This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012
Sir Walter Scott (1903-1981), accountant and management consultant, was born on 10 November 1903 in Perth, second of three children of Victorian-born parents Alexander Scott, billiard marker, and his wife Selina, née Jenkins. His family, which lived in modest circumstances in Leederville, was devoutly Presbyterian and Walter remained an active church member (later with the
Scott’s work for the timber industry and recommendations for change provided a basis for a broad approach to the emerging discipline of cost accounting, which he eventually applied across many industries. He advocated that it was not sufficient simply to identify costs along a production chain. The management practices that fed directly into the cost regime required most attention. Cost accounting was incorporated into Australian management practice, later becoming known as managerial accounting. The Scott family moved to
The practice remained small because of the onset of World War II; Scott undertook cost-accounting assignments for the Commonwealth government until 1945. He worked with (Sir) Edwin Nixon, director of finance, Department of Munitions; Scott’s primary task was to assess munitions production costs in a regime that was based largely on cost-plus principles. Subsequently he was appointed finance member and deputy-chairman of the New South Wales board of area management, Department of Munitions, a responsibility that brought him into close contact with (Sir) Essington Lewis, director-general of munitions, and (Sir) John Jensen, secretary of the department. In 1943 Lewis persuaded Scott to join the Secondary Industries Commission, an advisory body established to prepare manufacturing industry for the changeover from war to peace. Much of this work involved financial aspects of the transfer of factories, many in regional areas, from public to private usage. Wartime involvement greatly increased the range of Scott’s experience, and established his reputation as a first-class finance professional.
After the war Scott returned to building and expanding W. D. Scott & Co., which became
Scott became prominent as a leading business authority. Among his personal friends he included (Sir) James Kirby, (Sir) Robert Webster and (Sir) William Pettingell. A leading force in promoting the professional place of management in business, Scott was one of the founders of the Australian Institute of Management (chairman 1953-56) and the inaugural winner (1962) of the Sir John Storey medal. He emerged as a leader in the International Congress of Scientific Management (CIOS), and helped to bring the world management congress to
In 1959 Scott was appointed chairman of the Commonwealth Decimal Currency Committee, established to advise on the feasibility of decimal currency, and in 1963 he became chairman of the Decimal Currency Board, which was to plan and oversee full decimal implementation in 1966. Appearing regularly on national television, Scott simply and directly offered reassurance about the technicalities of the change. His assistance was also sought across the political spectrum, including as a member (1954-56) of the royal commission on the Collinsville colliery disaster, president (later patron) of the Australian Organisation for Quality Control, and chairman of the Industrial Design Council of Australia (1961-66), of the New South Wales Productivity Council (1964-68), of a committee investigating class sizes and teaching loads for the New South Wales Department of Education (1969), and of the Commonwealth committee of inquiry into procurement policy (1973-74). After resigning as managing director of W. D. Scott & Co. in 1974 in favour of his son Brian, he became group chairman.
Scott’s first book was Business Budgeting and Budgetary Control (1939), which built on the principles developed in the sawmill treatise and other consulting work. He drew substantially on international best practice in budgetary management. His second, The Principles and Practice of Cost Accounting (1944), had its origin in a postgraduate course in cost accounting delivered in
Two other books followed on ever-broadening management themes. Greater Production: Its Problems and Possibilities (1950) responded to postwar shortages of labour and materials and emphasised the importance of the human dimension and labour relations in the achievement of greater production. In 1957 Scott wrote Australia and the Challenge of Change, a broad essay on the 'second industrial revolution' and its possible effects on
Scott was a quietly disciplined, even courtly, figure of strength and innovative thought. Teetotal throughout his life, he was a family man of warmth and gentleness. His community contributions included founding membership (1964-78) of the council of
C. B. Schedvin, 'Scott, Sir Walter (1903–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/scott-sir-walter-15492/text26707, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 30 July 2016.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012