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Frederick Winslow Taylor, “the father of scientific management.”
Taylor's work is responsible for workplace phenomena such as reengineering and total quality management.

 

...he developed the basic elements of what later came to be known as "scientific management"...

 

... initial experiments... aimed at determining... how much work a “first-class man” could perform...

...to collect raw data about the jobs in the workplace, and then to systematize that knowledge; to replace old habits... with precise and usually quantitative analysis...

...the one best way...

  • time and motion study
  • standardized tools and materials,
  • simplification of methods,
  • careful selection and training of workers,
  • rigorous measurement of work output, and
  • benchmarking...

...collaboration between management and workers in building a larger surplus...

 

 

 

Taylor recognized that knowledge is power. Management had to understand what was happening on the factory floor...

Taylor saw the worker as but one element in a work and work control system -- the worker was to do the work and the management was to exercise control...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Factors such as meaning, a sense of identity, or empowerment where not part of Taylor’s conceptualization. His models are based on assumptions about a "typical, economically motivated" worker...

Today's managers owe Frederick Winslow Taylor a debt for having laid much of the foundation of their profession. Taylor's work is responsible for workplace phenomena such as reengineering and total quality management. Further, what Deming and Juran carried to Japan after World War II, was in great part so warmly received there because Taylorism was already well ensconced.

Although born to a wealthy family, Taylor began his work life when he signed on as an apprentice at a small Philadelphia pump works. Four years later, at a plant in Midvale, he developed the basic elements of what later came to be known as "scientific management" -- the breakdown of work tasks into constituent elements, the timing of each element based on repeated stopwatch studies, the fixing of piece rate compensation based on those studies, the standardization of work tasks on detailed instruction cards, and generally, the systematic consolidation of the shop floor's brain work in a "planning department."

Taylor's initial experiments were aimed at determining (scientifically, of course), how much work a “first-class man” could perform. It was Taylor's goal to collect raw data about the jobs in the workplace, and then to systematize that knowledge; to replace old habits and rules of thumb with precise and usually quantitative analysis. He was convinced that scientific study would reveal a better way -- the one best way -- of doing things. No task was too mundane for scrutiny. In one celebrated example, Taylor conducted extensive experiments to determine the optimal size of a shovelful of dirt to maximize the total amount shoveled in a day.

Essentially, in his scheme of things, workers would receive extraordinary increases in wages in return for extraordinary increases in output. Thus, unit costs would decrease significantly, making possible reduced prices and increased profits. It was a win-win-win: higher wages, higher profits, and lower prices.  "In the past the man was first," Taylor said in a famous line, "in the future the system must be first."

In the first decades of the 1900's  the general thrust of Taylor's work permeated American and world industrial society. Time and motion study, standardized tools and materials,  simplification of methods, careful selection and training of workers, rigorous measurement of work output, and even benchmarking came to be known as “scientific management” or “Taylorism”. However, he also claimed that the true mark of scientific management was a “complete mental revolution” on the part of management and the workers. Taylor espoused collaboration between management and workers in building a larger surplus, instead of quarreling over how to divide the existing profit pie. Along with Henry Ford, he became a personification of American efficiency and industrial might.

Taylor was concerned by what he saw as considerable inefficiency in the typical workplace of his era. He posed the question: "What is the cause of this inefficiency?" He was curious about why workers were often to be seen slacking. He concluded that some slacking is natural -- that all persons have a natural inclination to take it easy.

Workers also tend to see their relationship with management as a fundamental conflict of interest. If managers discover that work can be done faster then piece rates tend to be reduced. In essence, a worker's attempt to earn more money by increasing his/her own output is self-defeating: The piece rate will be reduced, and then the worker and everybody else will have to work harder just to stay in place.

Further, he concluded that there is systematic slacking where the working group controls output through the enforcement of norms. Workers who don't adhere to group norms can expect ostracism if not physical abuse.Workers, according to Taylor, thus evolve rational ways of promoting their own (not the company's) best interests.

From his observations, management must also carry a large part of the blame. Too often, he argues, they lack information about worker abilities. For example, they have rarely studies the work itself to determine how long it takes to do tasks. Managers engage in guess-work that is frequently inaccurate.When management discovers that a job is too easy (that the worker completes it too quickly) they often unilaterally/autocratically alter the times required to complete the task. Not surprisingly, workers then collude to deceive management in order to ensure maximum rewards for minimum effort.

Taylor's conceptualization is clearly a function of the era in which he lived in work. The early industrial factory mixed the dynamism of new industrial technologies with the backwardness of the medieval guild. Capital and labor were seen to be separated by a fault line of unresolvable, zero-sum conflict --  Management knew it was being cheated but couldn't prove it, while workers knew that management was trying to cheat them. Frederick Taylor lived this conflict as an apprentice and, later, resolved to do something about it.

Taylor recognized that knowledge is power. Management had to understand what was happening on the factory floor. Thus, the starting point of scientific management, according to Taylor, was "the deliberate gathering in on the part of those on the management's side of all of the great mass of traditional knowledge, which in the past has been in the heads of the workmen, and in the physical skill and knack of the workmen, which he has acquired through years of experience." Through his notorious time studies Taylor allowed those who ran the business to pierce the veil of shop practice secrecy.

Taylor’s scheme was rational. Perhaps it was too rational. There was no place in Scientific Management for workers as human beings. Essentially, Taylor saw the worker as but one element in a work and work control system -- the worker was to do the work and the management was to exercise control. For Taylor, the relationship between the worker and the company was a straightforward economic transaction: pay in return for work performed. Factors such as meaning, a sense of identity, or empowerment where not part of Taylor’s conceptualization. His models are based on assumptions about a "typical, economically motivated" worker.

 

Objectives of Scientific Management

The four objectives of management under scientific management:

  1. The development of a science for each element of a man's work to replace the old rule-of-thumb methods.
  2. The scientific selection, training and development of workers instead of allowing them to choose their own tasks and train themselves as best they could.
  3. The development of a spirit of hearty cooperation between workers and management to ensure that work would be carried out in accordance with scientifically devised procedures.
  4. The division of work between workers and the management in almost equal shares, each group taking over the work for which it is best fitted instead of the former condition in which responsibility largely rested with the workers.

Self-evident in this philosophy are organizations arranged in a hierarchy, systems of abstract rules and impersonal relationships between staff.

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