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Scientific management is a theory of management that analyzes and synthesizes workflows. Its main objective is improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management. One early approach to scientific management is known as Taylorism after its founder.
Its development began in the United States with Frederick Winslow Taylor in the 1880s and '90s within the manufacturing industries. Its peak of influence came in the 1910s; by the 1920s, it was still influential but had entered into competition and syncretism with opposing or complementary ideas.
Although scientific management as a distinct theory or school of thought was obsolete by the 1930s, most of its themes are still important parts of industrial engineering and management today. These include analysis; synthesis; logic; rationality; empiricism; work ethic; efficiency and elimination of waste; standardization of best practices; disdain for tradition preserved merely for its own sake or to protect the social status of particular workers with particular skill sets; the transformation of craft production into mass production; and knowledge transfer between workers and from workers into tools, processes, and documentation.
Pursuit of economic efficiencyEdit
While the terms "scientific management" and "Taylorism" are commonly treated as synonymous, the work of Frederick Taylor marks only the first form of scientific management, followed by other approaches; thus in today's management theory, Taylorism is sometimes called, or considered a subset of, the classical perspective on scientific management. Taylor's own names for his approach initially included "shop management" and "process management". When Louis Brandeis popularized the term "scientific management" in 1910, Taylor recognized it as another good name for the concept, and adopted it in his 1911 monograph.
Taylor rejected the notion, which was universal in his day and still held today, that the trades, including manufacturing, were resistant to analysis and could only be performed by craft production methods. In the course of his empirical studies, Taylor examined various kinds of manual labor. For example, most bulk materials handling was manual at the time; material handling equipment as we know it today was mostly not developed yet. He looked at shoveling in the unloading of railroad cars full of ore; lifting and carrying in the moving of iron pigs at steel mills; the manual inspection of bearing balls; and others. He discovered many concepts that were not widely accepted at the time. For example, by observing workers, he decided that labor should include rest breaks so that the worker has time to recover from fatigue, either physical (as in shoveling or lifting) or mental (as in the ball inspection case). Workers were allowed to take more rests during work, and productivity increased as a result.
Flourishing in the late 19th and early 20th century, scientific management built on earlier pursuits of economic efficiency. While it was prefigured in the folk wisdom of thrift, it favored empirical methods to determine efficient procedures rather than perpetuating established traditions. Thus it was followed by a profusion of successors in applied science, including time and motion study, the Efficiency Movement (which was a broader cultural echo of scientific management's impact on business managers specifically), Fordism, operations management, operations research, industrial engineering, management science, manufacturing engineering, logistics, business process management, business process reengineering, lean manufacturing, and Six Sigma. There is a fluid continuum linking scientific management with the later fields, and the different approaches often display a high degree of compatibility.
Subsequent forms of scientific management were articulated by Taylor's disciples, such as Henry Gantt; other engineers and managers, such as Benjamin S. Graham; and other theorists, such as Max Weber. Taylor's work also contrasts with other efforts, including those of Henri Fayol and those of Frank Gilbreth, Sr. and Lillian Moller Gilbreth (whose views originally shared much with Taylor's but later diverged in response to Taylorism's inadequate handling of human relations).
Taylorism, in its strict sense, became obsolete by the 1930s, and by the 1960s the term "scientific management" was no longer favored in contemporaneous management theory. However, called by other names, many aspects of scientific management have persisted in later management theories. In blending art, academic science, and applied science, modern management practice includes Taylorism as one of its ancestors. The process of improving on Taylorism's view of human resources began as soon as Taylor's works had been published (as evidenced by, for example, James Hartness's motivation to publish his Human Factor in 1912, or the Gilbreths' work), and each subsequent decade brought further evolution.
In management literature today, the term "scientific management" mostly refers to the work of Taylor and his disciples ("classical", implying "no longer current, but still respected for its seminal value") in contrast to newer, improved iterations of efficiency-seeking methods..Taylorism is often mentioned along with Fordism, because it was closely associated with mass production methods in factories, which was its earliest application. Today, task-oriented optimization of work tasks is nearly ubiquitous in industry.
