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  • Scientific management, also called Taylorism, 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 and to management. Its development began with Frederick Winslow

  • Taylor in the 1880s and 1890s within the manufacturing industries. Its peak of influence came in

  • the 1910s; by the 1920s, it was still influential but had begun an era of 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.

  • Larger theme of economic efficiency Scientific management's application was contingent

  • on a high level of managerial control over employee work practices. This necessitated

  • a higher ratio of managerial workers to laborers than previous management methods. The great

  • difficulty in accurately differentiating any such intelligent, detail-oriented management

  • from mere misguided micromanagement also caused interpersonal friction between workers and

  • managers. While the terms "scientific management" and

  • "Taylorism" are often treated as synonymous, an alternative view considers Taylorism as

  • the first form of scientific management, which was followed by new iterations; thus in today's

  • management theory, Taylorism is sometimes called the classical perspective. Taylor's

  • own early names for his approach included "shop management" and "process management".

  • When Louis Brandeis popularized the term "scientific management" in 1910, Taylor recognized it

  • as another good name for the concept, and he used it himself in his 1911 monograph.

  • The field comprised the work of Taylor; his disciples; other engineers and managers; and

  • other theorists, such as Max Weber. It is compared and contrasted with other efforts,

  • including those of Henri Fayol and those of Frank Gilbreth, Sr. and Lillian Moller Gilbreth.

  • Taylorism proper, in its strict sense, became obsolete by the 1930s, and by the 1960s the

  • term "scientific management" had fallen out of favor for describing current management

  • theories. However, many aspects of scientific management have never stopped being part of

  • later management efforts called by other names. There is no simple dividing line demarcating

  • the time when management as a modern profession diverged from Taylorism proper. It was a gradual

  • process that began as soon as Taylor published, and each subsequent decade brought further

  • evolution. Scientific management is a variation on the

  • theme of economic efficiency; it is a late 19th and early 20th century instance of the

  • larger recurring theme in human life of increasing efficiency, decreasing waste, and using empirical

  • methods to decide what matters, rather than uncritically accepting pre-existing ideas

  • of what matters. Thus it is a chapter in a larger narrative that includes many ideas,

  • from the folk wisdom of thrift to a profusion of applied-science successors, including time

  • and motion study, the Efficiency Movement, Fordism, operations management, operations

  • research, industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, logistics, business process management,

  • business process reengineering, lean manufacturing, and Six Sigma. There is a fluid continuum

  • linking scientific management by that name with the later fields, and there is often

  • no mutual exclusiveness when discussing the details of any one of these topics.

  • In management literature today, the greatest use of the term "scientific management" is

  • with reference to the work of Taylor and his disciples in contrast to newer, improved iterations

  • of efficiency-seeking methods. In political and sociological terms, Taylorism can be seen

  • as the division of labor pushed to its logical extreme, with a consequent de-skilling of

  • the worker and dehumanisation of the workers and the workplace. Taylorism is often mentioned

  • along with Fordism, because it was closely associated with mass production methods in

  • factories, which was its earliest application. Today, task-oriented optimization of work

  • tasks is nearly ubiquitous in industry. Soldiering

  • 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 in many countries and has been called by various terms, including

  • "soldiering",, "dogging it", "goldbricking", "hanging it out", and "ca canae". Managers

  • may call it by those names or "loafing" or "malingering"; workers may call it "getting

  • through the day" or "preventing management from abusing us". Taylor used the term "soldiering"

  • and observed that, when paid the same amount, workers will tend to do the amount of work

  • that the slowest among them does. This reflects the idea that workers have a

  • vested interest in their own well-being, and do not benefit from working above the defined

  • rate of work when it will not increase their remuneration. He therefore proposed that the

  • work practice that had been developed in most work environments was crafted, intentionally

  • or unintentionally, to be very inefficient in its execution. He posited that time and

  • motion studies combined with rational analysis and synthesis could uncover one best method

  • for performing any particular task, and that prevailing methods were seldom equal to these

  • best methods. Crucially, Taylor himself prominently acknowledged that if each employee's compensation

  • was linked to their output, their productivity would go up. Thus his compensation plans usually

  • included piece rates. He rejected the notion, which was universal in his day and still held

  • today, that the trades, including manufacturing, were resistant to analysis and could only

  • be performed by craft production methods. In the course of his empirical studies, Taylor

  • examined various kinds of manual labor. For example, most bulk materials handling was

  • manual at the time; material handling equipment as we know it today was mostly not developed

  • yet. He looked at shoveling in the unloading of railroad cars full of ore; lifting and

  • carrying in the moving of iron pigs at steel mills; the manual inspection of bearing balls;

  • and others. He discovered many concepts that were not widely accepted at the time. For

  • example, by observing workers, he decided that labor should include rest breaks so that

  • the worker has time to recover from fatigue, either physical or mental. Workers were taught

  • to take more rests during work, and as a result production "paradoxically" increased.

