Scientific Management, a 19th Century Concept: No Relevance to Present Circumstances

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Scientific Management was the product of 19th Century industrial practices and has no relevance to the present day. Discuss.

« I am hiring you for your strength and physical capacities. We don’t ask you thinking; some people are already here to do it » said Taylor to one of his employees in summing up his philosophy. During the 19th century, the industrial revolution spread in developed countries, substituting agriculture for large-scale industry and the same problems emerged everywhere: laziness, obstruction and a gap of knowledge between managers (white-collar workers) and the other workers (blue-collar workers). Old management principles, which fit with mass production and profit maximisation are not anymore adapted and need to be replaced by new ones. With scientific management, Taylor introduced a method that changed the way we work and also our way of life. In order to discuss how this system is both equally relevant and irrelevant today, we must understand what scientific management is and how it’s first stages are crucial.

Firstly, we must understand the definition of scientific management? It began in the early 19th century with the people who set it up. There people include F.W Taylor, H. Ford and the people who reflect on the theory such as A. Smith. Taylor (by the hand, his parents forced him to do country dancing) was a manager in the steel industry. His four management principles are :

« The development of a science to replace the old rule-of-thumb knowledge of the workmen (…), the scientific selection and then the progressive selection of the workmen (…), the bringing of the science and the scientifically selected and trained workmen together. (…), and an almost equal division of the actual work of the establishment between the workmen, on the one hand, and the management, on the other hand. »

The aim is to standardise the workers as the work and despite resistance (strikes and sabotage) at the beginning, it became the standard in all-manufacturing industry around 1920. Moreover, this is evident in the productions of pins, A. Smith, more than a century before, said that the division of labour and the specialization of the workers, it highly increases productivity, and in this case more than 40,000 times. Then, H. Ford created the ‘Ford’ automobile brand and put in place a new scientific production way based on the Taylorism model, which incorporated into assembly lines (the work comes to worker), timekeeping and higher wages (the « five dollars a day) which encouraged mass production America and eventually worldwide. For example, with the model T, a standardize car that was only available in black, without other options, was developed so that most of the workers were able to afford it (thanks to an increased in wages). This changed the social way in which American’s lived. We saw that scientific management was the product of the 19th century in re-organizing all the production method and in trying to find “the one best way” but is it still relevant question today ?

Some authors argue that Taylorism didn’t disappear, far from that, it was institutionalized and now represent the basis of production control within the organization as Braverman and Ritzer said. The first one proposes that scientific management deskills the workers and the second author starts with a thesis to affirm that McDonaldization, which is for him a form of work design aimed at achieving efficiency, calculability, predictability and control through non-human technology, in order to enhance organizational objectives by limiting employee discretion and creativity, factors which dominate more sectors in the world. He sustains his thesis saying that the Mc Donald company represents this model based on rationality, routinization and standardization. He supports his thesis with four key elements: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. Why to choose this model? Profit could be considerable for this...
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