Essay on Taylorism

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Despite many criticisms, and a wealth of newer theories on the topic of managing people, Taylorism (i.e. Scientific Management) is alive and well in 21st century management practice.

Initially instituted by Adam Smith, an economist, who first discovered increased outputs via the division of labour through the observation and application of breaking down tasks in the transformation processes of a pin factory, the concept of scientific management can be traced back to the 1800’s. However, the larger advancement and greater evolution of scientific management collectively came to pass during the 1900’s while the peak of the industrial revolution was taking place, and due to the surfacing of the factory system, the focus was mainly targeted on any factors that would potentially increase output levels in the transformation process. Here, Fredrick-Winslow-Taylor embarked on his studies towards the field of scientific management, which was later to be coined as ‘Taylorism’, due to his substantial contribution and ideas towards the field, and consequently, his extensive recognition as the ‘Father of scientific management.

In principle, Scientific Management is referred to as the “planned management of production that is based on the use of codified and verified knowledge of the knowable factors and directed toward the drawing up and carrying out of an overall plan accompanied by detailed instructions for each operation as established from time and motion study standards and research” Merriam-webster (2012) Conversely, George Ritzer defines Scientific Management as a method that ”produced nonhuman technology that exerted great control over workers” Ritzer.G, The Mcdonaldization of Society pg. 34 (2004) Through this, Ritzer references the effect of scientific management. Initially, the majority of businesses existing in the economy followed the ‘Rule of Thumb’, a management technique in which workers were expected to have initiative, which meant the survival of the business and it’s overall success depended on the work and diligence of it’s workers. The rule of the thumb was introduced and applied before Taylor and his studies came to pass. Through observation through his workplace, the Bethlehem steel company, Taylor concluded that the ‘Rule of Thumb’ inefficient, and focused his time and motion studies towards replacing the unproductive method with the ‘best way’. Taylor was convinced there was a single perfect technique in which employees could then adopt to complete a task, which would then produce the most appropriate job. Thus, Taylor created a division of labour by ‘deskilling’ workers, where they would commit and specialize in a single specific sector of production and continually repeat this task. Logically, the result being increased productivity outputs and ultimately enhanced quality. A unique element of Taylor’s method of developing an efficient structure for an organization was that it was a ’bottom up’ approach, which was namely focused on improving motivation and efficiency of staff on the base of the organizational hierarchy, or front line staff, as opposed to Max Weber and Henri Fayol’s concept of improving organizational structure that featured a ‘top down’ approach which aspired to improve the top section of the organizational hierarchy, or the management.

Through a time and motion experiment that Taylor redesigned, involving loading iron into a railroad carriage, Taylor observed that redesigning and breaking down tasks and movements of the workers, greatly improved the amount of outputs that were achieved at the end of the day. Throughout the study, Taylor also noted workers as individuals who are only motivated by money and devised the principle of a “fair day’s wage on a fair day’s work” which essentially meant that workers were given extra pay according to their output levels and would receive paid bonuses for reaching output targets. This concept was then augmented in the later 1900’s by Douglas...
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