Scientific management requires a high level of managerial control over employee work practices and entails a higher ratio of managerial workers to laborers than previous management methods. Such detail-oriented management may cause friction between workers and managers.
Taylor observed that some workers were more talented than others, and that even smart ones were often unmotivated. He observed that most workers who are forced to perform repetitive tasks tend to work at the slowest rate that goes unpunished. This slow rate of work has been observed in many industries and many countries and has been called by various terms. Taylor used the term "soldiering", a term that reflects the way conscripts may approach following orders, and observed that, when paid the same amount, workers will tend to do the amount of work that the slowest among them does. Taylor describes soldiering as "the greatest evil with which the working-people ... are now afflicted." 
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 remuneration. 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. He posited that time and motion studies combined with rational analysis and synthesis could uncover one best method for performing any particular task, and that prevailing methods were seldom equal to these best methods. Crucially, Taylor himself prominently acknowledged that if each employee's compensation was linked to their output, their productivity would go up. Thus his compensation plans usually included piece rates. In contrast, some later adopters of time and motion studies ignored this aspect and tried to get large productivity gains while passing little or no compensation gains to the workforce, which contributed to resentment against the system.
Relationship to mechanization and automationEdit
Scientific management evolved in an era when mechanization and automation were still in their infancy. The ideas and methods of scientific management extended the American system of manufacturing in the transformation from craft work (with humans as the only possible agents) to mechanization and automation, although proponents of scientific management did not predict the extensive removal of humans from the production process. Concerns over labor-displacing technologies rose with increasing mechanization and automation.
By factoring processes into discrete, unambiguous units, scientific management laid the groundwork for automation and offshoring, prefiguring industrial process control and numerical control in the absence of any machines that could carry it out. Taylor and his followers did not foresee this at the time; in their world, it was humans that would execute the optimized processes. (For example, although in their era the instruction "open valve A whenever pressure gauge B reads over value X" would be carried out by a human, the fact that it had been reduced to an algorithmic component paved the way for a machine to be the agent.) However, one of the common threads between their world and ours is that the agents of execution need not be "smart" to execute their tasks. In the case of computers, they are not able (yet) to be "smart" (in that sense of the word); in the case of human workers under scientific management, they were often able but were not allowed. Once the time-and-motion men had completed their studies of a particular task, the workers had very little opportunity for further thinking, experimenting, or suggestion-making. They were forced to "play dumb" most of the time, which occasionally led to revolts.
The middle ground between the craft production of skilled workers and full automation is occupied by systems of extensive mechanization and partial automation operated by semiskilled and unskilled workers. Such systems depend on algorithmic workflows and knowledge transfer, which require substantial engineering to succeed. Although Taylor's intention for scientific management was simply to optimize work methods, the process engineering that he pioneered also tends to build the skill into the equipment and processes, removing most need for skill in the workers. Such engineering has governed most industrial engineering since then. It is also the essence of successful offshoring. The common theme in all these cases is that businesses engineer their way out of their need for large concentrations of skilled workers, and the high-wage environments that sustain them. This creates competitive advantage on the local level of individual firms, although the pressure it exerts systemically on employment and employability is an externality.
Taylor's view of workersEdit
Taylor often expressed views of workers that may be considered insulting. He recognized differences between workers, stressed the need to select the right person for the right job, and championed the workers by advocating frequent breaks and good pay for good work. He often failed to conceal his condescending attitude towards less intelligent workers, describing them as "stupid" and comparing them to draft animals in that they have to have their tasks managed for them in order to work efficiently.
Other thinkers soon offered more ideas on the roles that workers play in mature industrial systems. These included ideas on improvement of the individual worker with attention to the worker's needs, not just the needs of the whole. James Hartness published The Human Factor in Works Management in 1912, while Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth offered their own alternatives to Taylorism. The human relations school of management evolved in the 1930s to complement rather than replace scientific management, with Taylorism determining the organisation of the work process, and human relations helping to adapt the workers to the new procedures. Today's efficiency-seeking methods, such as lean manufacturing, include respect for workers and fulfillment of their needs as integral parts of the theory. (Workers slogging their way through workdays in the business world do encounter flawed implementations of these methods that make jobs unpleasant; but these implementations generally lack managerial competence in matching theory to execution.) Clearly a syncretism has occurred since Taylor's day, although its implementation has been uneven, as lean management in capable hands has produced good results for both managers and workers, but in incompetent hands has damaged enterprises.
