Scientific Management

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Course: Bachelor of Business Studies (BBS)

Module: Principals of Management

Title: Explain Scientific Management. Comment on the contribution of this approach to the development of management thought. What are its limitations?


Submission Date: 8th of March 2010

Word Count 2183

“The Principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee” (Taylor, 1947)


The Author will discuss Scientific Management under the following headings: Section 1 An explanation on Scientific Management. Section 2, The contribution of Scientific Management to the development of Management thought and Section 3 looks at the limitations of Scientific Management.

What is Scientific Management?

Bratton et al (2007: 355) defines scientific management as a process of systematically partitioning work into its smallest elements and standardising tasks to achieve maximum efficiency. The scientific management approach was developed at the end of the 19th Century; its father is commonly accepted to be Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1917) although some variations of the theory have been developed by Gantt and Gilbreth. The scientific management approach was set up to improve labour productivity by evaluating and setting up workflow practices. Taylor was Chief Engineer at the Midvale Steel Company his first-hand experience here led Taylor to recognise that labour productivity was largely inefficient due to a workforce that functioned by “rules of thumb” methods. In 1898 Taylor was employed as a consultant by the Bethlehem Steel works Company, where he applied his principles of scientific management through evaluating work in a scientific manner. Taylor gained this information with his “Time and Motion Study”, as Dale explains,

Taylor employed a young man to analyse all the operations and the motions performed in each and to time the motions with a stopwatch. From knowing how long it took actually to perform each of the elements in each job, it would be possible … To determine a really “fair days work”. (Dale 1963, p155)

Taylor’s experience at Bethlehem Steel led him to develop four principals of management. The first being substitute rule of thumb work processes with processes based on a scientific study of the tasks. Taylor broke down each part of the production process into individual tasks to accomplish task specialisation. Taylor also used time and motion studies to establish the most proficient technique for performing each work task and giving rest periods. Secondly, managers should select, train, teach and develop the most suitable person for each job. Taylor hated “soldering”, and by introducing a piece-rate system of pay he eliminated the group process in which workers slowed their speed of work to suit the ordinary worker’s needs. Thirdly, comprehensive training and supervision to each worker must be given by management to guarantee the job is done in a scientific way and finally scientific management principals need to be applied to the planning and supervising of work and the workforce complete the tasks.

The Principals of scientific management were widely accepted and spread as far as the Soviet Union where Taylor’s principals were included into a variety of five-year development plans. The most well-known application of Taylor’s principals of scientific management was in Henry Ford’s Model T. Frank Gilbreth (1868 –1924) and his wife Lillian (1878 – 1972), developed variations of Taylor’s scientific management, they were mostly concerned with the elimination of waste and like Taylor thought that a “One Best Way” to carry out a task could be found. Another contributor to scientific management was Henry Gantt (1856-1915) who was a protégé of Taylor’s who designed the Gantt chart a straight line chart to display and measure planned and completed work as time elapsed.

The contribution of...
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