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Encyclopedia: Scientific management

SOURCE: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Scientific-management

Taylorism or Scientific management is the name of the approach to management and Industrial/Organizational Psychology initiated by Frederick Winslow Taylor.

Taylorism is often mentioned along with Fordism, because it was closely associated with mass production methods in manufacturing factories. Taylor's own name for his approach was scientific management. It relied upon time and motion study to find the "one best method" i.e shorn of unrequired extra movements. Taylor believed that productivity could be increased if "First Class Man" (in his words) was used for the job. What he meant was people differ in their abilities and one should select the proper person for the job. The difference between the "first class" and the one unsuited could be dramatic. Today we know all computer programmers are not equal and the best ones can be as much as ten times better. Also every job should have rest breaks so that the worker is not tired. He proved this with the task of unloading ore. Workers were taught to take rest during work and output went up. Today's army uses it during forced marches - the soldiers are told to take a break of 10 minutes for every hour. The human heart uses the same principle - it takes a rest between beats and this is how it keeps beating non-stop.

While this principle has a certain logic, in practice it has two obvious deficiencies:
  • it ignores individual differences; the most efficient way of working for one person may be inefficient for another;
  • it ignores the fact that the economic interests of workers and management are rarely identical, so that both the measurement processes and the retraining required by Taylor's methods would frequently be resented and sometimes sabotaged by the workforce.

This was recognised by Taylor and he said scientific management can not work unless the worker benefits. In his view Management is doing its job when the employees are paid higher than the normal going rate in the industry. In his view management shall arrange the work in such a way that one is able to produce more and get paid more.

The practical problems caused by Taylorism led to its replacement by the human relations school of management.

  • See also

  • List of production topics
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