Taylorism, anomie, and unionsEdit
With the division of labor that became commonplace as Taylorism was implemented in manufacturing, workers lost their sense of connection to the production of goods. Workers began to feel disenfranchised with the monotonous and unfulfilling work they were doing in factories. Before scientific management, workers felt a sense of pride when completing their good, which went away when workers only completed one part of production. "The further 'progress' of industrial development... increased the anomic or forced division of labor," the opposite of what Taylor thought would be the effect. Partial adoption of Taylor's principles by management seeking to boost efficiency, while ignoring principles such as fair pay and direct engagement by managers, lead to further tensions and the rise of unions to represent workers needs.
Taylor had a largely negative view of unions, and believed they only led to decreased productivity. Although he opposed them, his work with scientific management led disenfranchised workers to look to unions for support.
Implementations of scientific management often failed to account for inherent challenges such as the individuality of workers and the lack of shared economic interest between workers and management. As individuals are different from each other, the most efficient way of working for one person may be inefficient for another. As the economic interests of workers and management are rarely identical, both the measurement processes and the retraining required by Taylor's methods were frequently resented and sometimes sabotaged by the workforce.
Taylor himself recognized these challenges and sought to address them. Nevertheless, his own implementations of his system (e.g., Watertown Arsenal, Link-Belt corporation, Midvale, Bethlehem) were never really very successful. They made unsteady progress and eventually failed, usually after Taylor had left. The countless managers who later esteemed or imitated Taylor did even worse jobs of implementation. Typically, they were less analytical managers who had adopted scientific management as a fashionable way of cutting the unit cost of production, often without any deep understanding of Taylor's ideas. Taylor knew that scientific management could only last if the workers benefited from the profit increases it generated. Taylor had developed a method for generating the increases, for the dual purposes of owner/manager profit and worker profit, realizing that the methods relied on both of those results in order to work correctly. But many owners and managers seized upon the methods thinking (wrongly) that the profits could be reserved solely or mostly for themselves and the system could endure indefinitely merely through force of authority.
Workers are necessarily human: they have personal needs and interpersonal friction, and they face very real difficulties introduced when jobs become so efficient that they have no time to relax, and so rigid that they have no permission to innovate.
Early decades: Making jobs unpleasantEdit
Under scientific management, the demands of work intensified. Workers became dissatisfied with the work environment and became angry. During one of Taylor's own implementations at the Watertown Arsenal in Massachusetts, a strike led to an investigation of Taylor's methods by a U.S. House of Representatives committee. The committee reported in 1912, concluding that scientific management did provide some useful techniques and offered valuable organizational suggestions,[need quotation to verify] but that it also gave production managers a dangerously high level of uncontrolled power. After an attitude survey of the workers revealed a high level of resentment and hostility towards scientific management, the Senate banned Taylor's methods at the arsenal.
Scientific management lowered worker morale and exacerbated existing conflicts between labor and management. As a consequence, the method inadvertently strengthened labor unions and their bargaining power in labor disputes, thereby neutralizing most or all of the benefit of any productivity gains it had achieved. Thus its net benefit to owners and management ended up as small or negative. It took new efforts, borrowing some ideas from scientific management but mixing them with others, to produce more productive formulas.
Later decades: Making jobs disappearEdit
Scientific management may have exacerbated grievances among workers about oppressive or greedy management. It certainly strengthened developments that put workers at a disadvantage: the erosion of employment in developed economies via both offshoring and automation. Both were made possible by the deskilling of jobs, which was made possible by the knowledge transfer that scientific management achieved. Knowledge was transferred both to cheaper workers and from workers into tools. Jobs that once would have required craft work first transformed to semiskilled work, then unskilled. At this point the labor had been commoditized, and thus the competition between workers (and worker populations) moved closer to pure than it had been, depressing wages and job security. Jobs could be offshored (giving one human's tasks to others—which could be good for the new worker population but was bad for the old) or they could be rendered nonexistent through automation (giving a human's tasks to machines). Either way, the net result from the perspective of developed-economy workers was that jobs started to pay less, then disappear. The power of labor unions in the mid-twentieth century only led to a push on the part of management to accelerate the process of automation, hastening the onset of the later stages just described.