  • Unless people manage themselves, somebody has to take care of administration, and thus

  • there is a division of work between workers and administrators. One of the tasks of administration

  • is to select the right person for the right job:

  • the labor should include rest breaks so that the worker has time to recover from fatigue.

  • Now one of the very first requirements for a man who is fit to handle pig iron as a regular

  • occupation is that he shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles

  • in his mental make-up the ox than any other type. The man who is mentally alert and intelligent

  • is for this very reason entirely unsuited to what would, for him, be the grinding monotony

  • of work of this character. Therefore the workman who is best suited to handling pig iron is

  • unable to understand the real science of doing this class of work.

  • Relationship to mechanization and automation Scientific management evolved in an era when

  • mechanization and automation existed but had hardly gotten started, historically speaking,

  • and were still embryonic. Two important corollaries flow from this fact: The ideas and methods

  • of scientific management were exactly what was needed to be added to the American system

  • of manufacturing to extend the transformation from craft work to mechanization and automation;

  • but also, Taylor himself could not have known this, and his goals did not include the extensive

  • removal of humans from the production process. During his lifetime, the very idea would have

  • seemed like science fiction, because not only did the technological bridge to such a world

  • not yet look plausible, but most people had not even considered that it could happen.

  • Before digital computers existed, such ideas were not just outlandish but also mostly unheard

  • of. Nevertheless, Taylor was laying the groundwork

  • for automation and offshoring, because he was analyzing processes into discrete, unambiguous

  • pieces, which is exactly what computers and unskilled people need to follow algorithms

  • designed by others and to make valid decisions within their execution. It is often said that

  • computers are "smart" in terms of mathematic computation ability, but "dumb" because they

  • must be told exactly what to calculate, when, and how, and they can never understand why.

  • With historical hindsight it is possible to see that Taylor was essentially inventing

  • something like the highest-level computer programming for industrial process control

  • and numerical control in the absence of any machines that could carry it out. But Taylor

  • could not see it that way at the time; in his world, it was humans that would be the

  • agents to execute the program. However, one of the common threads between his world and

  • ours is that the agents of execution need not be "smart" to execute their tasks. In

  • the case of computers, they are not able to be "smart"; in the case of human workers under

  • scientific management, they were often able but were not allowed. 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. They were expected to "play dumb" most of

  • the time. In between craft production and full automation

  • lies a natural middle ground of an engineered system of extensive mechanization and partial

  • automation mixed with semiskilled and unskilled workers in carefully designed algorithmic

  • workflows. Building and improving such systems requires knowledge transfer, which may seem

  • simple on the surface but requires substantial engineering to succeed. Although Taylor's

  • original inspiration for scientific management was simply to replace inferior work methods

  • with smarter ones, the same process engineering that he pioneered also tends to build the

  • skill into the equipment and processes, removing most need for skill in the workers. This engineering

  • was the essence not only of scientific management but also of most industrial engineering since

  • then. It is also the essence of offshoring. The common theme in all these cases is that

  • businesses engineer their way out of their need for large concentrations of skilled workers,

  • and the high-wage environments that sustain them.

  • Effects on labor relations in market economies Taylor's view of workers

  • Taylor's view of workers was complex, having both insightful and obtuse elements. Taylorism

  • took some steps toward addressing their needs, but Taylor nevertheless had a condescending

  • view of less intelligent workers, whom he sometimes compared to draft animals. And perhaps

  • Taylor was so immersed in the vast work immediately in front of him that he failed to strategize

  • about the next steps. Many other thinkers soon stepped forward to

  • offer better ideas on the roles that humans would play in mature industrial systems. James

  • Hartness, a fellow ASME member, published The Human Factor in Works Management in 1912.

  • Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth offered alternatives to Taylorism. The human

  • relations school of management evolved in the 1930s. Some scholars, such as Harry Braverman,

  • insisted that human relations did not replace Taylorism but rather that both approaches

  • were complementaryTaylorism determining the actual organisation of the work process,

  • and human relations helping to adapt the workers to the new procedures. Today's efficiency-seeking

  • methods, such as lean manufacturing, include respect for workers and fulfillment of their

  • needs as inherent parts of the theory. Clearly a syncretism has occurred since Taylor's day,

  • although its implementation has been uneven, as lean management in capable hands has produced

  • good results for both managers and workers, but in incompetent hands has damaged enterprises.

  • Implementations of scientific management usually failed to account for several inherent challenges:

  • Individuals are different from each other: the most efficient way of working for one

  • person may be inefficient for another. The economic interests of workers and management

  • are rarely identical, so that both the measurement processes and the retraining required by Taylor's

  • methods are frequently resented and sometimes sabotaged by the workforce.

  • Taylor himself, in fact, recognized these challenges and had some good ideas for meeting

  • them. Nevertheless, his own implementations of his system were never really very successful.

