Origins of Modern Management

Topics: Management, Henri Fayol, Frederick Winslow Taylor Pages: 5 (1423 words) Published: July 3, 2013
Frederick Taylor was an engineer during the Industrial Revolution in the US working 1883-1906.  He was a practical man who wanted to make factory better by making it more efficient --often making it more efficient made the work ergonomically easier.

For example, he did work on the so-called science of shovelling. He determined that a worker should shovel 21 lb per shovelful so that he could go the longest time. He also coached workers to use their body not their arms to lift. Today we know that sore backs are a big chronic problem, and that sore arms are less serious.

Taylor wrote a large book called The Principles of Scientific Management, which happily is free on Kindle and on Google books. Scientific management is not the management of science, but rather the use of experiments to improve productivity.

Taylor's work is hard to summarize, but three principles:

 Inefficiency hurts America
 Systematic management helps efficiency, not hiring for extraordinarily good workers -------------------------------------------------
 Management is a science that has laws, rules and principles.

Some of what Taylor advocates might be called worker training today. That is, if we show people how to shovel, then they shovel better. In the 1890's workers were assumed to know how to do their work, and the bosses often did not.

When I was in business school I admired the idea that studying the work at hand could make accomplishing it easier. I particularly liked taking a detailed approach to relatively simple workplace problems.

Reading Taylor today,  social issues problems and class distinction are on every page. Taylor regarded himself as progressive in his day, and he tries to give what he says as a reasonable view. The country, and actually the industrializing world of the time, were all grappling with these issues. It may have taken another fifty years before some resolution is achieved. 

More: Taylor writes about "soldiering" which means workers who slow their work-pace deliberately to get paid more or so that the employer needs to hire more workers. Maybe  we'd call that goldbricking or featherbedding today. Taylor understood that paying by piece-work only helped so much. He thought his system led to greater productivity, and the ability to pay higher wages which would motivate the workers to have a better attitude and work harder. Frederick Taylor, with his theories of Scientific Management, started the era of modern management. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Frederick Taylor was decrying the " awkward, inefficient, or ill-directed movements of men" as a national loss. He advocated a change from the old system of personal management to a new system of scientific management. Under personal management, a captain of industry was expected to be personally brilliant. Taylor claimed that a group of ordinary men, following a scientific method would out perform the older "personally brilliant" captains of industry. Taylor consistently sought to overthrow management "by rule of thumb" and replace it with actual timed observations leading to "the one best" practice. Following this philosophy he also advocated the systematic training of workers in "the one best practice" rather than allowing them personal discretion in their tasks. He believed that " a spirit of hearty cooperation" would develop between workers and management and that cooperation would ensure that the workers would follow the "one best practice." Under these philosophies Taylor further believed that the workload would be evenly shared between the workers and management with management performing the science and instruction and the workers performing the labor, each group doing "the work for which it was best suited." Taylor's strongest positive legacy was the concept of breaking a complex task down in to a number of small subtasks, and optimizing the performance of the subtasks. This positive legacy leads to the stop-watch...
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