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Is Scientific Management Good Management?

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Introduction

Is Scientific Management Good Management? In order to understand and explore the concepts and practicalities of Taylorism and Scientific Management, it is first necessary to understand the man himself, as when we understand his character it becomes easier to comprehend the reasoning behind his development of the theories. Frederick Winslow Taylor was born into an upper class liberal family on March 20th 1865. Taylor's Quaker upbringing instilled in him an ability to manage and resolve conflict, and great self-control. The nature of Taylor during his youth can be directly related to his later accomplishments as his actions, constantly measuring and counting, were symptomatic of an obsessive compulsive. In 1890, at age 25, Taylor earned an engineering degree whilst holding a full time job, despite this he chose to work at the Philadelphia based 'Enterprise Hydraulic Works'. Following this he moved to the 'Midvale Steel Company' where he progressed rapidly from common labourer to chief draftsmen. It is here that he devised many of his theories on scientific management, though unlike the work of Weber and Fayol, he looked into an organisation from the viewpoint of the workers rather than that of the management. As Taylor had once worked at the level of the common labourer he knew better than most the best ways to increase efficiency, to the benefit of both the worker and the owner. ...read more.

Middle

At Schmidt's place of work, The Bethlehem Iron Company (later the Bethlehem Steel Company), production was quadrupled using the Taylorist methods making Bethlehem "the world's most modern factory and potentially a prototype for manufacturers and engineers in other industries5". While the benefits of Taylor's scientific management methods are evident there remains criticism of his work as having a 'dehumanising' effect on the worker. While Taylor sought to simplify the worker/management relationship by offering enhanced pay schemes he neglected to consider other personal needs, made famous at a later date by the work of Maslow. Taylor's ignorance of the importance of social relationships was grounded in his view of interaction between workers as a mere inefficiency rather than an important factor in morale and increased productivity. Task allocation was another major factor of scientific management which came under heavy criticism. Taylor advocated "specifying not only what work is to be done but how it is to be done and the exact time allowed for doing it6" which left very little scope for the worker to show initiative. Coupled with this, despite the greater pay, workers were often hostile to scientific management as it was tedious and demanding while the greater productivity of the individual led to redundancy. ...read more.

Conclusion

The work of the Gilbreths was also an example of refining the Taylorist approach, focus being made on the efficiency of the workplace in general rather than the individuals and their work. Gilbreth also recognised the link between employee morale and productivity, later printing his findings in 'fatigue study', a book he co-wrote with his wife. Taylorism today could be perceived as archaic in its methodology, and indeed in its ideology. But in a progressive industry it sought to introduce a form of regulation to its employees, something evident in many services and industries today, with IBM's 'witness' monitoring program just one example of this. The massive increase in productivity was eventually overshadowed by the lack of thought to the effects of morale on yield, and the inclination towards a Humanist approach to management is due to the lessons learnt from the failure of Taylorism. Like any concept, Taylorism was flawed, but through the resultant lessons learnt it may be reasonably asserted that though scientific management is not solely viable as a management principle, its influence on models popular today cannot be underestimated or undervalued. 1 Scientific management Pg 13 2 Scientific management Pg 131 3 Wredge and Greenwood Pg 271 4 Scientific management Pg 25 5 Nelson (1980) 6 Scientific management Pg 39 7 Weisbord (1987) 8 Scientific management Pg 133-134 9 Maslow (1943) ...read more.

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