July 28th, 2012 Frederick W. Taylor


Frederick Winslow TaylorTaylor (Frederick Winslow Taylor – March 20, 1856 – March 21, 1915), was an American mechanical engineer who originally sought to improve industrial efficiency. A management consultant in his later years, he is sometimes called "the father of scientific management." He was one of the intellectual leaders of the Efficiency Movement and his ideas, broadly conceived, were highly influential in the Progressive Era.

 

Taylor was also an accomplished tennis player. He won the first doubles tournament in the 1881 U.S. National Championships (later called the US Open), with Clarence Clark.

 

Life of Frederick Taylor

Taylor was born in 1856 to a wealthy Quaker family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. He wanted to attend Harvard University, but poor eyesight forced him to consider an alternative career. In 1874, he became an apprentice patternmaker, gaining shop-floor experience that would inform the rest of his career. He obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering through a highly unusual (for the time) series of correspondence courses at the Stevens Institute of Technology where he was a Brother of the Gamma Chapter of Theta Xi, graduating in 1883 (Kanigel 1997:182-183,199). He began developing his management philosophies during his time at the Midvale Steel Works, where he rose to be chief engineer for the plant. Later, at Bethlehem Steel, he and Maunsel White (with a team of assistants) developed high speed steel. He eventually became a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

 

Taylor believed that the industrial management of his day was amateurish, that management could be formulated as an academic discipline, and that the best results would come from the partnership between a trained and qualified management and a cooperative and innovative workforce. Each side needed the other, and there was no need for trade unions.

 

Louis Brandeis, who was an active propagandist of Taylorism (Montgomery 1989: 250), coined the term scientific management in the course of his argument for the Eastern Rate Case, which Taylor used in the title of his monograph The Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911. His approach is also often referred to, as Taylor's Principles, or frequently disparagingly, as Taylorism. Taylor's 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 worker's 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.

 

Scientific Management and Frederick Winslow Taylor

By far the most influential person of the time and someone who has had an impact on management service practice as well as on management thought up to the present day, was F. W. Taylor. Taylor formalized the principles of scientific management, and the fact-finding approach put forward and largely adopted was a replacement for what had been the old rule of thumb.

 

He also developed a theory of organizations which altered the personalized autocracy which had only been tempered by varying degrees of benevolence, such as in the Quaker family businesses of Cadbury's and Clark's.

 

Taylor was not the originator of many of his ideas, but was a pragmatist with the ability to synthesize the work of others and promote them effectively to a ready and eager audience of industrial managers who were striving to find new or improved ways to increase performance.

 

At the time of Taylor's work, a typical manager would have very little contact with the activities of the factory. Generally, a foreman would be given the total responsibility for producing goods demanded by the salesman. Under these conditions, workmen used what tools they had or could get and adopted methods that suited their own style of work.

 

F.W. Taylor's Contributions to Scientific Management

By 1881 Taylor had published a paper that turned the cutting of metal into a science. Later he turned his attention to shoveling coal. By experimenting with different designs of shovel for use with different material, (from 'rice' coal to ore,) he was able to design shovels that would permit the worker to shovel for the whole day.

 

In so doing, he reduced the number of people shoveling at the Bethlehem Steel Works from 500 to 140. This work, and his studies on the handling of pig iron, greatly contributed to the analysis of work design and gave rise to method study.

 

To follow, in 1895, were papers on incentive schemes. A piece rate system on production management in shop management, and later, in 1909, he published the book for which he is best known, Principles of Scientific Management.

 

A feature of Taylor's work was stop-watch timing as the basis of observations. However, unlike the early activities of Perronet and others, he started to break the timings down into elements and it was he who coined the term 'time study'.

 

Taylor's uncompromising attitude in developing and installing his ideas caused him much criticism. Scientific method, he advocated, could be applied to all problems and applied just as much to managers as workers. In his own words he explained:

 

"The old fashioned dictator does not exist under Scientific Management. The man at the head of the business under Scientific Management is governed by rules and laws which have been developed through hundreds of experiments just as much as the workman is, and the standards developed are equitable."

