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Scientific management
Scientific management (also called Taylorism or the Taylor system) is a theory of
management that analyzes and synthesizes workflows, with the objective of improving labor
productivity. The core ideas of the theory were developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the
1880s and 1890s.
Taylor believed that decisions based upon tradition and rules of thumb should be replaced by
precise procedures developed after careful study of an individual at work. Its application is
contingent on a high level of managerial control over employee work practices.
Taylorism is a variation on the theme of 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.
In management literature today, the greatest use of the concept of Taylorism is as a contrast to
a new, improved way of doing business. 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 workplace.
General approach
1. Shift in decision making from employees to managers
2. Develop a standard method for performing each job
3. Select workers with appropriate abilities for each job
4. Train workers in the standard method previously developed
5. Support workers by planning their work and eliminating interruptions
6. Provide wage incentives to workers for increased output
 Labor is defined and authority/responsibility is legitimised/official
 Positions placed in hierarchy and under authority of higher level
 Selection is based upon technical competence, training or experience
 Actions and decisions are recorded to allow continuity and memory
 Management is different from ownership of the organization
 Managers follow rules/procedures to enable reliable/predictable behavior
 Did not appreciate the social context of work and higher needs of workers.
 Did not acknowledge variance among individuals.
 Tended to regard workers as uninformed and ignored their ideas and suggestions.
Taylor's own name for his approach was scientific management. Taylor's methods began
from his observation that, in general, workers forced to perform repetitive tasks work at the
slowest rate that goes unpunished. This slow rate of work (which he called "soldiering", but
might nowadays be termed by those in charge as "loafing" or "malingering" or by those on the
assembly line as "getting through the day"), he opined, was based on the observation that,
when paid the same amount, workers will tend to do the amount of work 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
compensation. 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. From this he posited that there was one best method for performing a particular
task, and that if it were taught to workers, their productivity would go up.
Principles of Scientific Management
In this section, Taylor explained his principles of scientific management. 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 and then train, teach, and develop the workman, whereas in the past the
employee (or workmen) chose his own work and trained himself as best he could.
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
According to F. W. Taylor, the above combination of the initiative of the employee, coupled
with the new types of work done by the management, that makes scientific management so
much more efficient than the old plans.
Under the management of "initiative and incentive", the first three elements exist in many
cases, but their importance is minor. However, under the scientific management, they form
the very essence of the whole system.
According to Taylor, the summary of the fourth element is: Under the management of
"initiative and incentive" practically the whole problem is "up to the workman," while under
scientific management fully one-half of the problem is "up to the management."
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.