name is synonymous wit the study of strategic, macro, organizational decision making.
So, from an academic research perspective, David's contribution has been much more than most of us can hope to achieve. He
has been centrally involved in three major studies, which have become part of the accepted canon of literature on organizations,
namely, the Aston studies, the strategic contengencies theory of power, and strategic decision making. Surely this is more
than enough for any one person. But no, David has also made a massive contribution to our professional community through the
European Group for Organizational Studies, and our journal, Organization Studies.
David was one of the small group of people who made EGOS a reality. Soon after arriving back in Britain after his two-year
sojourn in Canada, David began to explore the possibility of a European grouping of organizational researchers.