 

Taylor's Contribution to Organizational Theory

This required an organization theory similar for all practical purposes to that advocated by those organizational theorists who followed. These theorists developed principles of management, which included much of Taylor's philosophy. His framework for organization was:

 

1. Clear delineation of authority
2. Responsibility
3. Separation of planning from operations
4. Incentive schemes for workers
5. Management by exception
6. Task specialization

 

Managers and Workers

Taylor had very precise ideas about how to introduce his system:

 

"It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone." (Taylor, Principles of Scientific Management, cited by Montgomery 1989:229, italics with Taylor)

 

Workers were supposed to be incapable of understanding what they were doing. According to Taylor this was true even for rather simple tasks.

 

'I can say, without the slightest hesitation,' Taylor told a congressional committee, 'that the science of handling pig-iron is so great that the man who is … physically able to handle pig-iron and is sufficiently phlegmatic and stupid to choose this for his occupation is rarely able to comprehend the science of handling pig-iron." (Montgomery 1989:251)

 

The introduction of his system was often resented by workers and provoked numerous strikes. The strike at Watertown Arsenal led to the congressional investigation in 1912.

 

Propaganda Techniques

Taylor promised to reconcile labor and capital. "With the triumph of scientific management, unions would have nothing left to do, and they would have been cleansed of their most evil feature: the restriction of output. To underscore this idea, Taylor fashioned the myth that 'there has never been a strike of men working under scientific management', trying to give it credibility by constant repetition. In similar fashion he incessantly linked his proposals to shorter hours of work, without bothering to produce evidence of "Taylorized" firms that reduced working hours, and he revised his famous tale of Schmidt carrying pig iron at Bethlehem Steel at least three times, obscuring some aspects of his study and stressing others, so that each successive version made Schmidt's exertions more impressive, more voluntary and more rewarding to him than the last. Unlike [Harrington] Emerson, Taylor was not a charlatan, but his ideological message required the suppression of all evidence of worker's dissent, of coercion, or of any human motives or aspirations other than those his vision of progress could encompass."

 

Management theory

Taylor thought that by analysing work, the "One Best Way" to do it would be found. He is most remembered for developing the time and motion study. He would break a job into its component parts and measure each to the hundredth of a minute. 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 21 lb, 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 Steel. It was largely through the efforts of his disciples (most notably H.L. Gantt) that industry came to implement his ideas. Nevertheless, the book he wrote after parting company with Bethlehem Steel, Shop Management, sold well….

 

Relations with ASME

Taylor was president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) from 1906 to 1907. While president, he tried to implement his system into the management of the ASME but was met with much resistance. He was only able to reorganize the publications department and then only partially. He also forced out the ASME's long-time secretary, Morris L. Cooke, and replaced him with Calvin W. Rice. His tenure as president was trouble-ridden and marked the beginning of a period of internal dissension within the ASME during the Progressive Era.

 

In 1912, Taylor collected a number of his articles into a book-length manuscript which he submitted to the ASME for publication. The ASME formed an ad hoc committee to review the text. The committee included Taylor allies such as James Mapes Dodge and Henry R. Towne. The committee delegated the report to the editor of the American Machinist, Leon P. Alford. Alford was a critic of the Taylor system and the report was negative. The committee modified the report slightly, but accepted Alford's recommendation not to publish Taylor's book. Taylor angrily withdrew the book and published Principles without ASME approval.

 

Taylor's influence on United States

Carl Barth helped Taylor to develop speed-and-feed-calculating slide rules to a previously unknown level of usefulness. Similar aids are still used in machine shops today. Barth became an early consultant on scientific management and later taught at Harvard.

 

H. L. Gantt developed the Gantt chart, a visual aid for scheduling tasks and displaying the flow of work.

 

Harrington Emerson introduced scientific management to the railroad industry, and proposed the dichotomy of staff versus line employees, with the former advising the latter.

 

Morris Cooke adapted scientific management to educational and municipal organizations.

 

Hugo Munsterberg created industrial psychology.

 

Lillian Gilbreth introduced psychology to management studies.

 

Frank Gilbreth (husband of Lillian) discovered scientific management while working in the construction industry, eventually developing motion studies independently of Taylor. These logically complemented Taylor's time studies, as time and motion are two sides of the efficiency improvement coin. The two fields eventually became time and motion study.

