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In todays modern era of business, with its exploding technological advances, easier access to materials and a much more skilled and specialized labor force the ideology behind using scientific management is fast becoming as dated a method as the industries that still heavily rely upon its principles to function efficiently. Considering that the fundamental principles of scientific management consist of breaking down manufacturing into its constituent parts allowing unskilled, simple minded, untrained workers to do any one of the multiple tasks that produce a product. This method functions in a manner that maximizes laborers potential and thus company profits by using an assembly line type system. Under this system only management however is considered capable enough of making the big decisions, planning things out and managing the labor force. However with todays manufacturing technology and high tech products being produced, a whole new type of labor force is needed, one that is capable, educated and can make decisions for themselves along the lines of the overall plan or business objective.
Turning a companies workforce into automated machines that will do whatever simple and menial task is handed to them along the assembly line as Henry Ford did to manufacture his cars is effective only in similar industries, such as fast food, shoes and clothing manufacturing and other like enterprises. It is effective solely in these sorts of environments principally because things never change and always remain simple and standardized. For example in his book “The McDonaldization of Society” George Ritzer quotes a piece from the McDonalds staff manual that clearly illustrates this way of thinking “It told operators… precise cooking times for all products and temperature settings for all equipment…It specified that French fries be cut at nine-thirty-seconds thick…Grill men…were instructed to put hamburgers down on the grill moving left to right, creating six rows of six patties each.”
This quote goes to show just how little thought or humanity is really behind each action an employee performs when working one of these sorts of jobs, rather they are just cogs in a machine that turns a much larger machine. Although the principle of scientific management can no longer really be applied to individuals in a workforce other than the aforementioned industries we still have Taylor to thank for laying the groundwork for todays modern manufacturing and production. His principles, rules and ideas have served as a foundation for modern manufacturing, making the line work faster and more efficiently to increase production and reduce labor costs and they continue to influence production today.
Modern manufacturing has removed the need for scientific management at all levels, with machinery replacing workers on the assembly lines, doing all the small tasks that decades ago had to be broken down and assigned to a specific worker or group of workers to do in a much smaller time span. Not only is our modern machinery much faster and precise but because of the software used to link up and run each machine in the assembly line all machines are always working at the highest level of efficiency constantly reporting back to each other through a network of sensors and relays. This combination of increased efficiency and automated work has removed all but a few of the mechanics or workers on any given assembly line.
Many consider this further dehumanization of the workforce to be a negative result of modernization when however it is actually the opposite and helping us move away from scientific management and dehumanization. With the mechanical points removed from the equation and no longer having to give as much thought to those processes management and employees are much freer and able to expand on new ideas as well as focus on new products and improvement of company culture. Also with machines taking care of the less specialized processes, removing men from the monotonous work on the line it means that a more intelligent, better educated workforce is up and coming. The more lateral freedom an employee has the more room they have to excel rather than stick to a certain quota, as well as innovate and generally help improve the company in not only culture but productivity as well.
This need for more specialized and skilled employees rather than more mindless cogs in a machine is what will move the industrial and business world to the next level from the one at which we stand now, a level that is based on century old and fast dissipating model of doing things. Taylor’s method rested on a few key things, with employees it was their intelligence that came into play, in no way is it possible to tell an educated man that he must do one thing a certain way all day long when there may be an easier or more efficient way to go about it and this is where there is the biggest split between old era scientific management and todays evolving model. With more and more people attending university, getting an education and improving upon themselves, it only stands to reason that the jobs they go to work for be up to the same standards, no longer working 9-5 at the lumber or steel mill but rather manufacturing the new apple Iphone or engineering the next eco friendly car, options and jobs that were once allocated to only a small percentage of the population are now becoming not only more easily accessible but more of them are available as we move forward and companies become more globalized and interconnected.
It is also precisely this merging of so many cultures and companies that has begun to render scientific management obsolete as there are many more conflicts between not only cultures but also language and laws, conflicts that are much easier resolved with an intelligent, educated and capable workforce all individually able to handle diversity. This however isn’t only applicable to companies cooperating or merging with each other but even within the same company. With todays internet, cell phones, television, wi-fi and all manner of ways to interconnect, workers are no longer isolated and thus easy to oversee and manage but rather everything has become a fluid mix, with information being exchanged back and forth. This interconnection makes it almost impossible to isolate one department and manage only that department without having wires crossed with at least 3 or 4 others.
Not only does this scenario make scientific management impossible to apply but should a manager attempt to there are far too many layers of employees and information that only individuals acting on their own initiative to solve a problem are capable of reacting to a situation, unlike management who would have to receive a notification, think about it and then react, sending the instructions back down the line. Now imagine that scene in a massive multi national company and the outcome doesn’t look good. Along with this massive amount of available information, employees now know where they stand in a company, what the company stands for, the business objectives, strategy everything as opposed to when an employee just went to work without knowledge or care as to what he or she was doing and how it would affect the company or the world at large.
This gives way to a much tighter sense of community and partnership between departments and management, helping to instill a close working relationship between management and the employees no matter how well educated or not. In moving away from scientific management it is vitally important that workers feel as if they are being treated fairly and have a say in their work environments, because as Mayo proved, it is not only the work and the worker but the working environment which lead to the optimum level of productivity.
Overall it can be seen that scientific management is a fixture of the past, slowly fading out of todays modern practice and whatever trace elements it leaves behind are being taken over by machines rather than valuable employees. Workers today are now much more intelligent on average and aware of their surroundings, doing highly specialized and trained jobs without the drone bee mindset, and as companies get bigger and bigger it is impossible to have a system in which a manager has total authority and employees have no self initiative to improve.
This method of structuring the company slows communication to a minimum which is extremely ineffective, which by the principles of scientific management (finding the most efficient way to do a task) mean it can be said that scientific management has lost its grip on todays modern business world and become obsolete.
Net MBA. (2008). Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management. Available: http://www.netmba.com/mgmt/scientific/. Last accessed 28th November 2012. Sean Priestley. (2005). Scientific Management in the 21st Century. Available: http://www.articlecity.com/articles/business_and_finance/article_4161.shtml. Last accessed 28th november 2012. Vincenzo Sandrone. (2006). Frederick W. Taylor: Master of Scientific Management. Available: http://www.skymark.com/resources/leaders/taylor.asp. Last accessed 28th november 2012.