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Fredrick Taylor

Fredrick Taylor

At the turn of the 20th century, the American engineer, Frederick Winslow Taylor, proposed scientific methodologies to improve the productivity of shop floors at large plants. He argued that labour problems such as low productivity, high turnover, soldiering, and a conflict-driven relationship between management and staff were caused by improper production and organisation methods.

Taylor was trained as an engineer and practised engineering for much of his professional life. The core of his Scientific Management is that an organisation operates like a machine. Taylor treated individual work tasks as gears in a machine. Specific tasks were minutely examined and grouped together based on their characteristics. Contrary to Fayol’s view, Taylor saw organisational design as a bottom-up process where the administrative side is a derivative of the operational side.


Taylor developed his ideas at Midvale Steel with its 2,000 employees, and Bethlehem Iron with 4,000 workers. The size of these industrialised firms had forced management to adopt new methodologies to allocate and control labour. Taylor used empirical study to redesign the routine tasks in the manufacture of industrial products. His consultancy firm implemented his recommendations in over 180 factories in the United States and Europe.


The aim of Scientific Management was to increase efficiency from specialised, physical work through pre-described activities and close supervision. The “one best way” to execute such basic managerial functions as selection, promotion, compensation, training, and production had to be discovered, applied and checked on a continuous basis.


Taylor advocated:


1. Systematic analysis of each distinct operation

‘Create an elaborate set of rules to regulate every aspect of worker behaviour at the workplace’ instead of relying on rule of thumb. Subdividing production processes into individual tasks to achieve task specialisation, using time and motion studies to determine the most efficient method for performing each work task and providing necessary rest periods were part of his analysis. Taylor’s famous phrase ‘Time is Money‘ relates to such studies.


2. Uncoupling direct and indirect activities

Stripping all preparation and servicing tasks from unskilled operator jobs and grouping them into service jobs that are executed by higher skilled maintenance workers.


3. Carefully designing wage payments to maximize employee work effort

Providing a piece-rate system of compensation of meritorious bonuses. Taylor hated “soldiering“, a term describing the group process in which workers slow their pace of work to suit the average worker’s needs. “Pay the Worker, Not the Job”.


4. Adopting formal training activities

Selecting and training employees by thoroughly investigating personalities and skills so individual workers could not acquire unique knowledge that could raise their position of power.


5. Centralized planning

Uncoupling planning and operations. Workers execute the will of the managers rather than exercise their own judgement. Workers were seen as replaceable gears in a larger machinery, or in Taylor’s words: “In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first”.


6. Provision of clear instruction

Readdressing the foreman’s role as overseer over all aspects of production, and subdividing the function of the shop-floor inspector into four areas: setting-up boss, speed boss, quality inspector, and repair boss, each controlled by a planning department to coordinate and integrate the instructions required to run large and complex organisations. Subjecting the foremen and their staff to the rule of administrative clerks through systems of abstract rules and hierarchal power.

Functional foremanship

What is scientific movement all about ?   

Taylors scientific management consisted of four principles:

  1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.
  2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.
  3. Provide Detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that workers discrete task (Montgomery 1997: 250).
  4. Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.

    Why was taylor. thrown out of bethleham steel company?

  • Taylors written works were designed for presentation to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). These include Notes on Belting (1894), A Piece-Rate System (1895), Shop Management (1903), Art of Cutting Metals (1906), and The Principles of Scientific Management (1911).
  • One of his most famous studies involved shovels. He noticed that workers used the same shovel for all materials. He determined that the most effective load was 21½ pounds, and found or designed shovels that for each material would scoop up that amount. He was generally unsuccessful in getting his concepts applied, and was dismissed from Bethlehem Iron Company/Bethlehem Steel Company.

      What is scientific Management?

Scientific management is a theory of management that analyzes and synthesizes workflows. Its main objective is improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes to management. Scientific management is sometimes known as Taylorism after its founder, Frederick Winslow Taylor.

Taylor began the theorys development in the United States during the 1880s and 90s within manufacturing industries, especially steel. Its peak of influence came in the 1910s;Taylor died in 1915 and by the 1920s, scientific management was still influential but had entered into competition and syncretism with opposing or complementary ideas.

Although scientific management as a distinct theory or school of thought was obsolete by the 1930s, most of its themes are still important parts of industrial engineering and management today. These include: analysis; synthesis; logic; rationality; empiricism; work ethic; efficiency and elimination of waste; standardization of best practices; disdain for tradition preserved merely for its own sake or to protect the social status of particular workers with particular skill sets; the transformation of craft production into mass production; and knowledge transfer between workers and from workers into tools, processes, and documentation.

     History of scientific movement?