  • <citation needed> They plugged along rockily and eventually were overturned, usually after

  • Taylor had left. And countless managers who later aped or worshipped Taylor did even worse

  • jobs of implementation. Typically they were less analytically talented managers who had

  • latched onto scientific management as the latest fad for cutting the unit cost of production.

  • Like bad managers even today, these were the people who used the big words without any

  • deep understanding of what they meant. Taylor knew that scientific management could not

  • work unless the workers benefited from the profit increases that it generated. Taylor

  • had developed a method for generating the increases, for the dual purposes of owner/manager

  • profit and worker profit, realizing that the methods relied on both of those results in

  • order to work correctly. But many owners and managers seized upon the methods thinking

  • that the profits could be reserved solely or mostly for themselves and the system could

  • endure indefinitely merely through force of authority.

  • Workers are necessarily human: they have personal needs and interpersonal friction, and they

  • face very real difficulties introduced when jobs become so efficient that they have no

  • time to relax, and so rigid that they have no permission to innovate.

  • Early decades: making jobs unpleasant Under Taylorism, workers' work effort increased

  • in intensity. Workers became dissatisfied with the work environment and became angry.

  • During one of Taylor's own implementations, a strike at the Watertown Arsenal led to an

  • investigation of Taylor's methods by a U.S. House of Representatives committee, which

  • reported in 1912. The conclusion was that scientific management did provide some useful

  • techniques and offered valuable organizational suggestions, but it 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 Taylor's

  • methods at the arsenal. Taylorism lowered worker morale and exacerbated

  • existing conflicts between labor and management. As a consequence, it inadvertently strengthened

  • labor unions and their bargaining power in labor disputes,) thereby neutralizing most

  • or all of the benefit of any productivity gains that Taylorism had achieved. Thus its

  • net benefit to owners and management ended up being small or negative. It would take

  • new efforts, borrowing some ideas from Taylorism but mixing them with others, to produce more

  • successful formulas. Later decades: making jobs disappear

  • To whatever extent scientific management caused the strengthening of labor unions by giving

  • workers more to complain about than bad or greedy managers already gave them, it also

  • led to other pressures tending toward worker unhappiness: the erosion of employment in

  • developed economies via both offshoring and automation. Both were made possible by the

  • deskilling of jobs, which was made possible by the knowledge transfer that scientific

  • management achieved. Knowledge was transferred both to cheaper workers and from workers into

  • tools. Jobs that once would have required craft work first transformed to semiskilled

  • work, then unskilled. At this point the labor had been commoditized, and thus the competition

  • between workers moved closer to pure than it had been, depressing wages and job security.

  • Jobs could be offshored or they could be rendered nonexistent through automation. Either way,

  • the net result from the perspective of developed-economy workers was that jobs started to pay less,

  • then disappear. The power of labor unions in the mid-twentieth century only led to a

  • push on the part of management to accelerate the process of automation, hastening the onset

  • of the later stages just described. A central assumption of Taylorism was that

  • "the worker was taken for granted as a cog in the machinery." The chain of connections

  • between his work and automation is visible in historical hindsight, which sees that Taylorism

  • made jobs unpleasant, and its logical successors then made them less remunerative and less

  • secure; then scarcer; and finally nonexistent. Successors such as 'corporate reengineering'

  • or 'business process reengineering' brought into sight the distant goal of the eventual

  • elimination of industry's need for unskilled, and later, perhaps even most skilled human

  • workers in any form, all stemming from the roots laid by Taylorism's recipe for deconstructing

  • a process. As the resultant commodification of work advances, no skilled profession, even

  • medicine, has proven to be immune from the efforts of Taylorism's successors, the 'reengineers',

  • whose mandate often comes from skewed motives among people referred to as 'bean counters'

  • and 'PHBs'. Effects on disruptive innovation

  • One of the traits of the era of applied science is that technology continually evolves. There

  • is always a balance to be struck between scientific management's goal of formalizing the details

  • of a process and the risk of fossilizing one moment's technological state into cultural

  • inertia that stifles disruptive innovation. To give one example, would John Parsons have

  • been able to incubate the earliest development of numerical control if he were a worker in

  • a red-tape-laden organization being told from above that the best way to mill a part had

  • already been perfected, and therefore he had no business experimenting with his own preferred

  • methods? Implementations of scientific management worked

  • within the implicit context of a particular technological moment and thus did not account

  • for the possibility of putting the "continuous" in "continuous improvement process". The notion

  • of a "one best way" failed to add the coda, "[… within the context of our current environment]";

  • it treated the context as constant rather than as variable. Later methods such as lean

  • manufacturing corrected this oversight by including ongoing innovation as part of their

  • process and by recognizing the iterative nature of development.

  • Relationship to Fordism It is quite natural to jump to the post hoc