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.
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.