Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) was an American inventor and engineer who is known as the father of scientific management (Mee, 2018). Scientific management is that kind of management which conducts a business or affairs by standards established by facts or truths gained through systematic observation, experiment, or reasoning (Robert, 2007). Taylor was all set to enter into Harvard University but due to temporary eyesight problems he had to abandon his plan to attend Harvard and instead went to work as a common laborer in a small Philadelphia machine shop, and he learnt the trades of pattern maker and machinist (Robert, 2007).
He later went to work at Midvale steel Works in Philadelphia as he studied at night for a degree in mechanical engineering. He started as a machine shop labourer, then to a successive shop clerk, machinist, gang boss, foreman, maintenance foreman, head of drawing office, manager and chief engineer (Mee, 2018). As a manager at Midvale Steel, Taylor introduced his time theory and motion while operating there. He had noticed that industrial resources were not being well utilized. The time theory and motion study formed the basis of Taylor’s subsequent theories of management science (Kemp, 2018).
Taylor was a creative and innovative individual with more than 40 patents filed under his name. He later had to quit Midvale for a general manager position at The Manufacturing Investment Company (Kemp, 2018), which led him to develop a new profession called consulting engineer in management. While working Taylor noted that there were unsystematic practices in the organization, inefficiency and waste in organizations along with the low output of workers. Taylor has worked for many prominent industries ending with Bethlehem Steel Corporation where he observed workers and performed notable experiments (Mee, 2018). He later retired at the age of 45 to focus on promoting the scientific management method. He then wrote books, the famous being Shop Management and The Principles of Scientific Management. Taylor then died in Philadelphia (Mee, 2018). Experiment was Taylor’s trademark. While working at Midvale and Bethlehem steel, Taylor started the scientific management movement in the industry in four areas: standardization, time and task study, systematic selection and training, and pay incentives. Scientific management has its four core principles that also apply to organizations today. They include the following:
- Look at each job or task scientifically to determine the “one best way” to perform the job. This is a change from the previous “rule of thumb” method where workers devised their own ways to do the job.
- Hire the right workers for each job, and train them to work at maximum efficiency.
- Monitor worker performance, and provide instruction and training when needed.
- Divide the work between management and labor so that management can plan and train, and workers can execute the task efficiently. (Akrani, 2011)
Taylor made the following contributions in management today with his start of scientific management movement in the industry in the four areas mentioned above as follows:
- He demonstrated the importance of compensation for performance. The organizational activities must be performed in a coordinated and consistent manner and not in an inconsistent and incoherent way.
- He also initiated the careful study of tasks and jobs. Organizations and their methods, rather than submitting low unproductiveness, they must reject this and must try to provide the highest productivity. Specialization in every part of defined labor must be provided.
- Demonstrated the importance of personnel and their training. Each labor must be parted to sub-factors forming it. When defining activities which workers must carry out, not only intuition and experience but scientific methods must be used. People whose mental and physical skills are sufficient for works being standardized must be chosen that’s to say, the most suitable staff member must be chosen.
- However, Taylor’s theory received the following criticisms, where he gave too much importance to efficiency and ignored the human element. He considered humans to be robots who could speed up work at any cost. Which is not the case for all as humans as some would not work for higher incentives only, other factors should be considered such as social needs (Robert, 2007).
Furthermore, Taylor’s scientific management has a narrow application such that it can only be used when workers performance can be measured quantitatively. Hence can only be applied in factories and industries or production sector, where performance can be measured quantitatively such and not in the service sector since performance in this sector cannot be measured quantitatively (Akrani, 2011).
In addition, scientific management theory puts unnecessary pressure on employees to perform the work faster. More importance is given to productivity and profitability which resulted in exploitation of workers and the creation of mistrust and confusion between employees and management. Therefore, it resulted in employees joining trade unions (Akrani, 2011) Nevertheless, workers are given orders from a foreman who have more than eight employees reporting to them hence handling and organizing becomes an issue to the foreman and they lose control over the employees.
In conclusion, Taylor is known as the father of scientific management. His theory has benefited organizations today such as standardization of materials which has increased organizations profits and reduced costs. The time task and study has helped them reduce inefficiency and waste in the organization. The systematic selection and training have helped them choose the appropriate employee, and the pay incentive has helped organizations increase their productivity for higher wage rate.
Akrani, G. (2011, August 6th). kalyan-city.blogspot. Retrieved from kalyan-city.blogpost.com: http://kalyan-city.blogspot.com/2011/06/criticism-of-taylor-scientific.html
Kemp, A. (2018, April 17). blog.qad. Retrieved from blog.qad.com: https://blog.qad.com/2018/04/frederick-winslow-taylor-scientific-management/
Mee, J. F. (2018, March 14). Encyclopaediac Britannica. Retrieved from brittannica.com: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Frederick-W-Taylor
Robert, K. (2007). Management (10th ed.). Boston, New York: George T.Hoffman.