is Scientific Management? Description
The Scientific Management approach was devised by Frederick
Winslow Taylor at the end of the 19th century to improve labor productivity by analyzing and establishing workflow processes.
Taylor thought that by analyzing work in a scientific manner, the "One
Best Way" to perform a task could be found.
Taylor had pragmatic and even good motives to free up the
good worker (Schmidt) of one half of his work, who was carrying pig iron at Bethlehem Steel. And at the same time
he wanted to alleviate poverty and eliminate waste of time, energy and human ability. But his methods were
very hard and sometimes had the opposite effect when they fell into the
hands of ruthless exploiters of workers. This is why Scientific Management
is often referred to disparagingly as Taylorism.
Frederick Winslow Taylor - Father of Scientific Management. Biography
Frederick Winslow Taylor is born in 1856 to a wealthy Quaker family in
Philadelphia. In 1874 he becomes an apprentice patternmaker and machinist
at Enterprise Hydraulics Works, gaining shop-floor expertise. In 1878 he
takes up an unskilled job at Midvale Steel Works where he does his first
experiments. In 1881 he gains a master degree in mechanical engineering.
In 1890 he is appointed to general manager of Manufacturing Investment
Company (MIC). It is important to understand that the circumstances during
the life of Taylor were quite different from those today: there had been a
series of depressions and production methods at the time were very
inefficient. Also there was a need to employ many immigrants into the US,
to raise the living standards and to meet rising demands for goods of
every sort. All of this influences Taylor when he publishes The
Principles of Scientific Management in 1911. Taylor dies in 1915.
Usage of Scientific Management. Applications
- Basis or inspiration for many later management philosophies,
Operations Research, CSFs and KPIs
and Balanced Scorecard,
Management, Six Sigma and
Business Process Reengineering.
- As a contrast to modern business or management methods.
- Old-fashioned, inefficient industrial environments.
- Taylor was pragmatic and he was a strong advocate of
Learning-by-Doing. Contrary to today's theorizing, hypothesis
formation and testing, the One Best Way came from the workers, not from
the managers or owners (Spender and Kijne, 1996). Peter Drucker saw
Taylor as the creator of Knowledge Management,
because the aim of scientific management is to produce knowledge about how to
improve work processes.
Steps in Scientific Management. Process
Taylor's scientific management consisted of four principles:
- Replace rule of thumb work methods with methods based on a
scientific study of the tasks.
- Select, train, teach and develop the most suitable person for each job,
again scientifically, rather than passively leaving them to train
- Managers must provide detailed instructions and supervision to each
worker to ensure the job is done in a scientific way.
- Divide work between managers and workers. The managers apply
scientific management principles to planning and supervising the work,
and the workers carry out the tasks.
Strengths of Scientific Management. Benefits
- One of the first formal divisions between workers and managers.
- Contribution to efficient production methods, leading to a major
global increase of living standards.
- Focus on the individual task and worker level. Compare:
Business Process Reengineering (process
- Direct reward mechanisms for workers rather than pointless
end-of-year profit sharing schemes.
- Systematic. Early proponent of quality standards.
- Suggestion schemes for workers, who should be rewarded by cash
- Emphasis on measuring. Measurement enables improvement.
- Pragmatic and useful in times and circumstances as described above
Limitations of Scientific Management. Disadvantages
- Taylorism can easily be abused to exploit human beings. Conflicts
with labor unions.
- Not useful to deal with groups or teams.
- Leaves no room for individual preferences or initiative.
- Overemphasis on measuring. No attention for soft factors.
- Mechanistic. Treating people as machines.
- Separation of planning function and doing.
- Loss of skill level and autonomy at worker level. Not very useful in
current knowledge worker environments (except as an antithesis).
Book: Taylor, Frederick Winslow - The Principles of
Scientific Management, 1911 -
Book: Spender, J.C. and Kijne, H. (Eds) - Scientific
Management: Fredrick Winslow Taylor's Gift to the World? 1996 -
Scientific Management Special Interest Group
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Compare with Scientific Management:
Operations Research |
Balanced Scorecard |
CSFs and KPIs |
Lean Manufacturing |
Six Sigma |
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