Advancements in Scientific Management: Taylor, Gantt, and the Gilbreths

Categories: EmploymentManagement

Scientific Management, a revolutionary approach to management that emerged in the late 1800s, introduced a set of principles aimed at analyzing individual activities to optimize efficiency and productivity. In this essay, we will delve into the major contributions of three influential figures in the field: Frederick Winslow Taylor, Henry Gantt, and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth. Each of these individuals made substantial strides in shaping the landscape of management practices.

Frederick Winslow Taylor: The Pioneer of Scientific Management

Frederick Winslow Taylor, often regarded as one of the most influential business leaders of the 20th century, embarked on a remarkable journey that began with his experiences as a laborer and culminated in his role as the Chief Engineer at the Midvale Steel Company.

During his career, Taylor encountered significant issues concerning the relationship between management and labor.

One of the key problems Taylor sought to address was the phenomenon of "soldiering," whereby workers intentionally slowed down their pace of work while concealing their true capabilities from management.

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Taylor identified two forms of soldiering: natural and systematic. Natural soldiering stemmed from the inherent human inclination to take it easy, while systematic soldiering emerged as a collective effort among workers to work at a slower pace for various reasons.

Taylor's meticulous analysis led him to conclude that systematic soldiering posed more significant challenges than its natural counterpart. He attributed the prevalence of systematic soldiering to management's failure to create jobs with adequate incentives. Taylor recognized the urgent need for a new industrial system that could rectify these issues.

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Time Studies: A Path to Efficiency

Taylor's first step towards creating a more efficient system was the development of time studies. He believed that by scientifically determining the most efficient methods for each task and setting performance standards based on these findings, he could combat soldiering effectively. To accomplish this, Taylor employed tools such as stopwatches, weight scales, and measuring tapes to analyze the movements and time required for various tasks.

His time studies consisted of two phases: analysis and synthesis. The analysis phase involved breaking down each job into individual movements, recording these movements, and allowing for inevitable delays. The synthesis phase aimed to arrange these movements in the correct sequence to determine the optimal time and method for completing the job.

Taylor's time studies yielded remarkable improvements in various aspects of job performance. They enabled a careful examination of individual tasks, leading to increased efficiency, reduced effort, and higher production rates.

Revolutionizing Incentives

Another critical aspect of Taylor's approach was the transformation of traditional incentive systems. He believed that the conventional methods of motivating workers, such as profit sharing and paying positions rather than individuals, were inefficient. Taylor introduced a three-part plan to enhance incentives:

  1. Using time studies to set performance standards and pay rates.
  2. Implementing a differential piecework system, wherein employees received higher rates per piece if they completed their work faster than the specified standard.
  3. Paying individual workers rather than positions, ensuring that wages were commensurate with performance.

Taylor's system aimed to align the interests of both management and labor. He argued that higher wages would lead to lower costs and increased production, thus challenging the prevailing belief that higher wages resulted in increased expenses. Moreover, Taylor emphasized the identification of "first-class workers" who possessed the drive and ambition needed for optimal job performance.

He advocated setting performance standards based on the pace of these exemplary workers, thus incentivizing others to strive for higher efficiency. Taylor's approach highlighted the idea that increased production did not require working longer or harder but working smarter and more efficiently.

The Task Management System

Taylor's task management system was a significant departure from traditional workplace layouts that dictated how tasks were performed. His approach relied on time studies to determine the ideal duration for each task and then provided detailed written instructions for workers. Taylor believed that motivating workers based on their ability to complete tasks within the allocated time was essential.

The system rewarded those who finished their tasks promptly with higher wages. Additionally, Taylor introduced the concept of "functional foremanship," emphasizing that managers should possess specific qualities for efficient supervision, including technical knowledge, tact, intelligence, energy, common sense, and good health.

This specialization allowed managers to focus on particular responsibilities, ultimately decreasing the time required for recruiting and hiring. Taylor's system fundamentally altered task planning, shifting from workplace layout-driven methods to a more scientific approach, which improved overall efficiency.

The Principles of Scientific Management

Taylor's groundbreaking ideas culminated in his influential book, "The Principles of Scientific Management." This publication triggered both controversy and widespread recognition. Translated into multiple languages within just two years of its release, the book positioned Taylor as a national hero.

In his work, Taylor outlined a new path for industrial efficiency, challenging existing norms and paving the way for modern management practices. His meticulous approach to analyzing work processes, improving incentives, and optimizing performance standards left an indelible mark on management theory and practice.

