Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management
Understanding Taylorism and Early Management Theory
Taylor investigated the "science" of shoveling.
How did current management theories develop?
People have been managing work for hundreds of years, and we can trace formal management ideas to the 1700s. But the most significant developments in management theory emerged in the 20th century. We owe much of our understanding of managerial practices to the many theorists of this period, who tried to understand how best to conduct business. Historical Perspective
One of the earliest of these theorists was Frederick Winslow Taylor. He started the Scientific Management movement, and he and his associates were the first people to study the work process scientifically. They studied how work was performed, and they looked at how this affected worker productivity. Taylor's philosophy focused on the belief that making people work as hard as they could was not as efficient as optimizing the way the work was done. In 1909, Taylor published "The Principles of Scientific Management." In this, he proposed that by optimizing and simplifying jobs, productivity would increase. He also advanced the idea that workers and managers needed to cooperate with one another. This was very different from the way work was typically done in businesses beforehand. A factory manager at that time had very little contact with the workers, and he left them on their own to produce the necessary product. There was no standardization, and a worker's main motivation was often continued employment, so there was no incentive to work as quickly or as efficiently as possible. Taylor believed that all workers were motivated by money, so he promoted the idea of "a fair day's pay for a fair day's work." In other words, if a worker didn't achieve enough in a day, he didn't deserve to be paid as much as another worker who was highly productive. With a background in mechanical engineering, Taylor was very interested in efficiency. While advancing his career at a U.S. steel manufacturer, he designed workplace experiments to determine optimal performance levels. In one, he experimented with shovel design until he had a design that would allow workers to shovel for several hours straight. With bricklayers, he experimented with the various motions required and developed an efficient way to lay bricks. And he applied the scientific method to study the optimal way to do any type of workplace task. As such, he found that by calculating the time needed for the various elements of a task, he could develop the "best" way to complete that task. These "time and motion" studies also led Taylor to conclude that certain people could work more efficiently than others. These were the people whom managers should seek to hire where possible. Therefore,...