Discuss the extent to which the principles of "Scientific management" (F.W.Taylor) are still relevant to modern organizations.

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Robert Thornborough

People and Organizations

Discuss the extent to which the principles of “Scientific management” (F.W.Taylor) are still relevant to modern organizations.

        At the beginning of the Second World War, Taylorism “disappeared” and was replaced with another form of work organization: Fordism. Fordism appeared when Ford started producing Model T cars but by basing his production upon Taylorist lines. Scientific management was still used; there was an explicit distinction between management and workforce, each employee had a specific task to do and their task was timed. Fordism seems more closely attached to the production system of modern organizations than Taylorism does, since it includes Taylor’s ideas but by also introducing new ones, and this is why this essay will be centred on the link between Fordism and today’s production system: Toyotism.  

        At the end of the 1980s, Fordism, which had been at the base of economic growth in the country for thirty years, fades away. Changes in demand, rise in the workers strikes… the organizations must react and readapt themselves, also in order to face the rise in foreign competition. The Japanese model of organization used since the end of the Second World War, Toyotism, was then adapted in Europe and the USA during the 1980s. But what can we say about this post-fordism twenty years later? The worker, who now sees his work as more interesting, where he has more responsibility and importance, is he now liberated from his constraints? Haven’t things changed, especially in the tertiary, which had been kept out of scientific management for so many years? And finally, wouldn’t it be more specific to talk about neo-fordism rather than Toyotism? We shall see that scientific management is still relevant to modern organizations in a first part, and then shall see that this isn’t completely true anymore.

        In modern organizations, hierarchy is still present. It will probably always be like this, somebody needs to be in charge or else there would be too many conflicts. Hierarchy is one of the three most important points of scientific management, along with the specialisation of the worker’s task and the timing of this task so as to impose a cadence. What Taylor wanted to show was that the old way of organizing work in the 19th century was too slow, there were too many gaps in the production process and that this led to a very low productivity. Taylor wanted a “separation of planning from execution”, and this is still the way that it works in the time of Toyotism. Every organization has a manager who will plan the work, see the objectives of the product or service, and then leave it to the workers to fulfil the concept. Nowadays, the hierarchy doesn’t only stand out through the fact that there is a manager and that there are workers, but also with sub-divisions. In organizations we now find a managing director general, a manager, a sub-manager, foremen and so on. These all have different tasks, from planning to execution, so this shows that Taylor’s idea is still used nowadays.

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Leadership is therefore still present nowadays but it seems to be going through some changes. Alvin Gouldner, in “Studies in Leadership”, said that traditional authority does not command the respect and ready obedience that it once did. To achieve this obedience it seems like leadership is the step to take. Fred Fielder made a theory on how to be a successful leader. He based it on three “interrelated factors”: leader-member relationships, task structure and power of the position. The higher these three factors are the better leader you are (Horn: “The development of modern management”). It seems as if they ...

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