Scientific management, also known as Taylorism, was an innovative theory that maximized production efficiency within the manufacturing industries in the late 19th century. The main goal of this management theory was to improve economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. The way it worked was that scientific management removed autonomy of skilled workers, but rather it simplified job tasks so that job could be performed even by unskilled workers who could be easily trained. Before scientific management, workers had to learn necessary skills in a long time period until they become skilled enough. However, all these started when Fredrick Taylor, the person who invented this theory, noticed inefficiency or “soldiering” in the steel industries. Although scientific management seems to have succeeded in transforming inefficiency into efficiency and only have good sides due to its effects, it was a highly controversial subject in many areas.
In the steel industry, Taylor observed inefficiency among workers where they worked far below their capacity. It did not matter if the workers were smart, because even smart workers tended to work far below their capacity and did not put enough effort for several reasons. They were basically unmotivated. He later found out that employees that are forced to work meaningless and repetitive tasks usually perform at the slowest rate. There were some reasons behind its slowness. One of the main reasons would be workers tend to think that if they work at their best abilities and become more productive, fewer of them will be needed thus jobs will be eliminated. One another reason was non-incentive wage system back in the 19th century. This non-incentive wage system ultimately discouraged workers to work with their full potential, because they get paid the same amount whether they work fast or slow. Also, through the non-incentive wage system, workers tried to convince their employers that slow paced work is better, because they thought if they start working fast, they feared that would become a new standard of employers. In order to resolve problems arisen from soldiering and improve efficiency, Taylor constructed experiments to determine the best level of tasks for each job and what is necessary to perform the tasks.
Fredrick Taylor strongly believed that scientific methods will minimize these problems above and increase efficiency more than the “initiative and incentive” method would work. Although the initiative and incentive method offered incentives to good workers so that work efficiency increases, but responsibility of how to figure out things was still placed on workers. To prove his methods work, he firstly performed an experiment called “time studies” (time and motion studies) in order to determine the best way to perform jobs. It used stopwatches to time workers’ sequence of motions. Basically he proved through the experiment that even though workers are incentivized to do extra works, let’s say extra move of more tons per day, they would become exhausted after a few hours, because of the physical capability. However, by measuring how much time of rest they needed in order to work those extra amounts, workers are able to work extra without being tired and exhausted. Also it suggested that employees should be selected according to how well they are suited for a particular job.
After Fredrick Taylor experimented for a long time with his scientific management, he finally concluded some principles in order to achieve his original goal: to improve productivity in labor. One of them would be replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks. Second thing would be scientifically select, train, and develop each workers rather than just leaving them to train themselves. Again, each worker has to do what they are good at in order to maximize its productivity and efficiency in labor. He also thought not only implement scientific method is important, but he thought cooperating with the workers to ensure that the scientifically developed methods are being followed is also important. Obviously, scientific management is considered to be the reason why industries were able to improve themselves along with improving efficiency. And it is obvious to say that the scientific management has affected the society’s work environment positively. For instance, this principle was implemented in many factories, often increasing labor productivity. Its success even affected a known man “Henry Ford” and his automobile factories. Even average families in households began to do household tasks based on the principles of time and motion studies. However, although scientific management is known to improve labor efficiency, it added monotony to workers. Although many of workers accepted the management theory, many denied because of the use of stopwatch. Some workers thought the use of stopwatch is inhumane and they started to protest on it. Despite its controversy, the scientific management method definitely changed the way of the work environment and the way workers work into a positive way, and its form continues to be used even today.