Frederick Taylor is recognised for being the first person to study work as a science. His work has been hugely influential on the study of management and continues to be studied in management courses. He is consistently ranked as the most influential person in management and business history (Wren, 2011). His book The Principles of Scientific Management has been translated into many languages. Indeed within the first two years of publication in 1911 it was translated into French, German,Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Italian, and Japanese (Wren, 2011). There is no doubt that Taylor’s work is of great importance but how relevant is it to today’s modern management arena? According to Konosuke Matsushita founder of Sanyo, Technics and Panasonic “We are beyond the Taylor model. Business is now so complex and difficult…..survival depends on the day to day mobilisation of every ounce of intelligence” (Unknown, n.d.). Yet there is no doubt that Taylor’s theories have been hugely influential on many aspects of modern management. Is his scientific management theory indeed for a ‘different time and place’?
Background of Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory
Taylor’s scientific management theory was developed in the early 1900’s and exemplified using pig iron handlers in the Midvale Steel Company. Taylor recognized issues with management at the time which needed to be rectified. Soldiering, the mutual agreement of the group to carry out a deliberately low amount of work, was a huge issue at the time. There were constant battles between management and workers. Management wanted to pay as low a wage as possible and in retaliation workers did as little work as possible. Taylor’s new theory aimed to eliminate all these inefficiencies and bring about the best for both management and worker.
Key Elements of Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory
Taylor’s theory of scientific management was based upon a number of key elements. In the following section theses elements will be discussed and then analysed to include criticisms and merits of their use
Scientific Selection of Worker
This element involved the identification of the ‘first class worker’ (Zuffo, 2011). This was the worker who was best physically and mentally suited to the task ahead. Workers motions were not only studied but enquiries into their background history, characters and desires were carried out. In the case of the pig iron handling experiments, 75 men were watched carefully, 4 men were then chosen and their characters were examined before finally one man was chosen. In Taylor’s experiment ⅞ workmen were unable to work to the capacity of the tasks set and were deemed unfit for this type of work. They were consequently fired. For this reason Taylor believed that the working class labourer was unable to select themselves. They would not be willing to fire ⅞ of themselves. Money is noted to be the prime motivation of the worker. For the particular man chosen ‘Schmidt’ ‘a penny looks about...