Principles of Scientific Management Thesis

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Scientific Management

The Principles of Scientific Management

Business scholars and managers of today may equate Frederick Winslow Taylor's view on scientific management with a roboticized worker / slave environment much like that presented in Fritz Lang's movie, Metropolis or Charlie Chaplain's, Modern Times. However, most critics and detractors begrudgingly admit that many of the principles and standards he set forth in the 1900's are still at work today and are actually the cornerstones of even more recent advancements on the front of optimizing production in the workplace environment. Taylor achieved his knowledge not only through education but also hard and determined work. In 1874 he began working as an apprentice at a small pump-manufacturing firm in Philadelphia and in 1878 he went to work in a Philadelphia steel mill. During the course of the next twelve years, he worked his way up through hard work, ability and certain family connections, to become chief engineer. Through his own work, observation and natural curiosity he began to developed the time and motion studies, pay-incentive schemes, work standards, and other innovations which he would became famous for.

Promising even cheaper and more efficient production lines Taylor became known as the "father of scientific management" (Kanigel, 1996). He was the first of what was to be a long line of efficiency experts.

However, the lessons taught in the new science are as infinitely reproducible as the tasks split up and organised by Frederick Winslow Taylor, the original "time and motion" man, whose efforts at the beginning of this century to liberate workers seemed to many of them to enslave them to the clock and the repetitive task. (Lloyd, 1999)

In his seminal work, the Principles of Scientific Management (1919), he painstakingly reviews the broad scope of his endeavors as well as the most minuscule details of the process This is represented down to what type, size and slant of shovel to use for a specific task, as well as how much to load it and swing it for an optimal return on energy output, "...thousands of stop-watch observations were made to study just how quickly a laborer, provided in each case with the proper type of shovel, can push his shovel into the pile of materials and then draw it out properly loaded" (Taylor, 2003, p. 293).

His idea were met with a great deal of skepticism at the time and it was an uphill battle with many that he met and tried to help with his business analysis studies, even when it came to shoveling:

For example, the average man would question whether there is much of any science in the work of shoveling. Yet there is but little doubt, if any intelligent reader of this paper were deliberately to set out to find what may be called the foundation of the science of shoveling, that with perhaps 15 to 20 hours of thought and analysis he would be almost sure to have arrived at the essence of this science. On the other hand, so completely are the rule-of-thumb ideas still dominant that the writer has never met a single shovel contractor to whom it had ever even occurred that there was such a thing as the science of shoveling. (Taylor, 2003, p. 290-291)

Here are some key points regarding the Principles of Scientific Management:

The principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee." (Taylor, 2003, p. 235). This is a key concept according to Taylor and often overlooked or misunderstood by his current and past detractors.

In order for a business to be successful all of its components must successful, he termed this maximum prosperity.

Taylor also wants management to take on new responsibilities and share in the division of labor.

Management must develop a scientific analysis for each element of a job, replacing the duplication of bad work habits from prior generations. They must also select and train each employee rather then just putting them to work and hoping for the best.

Management must cooperate with labor to insure that all the work stays in agreement with the new scientific principles discovered. There should also be an almost equal division of work and responsibility for both the management and the employee. In the past management simply were the observers while the employee did most and really all of the hard work. (Taylor, 2003; Freeman, 1996)

Generally stated:

Scientific management is a system devised by industrial engineers for the purpose of subserving the common interests of employers, workmen and society at large through the elimination of avoidable wastes, the general improvement of the processes and methods of production, and the just and scientific distribution of the product (Nyland, 1996, p. 986)

Resistance continued however, to Taylor's new ideas of control and management. He cites a company he approached with his new concepts of scientific management. Here was a company that had been producing the same machine for over ten years; it was a well run shop with an excellent staff doing piece work. The machine shop was in well above average condition for the shops of the time, However:

The superintendent was distinctly displeased when told that through the adoption of task management the output, with the same number of men and machines, could be more than doubled. He said that he believed that any such statement was mere boasting, absolutely false, and instead of inspiring him with confidence, he was disgusted that any one should make such an impudent claim. (Taylor, 1917, p. 98)

Over time and many labor strikes most of these men were forced to take on a new perspective regarding work and production, or simply be replaced.

Another limitation on the laborer's side was something that Taylor and others called soldiering. "On the part of the men the greatest obstacle to the attainment of this standard is the slow pace which they adopt, or the loafing or 'soldiering, ' marking time, as it is called" (Taylor, 2003, p. 46). The loafing that Taylor observed was believed derived from two causes. The first was what he assumed a natural instinct for men to "take it easy" which he termed "natural soldiering" (Taylor, 2003, p. 46). The second was termed "systematic soldiering" and came about by the peer group relationships with other men. (Taylor, 2003, p. 46)

So universal is soldiering for this purpose, that hardly a competent workman can be found in a large establishment, whether he works by the day or on piece work, contract work or under any of the ordinary systems of compensating labor, who does not devote a considerable part of his time to studying just how slowly he can work and still convince his employer that he is going at a good pace. (Taylor, 2003, p. 49)

Some would say that not much has changed in this regard, represented by the data processing person who may while away some time playing solitaire on his or her computer instead of increasing his or her production.

There are also limitations in Taylor's work. Some of these are simply the examples he used when analyzing business, which mainly consists of heavy machine shops or other hard labor employment. At the time of his writing these were of paramount concern for the manufacturing industry, post industrial revolution. However, his work can easily be translated and applied to current technologies in any workplace environment. Developing a scientific approach and understanding for each element in the workplace can be used just as effectively for computerized work, information systems and other intelligence / knowledge work. that is non-physical.

Other limitations are self-induced. While exalting the "maximum prosperity" for both employer and employee, he give little emphasis toward the human resource / relation side of the equation.

Critics… [END OF PREVIEW]

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