“The principle object of management should be to secure maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for the employee…” (Taylor, 1911, p.9)
With those evocative words, Frederick W. Taylor had begun his highly influential book; “The Principles of Scientific Management” indicating his view regarding management practices. As one of the most influential management theorists, Taylor is widely acclaimed as the ‘father of scientific management’. Taylor had sought “the ‘one best way’ for a job to be done” (Robbins, Bergman, Stagg & Coulter, 2003, p.39). Northcraft and Neale (1990, p.41) state that “Scientific management took its name from the careful and systematic observational techniques it used to design jobs and arrange work for the rank-and-file factory worker.” From this portrayal it can be deduced that scientific management, as the name indicates, indeed is ‘scientific’; i.e. based on proven facts rather than guesswork. Although many others have contributed to it, the work of Taylor is generally regarded as the key principles of scientific management theory.
This essay briefly explores the application of the principles of scientific management and its extent in the management of McDonald’s and other fast-food outlets. With the wide array of contemporary management theories existing currently, coupled with the fact that Taylor’s theory receives excessive negative criticism, this analysis would be quite enlightening as it investigates the extent to which businesses employ these principles.
Furthermore, the essay also examines the reasons why scientific management is still popular amongst managers and also why some managers abhor the use of those principles - an evaluation of its pros and cons in today’s organisation.
With the aim of stamping out inefficiencies in the workplace; Taylor, as previously mentioned, had conducted experiments to find out the ‘one best way’ to do the tasks. From them he concluded four principles to be followed: “1. Develop a science for each individual element of work, 2. Scientifically select then train, teach and develop the worker, 3. Heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure that all work is done in accordance with the principles developed, 4. Divide work and responsibility almost equally between managers and workers” (Robbins et al, 2003, p.40).
Taylor’s principles could be examined in order to analyse the extent to which scientific management is used in fast-food outlets like McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and so on, for the purpose of this essay. William F. Whyte (1969, p.5) had expediently identified the techniques of Taylor’s theory as: “1.time and motion study, 2. standardised tools and procedures, 3. management responsibility to training, 4.the task, 5. individualised work, 6. scientific selection and 7. the money bonus”.
The use of the first technique; time and motion study appears extensive. In McDonald’s the jobs are broken down into simplified tasks with conduction of studies to determine the best practice. For example, in preparation of fries it uses “pre-cut, partially cooked, frozen potatoes…” and in serving “employee picks up the scoop and inserts the handle into a bag” (Levitt, 1972; Draft, 1986, cited in Bergman, 2004, p.22). This is fairly linked with the next technique of use of standardised tools and procedures. Production line techniques are implemented in restaurants to achieve the fast preparation of uniform quality products. Currently, most managers accept the need to train their employees. Taylor’s assertion that workers should not learn their skills haphazardly from other cohorts in the work setting and should be taught by managers (Whyte, 1969, p.5) is embraced by McDonald’s. It has its own university; the Hamburger University, which “provides operations and business management training for restaurant managers, franchisees,...