In a central assumption of scientific management, "the worker was taken for granted as a cog in the machinery." While scientific management had made jobs unpleasant, its successors made them less remunerative, less secure, and finally nonexistent as a consequence of structural unemployment.
Relationship to FordismEdit
It is often assumed that Fordism derives from Taylor's work. Taylor apparently made this assumption himself when visiting the Ford Motor Company's Michigan plants not too long before he died, but it is likely that the methods at Ford were evolved independently, and that any influence from Taylor's work was indirect at best. Charles E. Sorensen, a principal of the company during its first four decades, disclaimed any connection at all. There was a belief at Ford, which remained dominant until Henry Ford II took over the company in 1945, that the world's experts were worthless, because if Ford had listened to them, it would have failed to attain its great successes. Henry Ford felt that he had succeeded in spite of, not because of, experts, who had tried to stop him in various ways (disagreeing about price points, production methods, car features, business financing, and other issues). Sorensen thus was dismissive of Taylor and lumped him into the category of useless experts. Sorensen held the New England machine tool vendor Walter Flanders in high esteem and credits him for the efficient floorplan layout at Ford, claiming that Flanders knew nothing about Taylor. Flanders may have been exposed to the spirit of Taylorism elsewhere, and may have been influenced by it, but he did not cite it when developing his production technique. Regardless, the Ford team apparently did independently invent modern mass production techniques in the period of 1905-1915, and they themselves were not aware of any borrowing from Taylorism. Perhaps it is only possible with hindsight to see the zeitgeist that (indirectly) connected the budding Fordism to the rest of the efficiency movement during the decade of 1905-1915.
Scientific management appealed to managers of planned economies because central economic planning relies on the idea that the expenses that go into economic production can be precisely predicted and can be optimized by design. The opposite theoretical pole would be laissez-faire thinking in which the invisible hand of free markets is the only possible "designer". In reality most economies today are somewhere in between. Another alternative for economic planning is workers' self-management.
In the Soviet Union, Taylorism was advocated by Aleksei Gastev and nauchnaia organizatsia truda (the movement for the scientific organisation of labor). It found support in both Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Gastev continued to promote this system of labor management until his arrest and execution in 1939. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Soviet Union enthusiastically embraced Fordism and Taylorism, importing American experts in both fields as well as American engineering firms to build parts of its new industrial infrastructure. The concepts of the Five Year Plan and the centrally planned economy can be traced directly to the influence of Taylorism on Soviet thinking. As scientific management was believed to epitomize American efficiency, Joseph Stalin even claimed that "the combination of the Russian revolutionary sweep with American efficiency is the essence of Leninism."
Sorensen was one of the consultants who brought American know-how to the USSR during this era, before the Cold War made such exchanges unthinkable. As the Soviet Union developed and grew in power, both sides, the Soviets and the Americans, chose to ignore or deny the contribution that American ideas and expertise had made: the Soviets because they wished to portray themselves as creators of their own destiny and not indebted to a rival, and the Americans because they did not wish to acknowledge their part in creating a powerful communist rival. Anti-communism had always enjoyed widespread popularity in America, and anti-capitalism in Russia, but after World War II, they precluded any admission by either side that technologies or ideas might be either freely shared or clandestinely stolen.
By the 1950s, scientific management had grown dated, but its goals and practices remained attractive and were also being adopted by the German Democratic Republic as it sought to increase efficiency in its industrial sectors. In the accompanying photograph from the German Federal Archives, workers discuss standards specifying how each task should be done and how long it should take. The workers are engaged in a state-planned instance of process improvement, but they are pursuing the same goals that were contemporaneously pursued in capitalist societies, as in the Toyota Production System.
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The criticism of Taylor's principles of effective workmanship and the productivity of the workers has not been silenced today. Often, his theories are described as man-contemptuous and portrayed as now overhauled. In practice, however, the principles of Taylor are still being pursued, which are based on the development of working methods and courses based on systematic analysis rather than relying on tradition and rule of thumb.
