Fredrick Taylor, the father of scientific management. He had a firm belief in “one best way” (Samson & Daft, 2003), of doing something. In the year 1899, Taylor held an experiment that involved German and Hungarian men, whose job involved some very heavy-duty work (Gabor, 2000). To his disappointment, men either refused to work, or wouldn’t work to his expectations. The men hated him utterly; to the extent he required security when going home (Gabor, 2000). In his entire dilemma with his employers, in stepped Schmidt, a man not of intelligence but had the strength of a bull and an ox-like mentally required to reach the standards of Fredrick Taylor.
The story of Schmidt reflected 2 two significant aspects of Taylorism (Gabor, 2000). Firstly, it reflected his aggressive personality, which included his high expectation in people, hence his drive to keep on improving. Secondly, it reflected how he did not understand nor respect the limits of a human being, revealed in his strict and precise managerial style. Scholars of all times seem to criticise this aspect of Taylorism, but despite its deficiency, scientific management soared into the 20th century and remains relevant to today’s organisations. Scientific management has its shortcomings and in some instances not relevant in today’s organisations.
Its relevance to today’s organisations is simply the fact that it worked and continues to today. The system had a strict and clear-cut methodical approach. That was because of Taylor’s firm belief that there was one best way. His view of the management’s role was to decide exactly how a task was to be performed and that they were to determine how this would be done (Crainer, 1999). His idea of finding the one best way was the use of a stopwatch and timing the process of doing a task. Further more, tasks would be broken up into smaller processes, timed and done repetitively until the fastest way of performing that specific task would be found. For Taylor, “no task was too small for improvement” (Olsen, 2001, p. 255). The aim in all the timing and recording was to maximise efficiency and scientific management done that and more.
From researching, it can be seen that efficiency is the primary reason for its survival and relevance today i.e. Henry Ford. Scientific management introduced the initiative of a conveyer belt and assembly lines (Olsen, 2001). A development as simple as a conveyer belt has had a huge impact on today’s productivity levels. According to Henry Ford, production of cars dramatically increased from 100,000 to 200,000 in the year 1908, at the same time reducing about 1500 workers (Perseus Publishing Staff, 2002). Hence, scientific management lowered the cost of production and therefore enabled profit maximisation.
The thought behind the conveyer belt or assembly line was to eliminate unnecessary movement. Instead of people having to move themselves to the raw materials and delivering the goods, they stayed put while the goods and raw material would come to them. Before the conveyer belt, workers had to pull the goods around, generally the unskilled workers (Perseus Publishing Staff, 2002). This raises another aspect of scientific management. People were chosen to do particular jobs depending on their physical or mental capacity (Samson & Daft, 2003). From experience, a past co-worker at McDonald who was handicap was subject to cleaning only, scientific management in action today. The relevance of this aspect is that people are chosen to best suit a task designated to them i.e. if it is a physical task, a person with the physical capabilities would be chosen. As mentioned earlier, Schmidt was entirely admired by Taylor as he met Taylor’s expectation (Gabor, 2000).
Schmidt had the physical capabilities required of workers in Taylor’s view. A case study on Mc Donald’s indicates the survival of scientific management and its application to today’s organisations (Kerr I. & Darl K., 1995). For instance, the production of a burger is an example of assembly line style of production is applied. In the making of one burger, approximately 5-8 people are involved depending on the size of the McDonald unit. The making of the burger is split into the heating of the buns, grilling of the meat patty, dressing and finally wrapping. Each role may have up to 2 people on each task with specific instructions on how to perform them the tasks. Imagine an individual having to do all of the above; production would be very time consuming. Hence, the relevance of scientific management to organisations today is simply the fact the fact it has proven successful, extremely efficient in the past through Henry Ford (Perseus Publishing Staff, 2002) and still is today at McDonalds.
Despite all the flourishing outcomes, it had its shortcomings. The greatest of all was the treatment of workers and that problem still exists today. In researching, critics claim people were treated like machines, by removing unnecessary movement or wasted effort by the observing of and timing of workers (Crainer, 1999). The use of stopwatches was banned in the year 1912 and was not lifted until 1949. At first sight, stopwatches were not generally accepted until Taylor realised that giving workers breaks allowed them to recover from fatigue.
