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

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In the late nineteenth century, the United States has experienced a rapid growth in industry and business, followed by historical background of ‘the Civil War’ (1861-1865); during that period, the government had huge expenditures on industrial necessities in order to maintain a large army. In 1890, the United States for the first time produced a larger proportion of industrial products than agricultural and therefore, the country in an unprecedented case, had undergone complex forms of organisation with new technologies leading to significant decline in efficiency and output. Frederic Taylor and Henri Fayol notably began theorising about managing the body with solutions, which are known as scientific management and became communicable and teachable discipline for large organisation managers. In this essay, I will elaborate on scientific management and analyse why the 19th century industrial practices has no longer relevant to the present day.

Scientific management, which was initiated by Frederick Taylor (also called Taylorism) in 1911, claimed that decisions about job design and organisations should be based on accurate scientific procedures, having carefully thought and studied individual situations. Scientific management, in order to find the ‘one best way’, relied on time and motion and stated that the best way of improving efficiency is to enhance techniques and material used by the workers. The more focused management principles to the total organisation are increase in professional experience (Spender, 1996). Henri Fayol, for example, proposed fourteen principles of administration, such as “Similar activities in an organisation should be grouped under a single manager”; unity of direction and “Every subordinate receives orders from only one superior”; unity of command (General and Industrial Management, 1916). Scientific management and administrative principles considered the organisation as a closed system, which did not take into account the uncertainty and rapid change of the environment to which companies are subject today (Drucker, 2001). Fordism is a work form organisation designed for efficient mass production named from Henry Ford. This work form has characteristics of deskilling of waste workforces, restriction of labour with one single task and strong hierarchical authority. And therefore, is closely linked with Taylorism (Scientific management). Fordism however, used semi-skilled workers who could be replaced easily and this identified as ‘Continuous improvement’ (Buchanan and Huczynski, 1985, p431). It had major innovations: * Jobs using time-and-motion techniques, which principles of scientific management are applied; removal of inefficiency, allocation of labours into simple tasks. They all had been scientifically designed to reach maximum efficiency. * Division of labour (specialisation); allocation of labours into ‘farmer machines’, which means the single-purpose machines. * Introduction of assembly line; a continuous automatic conveyor assembly line introduced in 1914. Although there were advantages of Taylorism and Fordism, which were suitable in 19th century, they gradually had to face several criticisms. The vital cons of scientific management are that the idea of the ‘one-best-way’ neglected different approach of workings, which then caused frequent labour turnover, and the psychological and sociological needs. Under the top-down hierarchy there would had been a lack of flexibility, communication, and creativity. In addition, the motivation of labours was extremely low due to small amount of interest compare to their working hours. They are biased on mechanistic organisation of speed and output than organic organisation. Fordism could theoretically be efficient in short term (i.e. The Ford car company produced 27 cars in 1908, and by 1923 quantity output had dramatically increased to 2,000) but in long term, labours lost interest and concentration,...
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