Taylorism is, according to Stephen P. Waring, considered very controversial, despite its popularity. It is often criticized for turning the worker into an "automaton" or "machine." Due to techniques employed with scientific management, employees claim to have become overworked and were hostile to the process. Criticisms commonly came from workers who were subjected to an accelerated work pace, lower standards of workmanship, lower product quality, and lagging wages. Workers defied being reduced to such machines, and objected to the practices of Taylorism. Many workers formed unions, demanded higher pay, and went on strike to be free of control issues. This ignited a class conflict, in which Taylorism was initially meant to prevent. Efforts to resolve the conflicts included methods of scientific collectivism, making agreements with unions, and the personnel management movement.
The Watertown Arsenal in Massachusetts is an example of the application and repeal of the Taylor system in the workplace, due to worker opposition. In the early 1900s, neglect in the Watertown shops included overcrowding, dim-lighting, lack of tools and equipment, and questionable management strategies in the eyes of the workers. In April 1909, Frederick W. Taylor had visited Watertown, along with Carl G. Barth, and reported on their observations at the shops. Their conclusion was to apply the Taylor system of management to the shops to produce better results. Efforts to install the Taylor system began in June 1909. Over the years of time study and trying to improve the efficiency of workers, criticisms began to evolve. Workers complained of having to compete with one another, feeling strained and resentful, and feeling excessively tired after work. There is, however, no evidence that the times enforced were unreasonable. In June 1913, employees of the Watertown Arsenal in Massachusetts petitioned to abolish the practice of scientific management there. A number of magazine writers inquiring into the effects of scientific management found that the "conditions in shops investigated contrasted favorably with those in other plants."
In the middle of 1960 some counter-movements to Taylorism arose. Representatives of the so-called Human Relations movement urged humanization and democratization of the working world. The criticism of Taylorism supports the unilateral approach of labor. Strictly speaking, Taylorism is not a scientific theory. All theories of F.W. Taylor are based on experiments. On the basis of samples, conclusions were made, which were then generalized. There is no representativeness of the selected sample.
Another reason for criticizing Taylor’s methods is that Taylor believed the scientific method included the calculations of exactly how much time it takes a man to do a particular task, or his rate of work. However, the opposition to this argument is that such a calculation relies on certain arbitrary, non-scientific decisions such as what constituted the job, which men were timed, and under which conditions. Any of these factors are subject to change, and therefore can produce inconsistencies.
Scientific management was one of the first attempts to systematically treat management and process improvement as a scientific problem. It may have been the first to do so in a "bottom-up" way and found a lineage of successors that have many elements in common. With the advancement of statistical methods, quality assurance and quality control began in the 1920s and 1930s. During the 1940s and 1950s, the body of knowledge for doing scientific management evolved into operations management, operations research, and management cybernetics. In the 1980s total quality management became widely popular, and in the 1990s "re-engineering" went from a simple word to a mystique. Today's Six Sigma and lean manufacturing could be seen as new kinds of scientific management, although their evolutionary distance from the original is so great that the comparison might be misleading. In particular, Shigeo Shingo, one of the originators of the Toyota Production System, believed that this system and Japanese management culture in general should be seen as a kind of scientific management.
Peter Drucker saw Frederick Taylor as the creator of knowledge management, because the aim of scientific management was to produce knowledge about how to improve work processes. Although the typical application of scientific management was manufacturing, Taylor himself advocated scientific management for all sorts of work, including the management of universities and government. For example, Taylor believed scientific management could be extended to "the work of our salesmen". Shortly after his death, his acolyte Harlow S. Person began to lecture corporate audiences on the possibility of using Taylorism for "sales engineering" (Person was talking about what is now called sales process engineering—engineering the processes that salespeople use—not about what we call sales engineering today.) This was a watershed insight in the history of corporate marketing.
Google's methods of increasing productivity and output can be seen to be influenced by Taylorism as well. The Silicon Valley company is a forerunner in appying behavioral science to increase knowledge worker productivity. In classic scientific management as well as approaches like lean management or business process reengineering leaders and experts develop and define standard. Leading high-tech companies use the concept of nudge management to increase productivity of employees. More and more business leaders start to make use of this new scientific management.