Henry Gantt: Advancing Taylor's Principles

Henry Gantt, a colleague of Frederick Taylor at the Midvale Steel Company, was profoundly influenced by Taylor's ideas about industrial management. Gantt recognized the transformative potential of Taylor's scientific approach and sought to build upon it.

Like Taylor, Gantt believed in the importance of establishing a mutual interest between management and workers. He argued that successful management began with the worker, as the workingman constituted the most crucial element in the management equation.

The Task and Bonus System

Gantt introduced the task and bonus system, a concept akin to Taylor's differential piece rate system. Under this system, workers who completed a task within less than the standard time were eligible for bonuses. Gantt extended this bonus scheme to first-line supervisors, awarding them bonuses based on their ability to guide workers toward completing tasks within the stipulated time.

Moreover, if all workers successfully completed their tasks within the allotted time, supervisors received an additional bonus. Gantt's innovative approach motivated supervisors to become effective leaders who guided workers cooperatively, shifting management from a role of enforcing standards to one of leading in a collaborative manner.

However, Gantt encountered resistance from both workers and management when implementing these methods. Workers engaged in strikes, prompting Gantt to seek and train replacements. This experience led him to emphasize the importance of management's role in thorough worker training.

The Gantt Progress Chart

Gantt's pursuit of efficient management practices also led to the creation of the Gantt Progress Chart, which became one of the most valuable contributions to management of its time. This chart allowed managers to visualize how work should be scheduled and progressed through various operations until completion.

With the Gantt Progress Chart, managers could discern whether a job was ahead or behind schedule and take corrective actions as needed. The chart proved instrumental in aiding decision-making, optimizing resource allocation, and ensuring the efficient utilization of resources.

The Gilbreths: Efficiency through Motion Studies and Human Resource Management

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, followers of Frederick Taylor's Scientific Management principles, made substantial contributions to the field by focusing on motion studies and human resource management.

Frank Gilbreth's Motion Studies

Frank Gilbreth initiated his exploration of management principles while working as a bricklayer. He applied scientific principles to his work, meticulously analyzing the bricklaying process to reduce the number of motions required from 18 to just 6. Gilbreth's work demonstrated that by eliminating unnecessary motions, workers could accomplish tasks with significantly less effort, leading to increased productivity.

His pioneering motion studies involved using a camera to capture and analyze the movements of workers. By identifying and eliminating wasteful motions, Gilbreth improved efficiency, reduced fatigue, and enhanced overall productivity. His innovative approach proved more accurate and comprehensive than Taylor's use of stopwatches.

The Gilbreths' Systems and Human Resource Management

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth extended their efforts to various industries, implementing their methods in construction, homebuilding, dam construction, factory operations, and urban planning. They developed three systems: the field system, the concrete system, and the bricklaying system.

The field system primarily served as an accounting method in construction, allowing for cost analysis, estimating cost deviations, and tracking total project costs. Additionally, the Gilbreths introduced a suggestion program that rewarded workers for proposing improvements, fostering enhanced customer service and future job opportunities.

The concrete system introduced competition among workers, encouraging them to complete tasks more rapidly. Lastly, the bricklaying system focused on efficient training methods, ensuring that apprentices learned optimal work practices before establishing performance standards.

Recognizing the human element in work, Lillian Gilbreth delved into "The Psychology of Management." She emphasized that successful management depended on the individual rather than the work itself. Lillian compared three management styles: traditional, transitory, and scientific. Her research indicated that scientific management, which promoted regular work, encouraged good personal habits, and supported physical, mental, moral, and financial development, was the most effective approach.

Lillian's insights laid the foundation for human resource management, emphasizing the scientific selection, training, and placement of workers. Her ideas revolutionized the way industries identified, trained, and placed workers, ensuring that they were positioned in roles that maximized their potential.


In conclusion, the contributions of Frederick Winslow Taylor, Henry Gantt, and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth significantly advanced the field of scientific management. Their collective efforts focused on meticulous analysis, improved incentives, efficient motion studies, and human resource management. These concepts, developed in the late 1800s, continue to shape contemporary workplace practices, emphasizing efficiency, productivity, and the alignment of management and worker interests.

Updated: Nov 02, 2023
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Advancements in Scientific Management: Taylor, Gantt, and the Gilbreths. (2016, Dec 22). Retrieved from

Advancements in Scientific Management: Taylor, Gantt, and the Gilbreths essay
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