Scientific Managment

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The fastest way from point A to point B is a straight line. Scientifically, it is a proven fact. Mathematically, it is the shortest distance, therefore takes the less time. The travel of a straight line is an absolute model of efficiency at its purest. Frederick Winslow Taylor could not have agreed more. Taylor was a firm believer in using science and raw data to determine the most efficient course of action. Guessing was not allowed. Through research and meticulous analysis, only then could a process be established, fully grounded in scientific fact. It is these principles that allowed Taylor to establish scientific management, a management theory used to improve productivity. Frederick Taylor, known as the father of modern management, was born into an affluent Philadelphia family, and studied engineering at Steven’s Institute of Technology in New Jersey. Taylor began his career as an apprentice foreman and common laborer. He would quickly advance to chief engineer. His direct observations of men at work led him to develop what we would call "motivation" theory, although this is a psychology term that would not be imported into the management vocabulary until later. Taylor called it scientific management. Taylor's own point of view, although benign towards workers, saw human labor very much analogous to machine work--- something to be "engineered" to achieve efficiency. His theories on management are promoted worldwide (and maybe took stronger root in Japan than in the U.S. or Europe) and would be controversial at home. (mgmtguru.com) In order to understand how Taylor’s scientific management revolutionized industry and helped shape modern organization, one needs to understand what came before him. The industrial revolution had been underway for nearly 100 years before Taylor took his first job as an engineer at Philadelphia’s Midvale Steel Company in the Fall of 1878. (Nelson, p. 29) Most histories of the industrial revolution focus on technological developments, such as interchangeable parts, steam power, and the assembly line. Very little has been written about how nineteenth century plants were organized and managerial power was delegated. In virtually all industries, regardless of the types of manufacturing operations taking place, the foreman was, for all intents and purposes, the manufacturer. (Nelson, p. 4) The foreman had near absolute authority over the workers. He was responsible for hiring and firing personnel, training them, arbitrating grievances, promoting and demoting workers, and enforcing the manufacturer’s personnel policies regarding work hours, personal appearance, and rules of conduct. In many industries the “piece work” system was common. The foreman set the wages using a “rule of thumb” method. (Nelson, p. 8) The manufacturer, for whom the foreman worked, usually watched the payroll very closely. When piece workers were so productive that they earned more than the prevailing day wage, the manufacturer would order the piece rate cut, removing any incentive to produce more. Combined with the difficult and unsafe work environments in many factories, there was a more or less permanent state of labor-management strife. Strikes and violence were common. (Nelson p. 9) In 1903, Taylor wrote Shop Management where he discussed his management principles. In it, Taylor theorized that workers were inefficient because they tended to ration their workload or work less than they could to prevent the job tasks from running out, resulting in a loss of wages. Management also failed to structure work effectively and to provide appropriate incentives. (mgmtguru.com) Taylor would later elaborate on his management theories in 1911, when he published The Principles of Scientific Management. Scientific management consisted of four basic principles: 1.Replace “rule of thumb” work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks. 2.Scientifically select and then train, teach,...
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