Frederick Taylor - Scientific Management
Frederick Taylor, with his theories of Scientific Management, started the era of modern management. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Frederick Taylor was decrying the " awkward, inefficient, or ill-directed movements of men" as a national loss. He advocated a change from the old system of personal management to a new system of scientific management. Under personal management, a captain of industry was expected to be personally brilliant. Taylor claimed that a group of ordinary men, following a scientific method would out perform the older "personally brilliant" captains of industry.
Taylor consistently sought to overthrow management "by rule of thumb" and replace it with actual timed observations leading to "the one best" practice. Following this philosophy he also advocated the systematic training of workers in "the one best practice" rather than allowing them personal discretion in their tasks. He believed that " a spirit of hearty cooperation" would develop between workers and management and that cooperation would ensure that the workers would follow the "one best practice." Under these philosophies Taylor further believed that the workload would be evenly shared between the workers and management with management performing the science and instruction and the workers performing the labor, each group doing "the work for which it was best suited."
Taylor's strongest positive legacy was the concept of breaking a complex task down in to a number of small subtasks, and optimizing the performance of the subtasks. This positive legacy leads to the stop-watch measured time trials which in turn lead to Taylor's strongest negative legacy. Many critics, both historical and contemporary have pointed out that Taylor's theories tend to "dehumanize" the workers. To modern readers, he stands convicted by his own words:
" … in almost all of the mechanic arts, the science which underlies each act of each workman is so great and amounts to so much that the workman who is best suited to actually doing the work is incapable of fully understanding this science, without the guidance and help of those who are working with him or over him, either through lack of education or through insufficient mental capacity."
"to work according to scientific laws, the management must takeover and perform much of the work which is now left to the men; almost every act of the workman should be preceded by one or more preparatory acts of the management which enable him to do his work better and quicker than he otherwise could."
The Principles of Scientific Management
Taylor's work was strongly influenced by his social/historical period. His lifetime (1856-1915) was during the Industrial Revolution. The overall industrial environment of this period is well documented by the Dicken's classic Hard Times or Sinclar's The Jungle. Autocratic management was the norm. The manufacturing community had the idea of interchangeable parts for almost a century. The sciences of physics and chemistry were bringing forth new miracles on a monthly basis.
One can see Taylor turning to "science" as a solution to the inefficiencies and injustices of the period. His idea of breaking a complex task into a sequence of simple subtasks closely mirrors the interchangeable parts ideas pioneered by Eli Whitney earlier in the century. Furthermore, the concepts of training the workers and developing "a hearty...