Scientific Management

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What are the main features of Taylor’s approach to ‘Scientific Management” and what criticisms have been made of it? Do firms use scientific management today?

Frederick Winslow Talyor developed a theory called the Scientific Management. It is a theory of management that analyse and improve work process, aiming to increase labour productivity. Scientific management methods are used to optimize productivity and simplifying the jobs so that workers could be trained to perform their task in one “best” way. Prior to the development of scientific management, works were performed by skilled craftsmen who had learned their jobs by apprenticeships and they made their own decisions about how their job was to be carried out. Scientific management changed skilled crafts to a series of simplified jobs that could be performed by unskilled workers who could be trained to perform the task, Taylor developed this theory as he worked his way up from a labourer to a manager in a US steelworks company. He realised the worker in his company were not efficient, hence he wanted to improve the workers’ productivity. Talyor stated that inefficiency is caused by both labour and management. He had observed, that workers purposely operate below their capacity and at the slowest rate that would not be punished, which is called soldiering. Managers were incompetence and irrational. Managers lacked information and knowledge about work process, worker’s abilities and the time which is required to complete the tasks. Time management is done by guesswork. Taylor portrayed managers as ignorant, arbitrary, selfish and blind to their own real interest. (Rose, Rational Workmen and Incompetent Managers, 1978) Taylor’s scientific management can be divided into three broad areas. The first is improving the organisational structure and routine. The second is the measurement of work and the design of task. The third is on the selection and motivation of workers (Rose, Rational Workmen and Incompetent Managers, 1978). Taylor started “Functional Foremanship” to improve the company organisational structure and routine. Workers are more likely to be less productive when supervised by a manager who is ignorant about the work process. Hence, Taylor recommended that 8 foremen are required to supervise the workers, because one foreman will not be able to be expert in all the work process. Taylor’s functional foremanship is separated into planning and operation. The four position Taylor named for planning foremen are route clerk, who determines the sequence of operations; instruction card clerk, who gives out detailed instructions about the work; time and cost clerk, who determines the time table, materials and cost of labour for a job and disciplinarian, who handles problems with discipline and absenteeism. (managementstudyguide, 2008) The operations foremen are those in charge of the on-the-job-performance. They are the gang boss, who sets up the equipment; speed boss, who is responsible for maintaining a proper speed of work; repair boss, who is responsible for the repairs and maintenance of machines; and inspector, who is responsible for maintaining the quality of production. (managementstudyguide, 2008) Taylor developed work-study. It is the scientific study of a task to find the ‘one best way’ to perform that task .It focuses on the methods used in the task, the time taken to finish the task, the tools used, the level of fatigue. Time study was characterized by the use of a stopwatch to time a worker’s sequence of motions, to determine the time to perform the job. This technique is based on the study of an average worker having reasonable skill and ability. Motion study, observe the movement to perform a job. The purpose of motion study is to eliminate useless motions and determine the best way of doing the job. Motion study increases efficiency and productivity of workers by cutting down useless motions. Taylor designed workplace experiments to determine...
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