 

Harvard University, one of the first American universities to offer a graduate degree in business management in 1908, based its first-year curriculum on Taylor's scientific management.

 

Harlow S. Person, as dean of Dartmouth's Amos Tuck School of Administration and Finance, promoted the teaching of scientific management.

 

James O. McKinsey, professor of accounting at the University of Chicago and founder of the consulting firm bearing his name, advocated budgets as a means of assuring accountability and of measuring performance.

 

Taylor's influence on France

In France, Le Chatelier translated Taylor's work and introduced scientific management throughout government owned plants during World War I. This influenced the French theorist Henri Fayol, whose 1916 Administration Industrielle et Grale emphasized organizational structure in management. In the classic General and Industrial Management Fayol wrote that "Taylor's approach differs from the one we have outlined in that he examines the firm from the "bottom up." he starts with the most elemental units of activity — the workers' actions — then studies the effects of their actions on productivity, devises new methods for making them more efficient, and applies what he learns at lower levels to the hierarchy…(Fayol, 1987, p. 43)." He suggests that Taylor has staff analysts and advisors working with individuals at lower levels of the organization to identify the ways to improve efficiency. According to Fayol, the approach results in a "negation of the principle of unity of command (p. 44)." Fayol criticized Taylor's functional management in this way. The most marked outward characteristics of functional management lies in the fact that each workman, instead of coming in direct contact with the management at one point only, receives his daily orders and help from eight different bosses (Fayol, 1949, p. 68.) Those eight, Fayol said, were (1) route clerks, (2) instruction card men, (3) cost and time clerks, (4) gang bosses, (5) speed bosses, (6) inspectors, (7) repair bosses, and the (8) shop disciplinarian. This, he said, was an unworkable situation, and that Taylor must have somehow reconciled the dichotomy in some way not described in Taylor's works.

 

Taylor's Influence on Switzerland

In Switzerland, the American Edward Albert Filene established the International Management Institute to spread information about management techniques.

 

Taylor's Influence on USSR

In the USSR, Lenin was very impressed by Taylorism, which he and Stalin sought to incorporate into Soviet manufacturing. Taylorism and the mass production methods of Henry Ford thus became highly influential during the early years of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless "[...] Frederick Taylor's methods have never really taken root in the Soviet Union." (Atta 1986: 335). The voluntaristic approach of the Stakhanovite movement in the 1930s of setting individual records was diametrically opposed to Taylor's systematic approach and proved to be counter-productive. (Atta 1986: 331). The stop-and-go of the production process – workers having nothing to do at the beginning of a month and 'storming' during illegal extra shifts at the end of the month – which prevailed even in the 1980s had nothing to do with the successfully taylorized plants e.g. of Toyota which are characterized by continuous production processes which are continuously improved.

 

"The easy availability of replacement labor, which allowed Taylor to choose only 'first-class men,' was an important condition for his system's success." (Atta 1986: 329) The situation in the Soviet Union was very different. "Because work is so unrythmic, the rational manager will hire more workers than he would need if supplies were even in order to have enough for storming. Because of the continuing labor shortage, managers are happy to pay needed workers more than the norm, either by issuing false job orders, assigning them to higher skill grades than they deserve on merit criteria, giving them 'loose' piece rates, or making what is supposed to be 'incentive' pay, premia for good work, effectively part of the normal wage. As Mary Mc Auley has suggested under these circumstances piece rates are not an incentive wage, but a way of justifying giving workers whatever they 'should' be getting, no matter what their pay is supposed to be according to the official norms."

 

Taylor and his theories are also referenced (and put to practice) in the 1921 dystopian novel We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

 

Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management

In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor published his work, The Principles of Scientific Management, in which he described how the application of the scientific method to the management of workers greatly could improve productivity. Scientific management methods called for optimizing the way that tasks were performed and simplifying the jobs enough so that workers could be trained to perform their specialized sequence of motions in the one "best" way.

 

Prior to scientific management, work was performed by skilled craftsmen who had learned their jobs in lengthy apprenticeships. They made their own decisions about how their job was to be performed. Scientific management took away much of this autonomy and converted skilled crafts into a series of simplified jobs that could be performed by unskilled workers who easily could be trained for the tasks.

