Scientific Management Was the Product of 19th Century Industrial Practices and Has No Relevance to the Present Day. Discuss.

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MN1001: 1st Formal Assignment
Title: Scientific Management was the product of 19th Century industrial practices and has no relevance to the present day. Discuss. Guide Length: c.2000 words
George Ritzer defined Scientific Management as a procedure that “produced a non-human technology that exerted great control over workers” (Ritzer, 2011, p30). Scientific management is primarily concerned with the physical efficiency of an individual and can be dated back as far as the early 1800’s to a man named Adam Smith. Smith explains the optimum organization of a pin factory to determine that a division of labour in the workforce would cause an increase in productivity. Before he came in, pin makers constructed a mere few dozen pins a day as they constructed the entire pin themselves. Smith felt that when workers were organised in a factory with each worker performing a limited task and thus different workers producing separate parts of a pin and then putting them together, they could produce thousands daily. Adam smith stated that “Labour alone, therefore, never varying in its own value, is alone the ultimate and real standard by which the value of all commodities can at all times and places be estimated and compared. It is their real price; money is their nominal price only.” (Smith, 1776), p23). This explains how much Smith favoured division of labour as he claims that a commodities real price is labour and not money. These were the primary findings of scientific management. It is important to look at how scientific management has developed since Smith and to see if its methods are still used and how effective they are in the modern world.

Following Smith, in 1898 often credited as being the creator of scientific management, Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) ‘devised a means of detailing a division of labour in time-and-motion studies and a wage system based on performance’ (Green, 2012, p83). According to Taylor, “Scientific Management is an art of knowing exactly what you want your men to do and seeing that they do it in the best and cheapest way.” (Taylor, 2011, p79). He amended work methods at Bethlehem Steel Works in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA. Workers at the plant loaded approximately twelve and a half tons of pig iron per man per day. Frederick Taylor felt that workers should aim to lift four times this amount. He introduced his new methods and successfully raised productivity by a factor of four. The cost of handling pig iron decreased excessively and workers wages increased by nearly 60 per cent.

Taylorism was put in place in order to deskill workers and make them specialised in one segment of a task. Thus repetition of the same task resulted in faster output and higher quality. Taylor stroke a deal with his workers which was as follows; ‘you do it my way, by my standards, at the speed I mandate, and in so doing achieve a level of output I ordain, and I’ll pay you handsomely for it, beyond anything you might have imagined. All you do is take orders, give up your way of doing the job for mine’ (Taylor, 2004, p32.) This shows that Taylor was almost ruthless in his approach and almost treated workers as if they were machines but at the same time offered them an incentive to work harder, which was more money. Taylor felt that employees were motivated by money and thus introduced a wage incentive known as a ‘fair days’ work based on a fair days wage’ and employees were paid extra according to their level of output. This idea was then taken and furthered by a man named Douglas McGregor and was later known as a ‘Theory X’ management approach. It seems clear that Taylor’s methods were successful in the 19th century as he raised productivity but there was still some sustained criticism of his methods around this time. A major criticism of scientific management is how workers are transformed into robots completing menial tasks. Many were critical of Taylor as his methods were new to everyone and some felt that he...
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