However, the need to recover from fatigue suggests work was getting harder and rest was essential. Analysts of management claimed scientific management ignored human characteristics, those such as workers personal needs and physical restriction (http://en.wikipedia.org). Work processes became so efficient workers had no time to relax. Also the fact that each worker done one task repetitively all day, every day, seems to be absolutely machine like treatment. The constant inhumane treatment of the workers led to a strike in 1911 at a munitions factory run by the army (Crainer, 1999). Fredrick Taylor himself quotes
…Brutally speaking, our scheme (Scientific management) does not ask any initiative in a man. We do not care for his initiative, each employee should receive every day clear-cut, definite instructions as to just what he is to do and how he is to do it, and these instructions should be exactly carried out, whether they are right or wrong. (Crainer, 1999, p.193).
This without a doubt shows how Taylor cared less about humans. His sole purpose of efficiency oversaw the fact that humans will always be humans. Taylor tried to overcome this factor by compensating the workers for a hard days work. He introduced the piece rate system payment. This scheme paid workers according to their production output. Workers at the end of the day had to more productive in order to earn an adequate wage (Kerr I. & Darl K., 1995). Compensation is only temporary unless it is sufficient. Statistics show at Midvale Steel Company in the year 1890, within 8 years an increase in production was more than 300% while the increase in wages was only from 25 to 100% (Olson, 2001), which doesn’t sound fair .
Despite the introduction of piece rate payment schemes, workers eventually will get fed up and may react in a negative way i.e. strike or quit. Telling workers the precise way of doing something reflects purely shows he did not want them to think or their opinion. Today, the same treatment of humans as robots can be seen. For instance in Samoa, a Japan Company Yazaki runs their factory producing wires according to Taylor’s theories i.e. assembly lines, strict and specific tasks etc. Business entities claim that people are first, but at the end of the day, management’s decisions are solely based on profit maximisation, efficiency and so forth.
Henry Ford complained, “How come when I want a pair of hands I get a human being as well?”(Crainer, 1999, p.194), hence the rise of machinery. Taylor faced the same difficulties and inspired him to do something about it. His development of machines started with a large steel hammer. Taylor eventually owned more than 100 patents (Olson, 2001). His view was the combination of machinery to assist human, but not to replace them (Olson, 2001). That view is not as evident today. With machines production type organisations see it as a more efficient way of performing a task as it meant fewer errors and fewer workers who may be considered a setback due to their physical and personal limitations. Today in Japan, scientific management has had a vast impact, however, in most factories, people do not run it.
Machines normally perform production. According to the Japanese, the “final ingredient to mass production was technology” (Tsutsui, p.165). Its relevance to organisations today is that technology has substituted people’s weaknesses for almost errorless machines that enables mass production, reduces wages considerably and in turn maximises profit (Olsen, 2001). However, this could arguably be both relevant and non relevant to organisations. With the introduction of machinery and technology, it in turn eliminated the need for unskilled people. Eventually, organisations will require fewer workers because smaller groups with the assistance of machinery can produce the same amount as a large group without machinery.
Last but not least of its shortcomings was the deskilling of people. Scientific management may have made production easier in the sense that tasks were small and repetitive. An effect of this was that a skilled worker could easily be replaced by an unskilled worker (Kerr I. & Darl K., 1995). In doing so, there may be a non-foreseeable effect on the organisation.
To conclude, scientific management is largely relevant to today’s organisations. The essay suggests that its relevance and application overrides its negative aspects. Its contribution has enabled mass efficient production. The one best way view of Taylor came out with a substantial improvement in production and machinery. Humans will always be viewed and treated like machines; this deficiency exists and will continue to until scientific management’s approach sees to the human characteristics, which is unlikely. Despite all its pros and cons, it will survive and will be continually applied in organisations today as it has proven to be successful in the past, is today and will continue to be successful in the future.
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