He was born in Walsall in 1932, the eldest of six children, one of whom died at a young age. After the Second World War he was enlisted for National Service, achieving the rank of Second Lieutenant in the infantry. He then studied history at Pembroke College, Oxford. He was subsequently sponsored by his employer, John Thompsons of Wolverhampton, to study management at the London School of Economics and then joined the West Midlands Gas Board. In 1961 he moved to IBM where he rose to be Head of Personnel and Corporate Affairs for the UK. He was President of the Institute of Personnel Managers from 1982-85.
The NHS Management Board was established by Norman Fowler as a result of the Griffiths Report on NHS. In 1985 he was seconded to the Department of Health as to serve as Director of Personnel on the Board and was appointed Chief Executive in November 1986. He returned to IBM in 1989 and when he retired in 1992 he became Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority and later Commissioner for Public Appointments.