Today's militaries employ all of the major goals and tactics of scientific management, if not under that name. Of the key points, all but wage incentives for increased output are used by modern military organizations. Wage incentives rather appear in the form of skill bonuses for enlistments.
Scientific management has had an important influence in sports, where stop watches and motion studies rule the day. (Taylor himself enjoyed sports, especially tennis and golf. He and a partner won a national championship in doubles tennis. He invented improved tennis racquets and improved golf clubs, although other players liked to tease him for his unorthodox designs, and they did not catch on as replacements for the mainstream implements).
In the 21st century the tendency to overcome Taylorism is very great. The trend is moving away from assembly line work, since people are increasingly being replaced by machines in production plants and sub-processes are automated, so that human labor is not necessary in these cases. The desire for automated workflow in companies is intended to reduce costs and support the company at the operational level.
Furthermore, it can be observed that many companies try to make the workplace as comfortable as possible for the employees. This is achieved by light flooded rooms, Feng Shui methods in the workplace or even by creative jobs. The efficiency and creativity of the employees is to be promoted by a pleasant atmosphere at the workplace. Approaches of the Scientific Management, in which attempts are also made to make the work environment pleasant, are partly recognizable here.
In the works of Gouldner and Crozier, the recognition of the plurality of industrial forms is being discussed. In the 21st century, we have a modern corporate management, where managers are given the available positions in companies and are given the right to take legal action.
The working world of the 21st century is mainly based on Total Quality Management. This is derived from quality control. In contrast to Taylorism, by which products are produced in the shortest possible time without any form of quality control and delivered to the end customer, the focus in the 21st century is on quality control at TQM. In order to avoid error rates, it is necessary to hire specialists to check all the products which have been manufactured before they are delivered to the end customer. The quality controls have improved over time, and incorrect partial processes can be detected in time and removed from the production process.
Taylorism approaches are largely prevalent in companies where machines can not perform certain activities. Certain subprocesses are still to be carried out by humans, such as the sorting out of damaged fruit in the final process before the goods are packed by machines. It turns out that the quality control is ultimately to be verified by the individual man. Certain activities remain similar to the approach of Taylorism. There are no "zero error programs", employees have to be trained and thus reduce error rates.
Through the invention of the management one managed positions, which are equipped with disposition rights. The positions are occupied by paid employees and form the basis for the current, modern corporate management. In order to be able to perceive these positions, it was no longer necessary to bring in resources such as capital, but instead qualifications were necessary. Written rights are also passed on to employees, which means that the leaders of an organization tend to fall into the background and merely have a passive position.
The structure and size of a company must be distinguished. Depending on which dispositions are predominant, the size of the company, the sector, and the number of employees in an organization, one can examine whether approaches of Taylorism are prevalent. It is believed to be predominant in the automotive industry. In spite of the fact that a lot of activities have been replaced by machines during the production, it is ultimately the person who can check the quality of a product.
Taylorism led to a performance increase in companies. All superfluous working steps are avoided. The company benefits from the productivity of the workers and this in turn from higher wages. Unused productivity resources were effectively exploited by Taylorism.
Today's work environment in the 21st century benefits from the humanity of working conditions. Corporate strategies are increasingly focused on the flexibility of work. Flexible adaptation to demand should be possible. The qualifications of the employees, the work content as well as the work processes are determined by the competition situation on the market. The aim is to promote self-discipline and the motivation of employees in order to achieve their own tasks and at the same time to prevent monotonous work. Technical progress has led to more humane working conditions since inhumane work steps are done by the machines.
Taylorism's approach is called inhuman. The increased wage alone is not a permanent incentive for the workers to carry out the same monotonous work. Worker-friendly work structures are required. People no longer want to be perceived merely as executive organ. The complete separation from manual and headwork leads to a lack of pleasure in the execution of the work steps.
In the 21st century the rising level of education leads to better trained workers, but the competitive pressure also rises. The interplay of economic as well as the pressure to innovate also lead to uncertainty among employees. The national diseases in the 21st century have become burn-out phenomena and depressions, often in conjunction with the stress and the increased performance pressure in the work.
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