 

Taylor became interested in improving worker productivity early in his career when he observed gross inefficiencies during his contact with steel workers.

 

Soldiering

Working in the steel industry, Taylor had observed the phenomenon of workers' purposely operating well below their capacity, that is, soldiering. Frederick Taylor attributed soldiering to three causes:

 

1. The almost universally held belief among workers that if they became more productive, fewer of them would be needed and jobs would be eliminated.

 

2. Non-incentive wage systems encourage low productivity if the employee will receive the same pay regardless of how much is produced, assuming the employee can convince the employer that the slow pace really is a good pace for the job. Employees take great care never to work at a good pace for fear that this faster pace would become the new standard. If employees are paid by the quantity they produce, they fear that management will decrease their per-unit pay if the quantity increases.

 

3. Workers waste much of their effort by relying on rule-of-thumb methods rather than on optimal work methods that can be determined by scientific study of the task.

 

To counter soldiering and to improve efficiency, Taylor began to conduct experiments to determine the best level of performance for certain jobs, and what was necessary to achieve this performance.

 

Time Studies

Taylor argued that even the most basic, mindless tasks could be planned in a way that dramatically would increase productivity, and that scientific management of the work was more effective than the "initiative and incentive" method of motivating workers. The initiative and incentive method offered an incentive to increase productivity but placed the responsibility on the worker to figure out how to do it.

 

To scientifically determine the optimal way to perform a job, Taylor performed experiments that he called time studies, (also known as time and motion studies). These studies were characterized by the use of a stopwatch to time a worker's sequence of motions, with the goal of determining the one best way to perform a job.

 

The following are examples of some of the time-and-motion studies that were performed by Taylor and others in the era of scientific management.

 

Pig Iron

If workers were moving 12 1/2 tons of pig iron per day and they could be incentivized to try to move 47 1/2 tons per day, left to their own wits they probably would become exhausted after a few hours and fail to reach their goal. However, by first conducting experiments to determine the amount of resting that was necessary, the worker's manager could determine the optimal timing of lifting and resting so that the worker could move the 47 1/2 tons per day without tiring.

 

Not all workers were physically capable of moving 47 1/2 tons per day; perhaps only 1/8 of the pig iron handlers were capable of doing so. While these 1/8 were not extraordinary people who were highly prized by society, their physical capabilities were well-suited to moving pig iron. This example suggests that workers should be selected according to how well they are suited for a particular job.

 

The Science of Shoveling

In another study of the "science of shoveling", Taylor ran time studies to determine that the optimal weight that a worker should lift in a shovel was 21 pounds. Since there is a wide range of densities of materials, the shovel should be sized so that it would hold 21 pounds of the substance being shoveled. The firm provided the workers with optimal shovels. The result was a three to four fold increase in productivity and workers were rewarded with pay increases. Prior to scientific management, workers used their own shovels and rarely had the optimal one for the job.

 

Bricklaying

Others performed experiments that focused on specific motions, such as Gilbreth's bricklaying experiments that resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of motions required to lay bricks. The husband and wife Gilbreth team used motion picture technology to study the motions of the workers in some of their experiments.

 

Taylor's 4 Principles of Scientific Management

After years of various experiments to determine optimal work methods, Taylor proposed the following four principles of scientific management:

1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.

2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each worker rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.

3. Cooperate with the workers to ensure that the scientifically developed methods are being followed.

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.

 

These principles were implemented in many factories, often increasing productivity by a factor of three or more. Henry Ford applied Taylor's principles in his automobile factories, and families even began to perform their household tasks based on the results of time and motion studies.

 

Drawbacks of Scientific Management

While scientific management principles improved productivity and had a substantial impact on industry, they also increased the monotony of work. The core job dimensions of skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback all were missing from the picture of scientific management.

 

While in many cases the new ways of working were accepted by the workers, in some cases they were not. The use of stopwatches often was a protested issue and led to a strike at one factory where "Taylorism" was being tested. Complaints that Taylorism was dehumanizing led to an investigation by the United States Congress. Despite its controversy, scientific management changed the way that work was done, and forms of it continue to be used today.

 

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Winslow_Taylor

http://www.netmba.com/mgmt/scientific/

http://accel-team.com/scientific/scientific_02.html

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