The Midvale Steel Company, one of Americas great armor plate making plants, was the birthplace of scientific management. In 1877, at age 22, Frederick W. Taylor started as a clerk in Midvale, but advanced to foreman in 1880. As foreman, Taylor was constantly impressed by the failure of his [team members] to produce more than about one-third of [what he deemed] a good days work.Taylor determined to discover, by scientific methods, how long it should take men to perform each given piece of work; and it was in the fall of 1882 that he started to put the first features of scientific management into operation.

Horace Bookwalter Drury, in his 1918 work, Scientific management: A History and Criticism, identified seven other leaders in the movement, most of whom learned of and extended scientific management from Taylors efforts:

  • Henry L. Gantt (1861–1919)
  • Carl G. Barth (1860–1939)
  • Horace K. Hathaway (1878–1944)
  • Morris L. Cooke (1872–1960)
  • Sanford E. Thompson (1867–1949)
  • Frank B. Gilbreth (1868–1924). Gilbreths independent work on motion study is on record as early as 1885; after meeting Taylor in 1906 and being introduced to scientific management, Gilbert devoted his efforts to introducing scientific management into factories. Gilbreth and his wife Dr Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1878–1972) performed micro-motion studies using stop-motion cameras as well as developing the profession of industrial/organizational psychology.
  • Harrington Emerson (1853–1931) began determining what industrial plants products and costs were compared to what they ought to be in 1895. Emerson did not meet Taylor until December 1900, and the two never worked together.

What is soldiering 

Scientific management requires a high level of managerial control over employee work practices and entails a higher ratio of managerial workers to laborers than previous management methods.Such detail-oriented management may cause friction between workers and managers.

Taylor observed that some workers were more talented than others, and that even smart ones were often unmotivated. He observed that most workers who are forced to perform repetitive tasks tend to work at the slowest rate that goes unpunished. This slow rate of work has been observed in many industries and many countries and has been called by various terms. Taylor used the term soldiering, a term that reflects the way conscripts may approach following orders, and observed that, when paid the same amount, workers will tend to do the amount of work that the slowest among them does. Taylor describes soldiering as the greatest evil with which the working-people … are now afflicted.

Why was taylor so controversial?

A committee of the U.S. House of Representatives investigated and reported in 1912, concluding that scientific management did provide some useful techniques and offered valuable organizational suggestions, but that it also gave production managers a dangerously high level of uncontrolled power. After an attitude survey of the workers revealed a high level of resentment and hostility towards scientific management, the Senate banned Taylors methods at the arsenal

In 1911, organized labor erupted with strong opposition to scientific management,including from Samuel Gompers, founder and president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

Once the time-and-motion men had completed their studies of a particular task, the workers had very little opportunity for further thinking, experimenting, or suggestion-making. Taylorism was criticized for turning the worker into an automaton or machine,making work monotonous and unfulfilling by doing one small and rigidly defined piece of work instead of using complex skills with the whole production process done by one person. The further progress of industrial development… increased the anomic or forced pision of labor, the opposite of what Taylor thought would be the effect. Some workers also complained about being made to work at a faster pace and producing goods of lower quality

Subsequent form of Scientific Management

Subsequent forms of scientific management were articulated by Taylors disciples, such as Henry Gantt; other engineers and managers, such as Benjamin S. Graham; and other theorists, such as Max Weber. Taylors work also contrasts with other efforts, including those of Henri Fayol and those of Frank Gilbreth, Sr. and Lillian Moller Gilbreth (whose views originally shared much with Taylors but later perged in response to Taylorisms inadequate handling of human relations).

Criticism of Taylor

Many of the critiques of Taylor come from Marxists. The earliest was by Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Communist, in his Prison Notebooks (1937). Gramsci argued that Taylorism subordinates the workers to management. He also argued that the repetitive work produced by Taylorism might actually give rise to revolutionary thoughts in workers minds.[49]

Harry Bravermans work, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, published in 1974, was critical of scientific management and of Taylor in particular.

Management theorist Henry Mintzberg is highly critical of Taylors methods. Mintzberg states that an obsession with efficiency allows measureable benefits to overshadow less quantifiable social benefits completely, and social values get left behind.[50]

Taylors methods have also been challenged by socialists. Their arguments relate to progressive defanging of workers in the workplace and the subsequent degradation of work as management, powered by capital, uses Taylors methods to render work repeatable and precise yet monotonous and skill-reducing.

James W. Rinehart argued that Taylors methods of transferring control over production from workers to management, and the pision of labor into simple tasks, intensified the alienation of workers that had begun with the factory system of production around the period 1870 to 1890

Read more :


Q.What is scientific management?

Q.Why scientific management was controversial?

Q.What is functional foreman-ship? 

Public Administration by G.Rajput

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