Classical Contributions

Classical approach: The terms used to describe the hypotheses of the scientific management theorists and the general administrative theorists.

The roots of modern management lie with a group of practitioners and writers who sought to formulate rational principles that would make organizations more efficient. Because they set the theoretical foundations for a discipline called management, we call their contributions the classical approach to management. We can break the classical approach into two subcategories: scientific management and general administrative theory. Scientific management theorists looked at the field from the perspective of how to improve the productivity of operative personnel. The general administrative theorists on the other hand, were concerned with the overall organizations and how top make it more effective.

Scientific management: The use of the scientific method to define the one best way for a job to be done.

Taylor’s Four Principles of management

1) Develop a science for each element of an individual’s work, which replaces the old rule of thumb method.
2) Scientifically select and then train, teach, and develop the worker, (Previously workers chose their own work, and trained themselves as best as they could).
3) Heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure that all work is done in accordance with the principles of the science that has been developed
4) Divide work and responsibility almost equally between management and workers. Management takes over all work for which it is better fitted than the workers. (Previously almost all the work and the greater part of the responsibility was thrown upon the workers).

What contributions did Frederick Taylor made?

If one to pin point the year that modern management theory was born, one could make a strong case for 1911, the year that Frederick Winslow Taylor’s ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’ was published. Its content would become widely accepted by managers throughout the world. The book described the theory of scientific management – the use of the scientific method to define the one best way for a job to be done. The studies conducted before and after the book’s publication would establish Taylor as the father of scientific management. Frederick Taylor did most of his work at the Midvale and Bethlehem Steel companies in Pennsylvania. As a mechanical engineer with a Quaker / Puritan background, he was consistently appalled at the inefficiency of workers. Employees used vastly different techniques to do the same job. They were prone to taking it easy on the job. Taylor believed that worker output was only about one third of what was possible. Therefore, he set out to correct the situation by applying the scientific methods to jobs on the shop floor. He spent more than two decades pursuing with a passion the one best way for each job to be done.

Taylor sought to create a mental revolution among both the workers and management by creating clear guidelines for improving production efficiency. He defined four principles of management. He argued that following these principles would result in the prosperity of both management and workers. Workers would earn more pay and management more profits.

Using scientific management techniques, Taylor was able to define the ones best way of doing each job. He could then select the right people for the job and train them do it precisely in this one best way. To motivate workers, he favored incentive wage plans. Overall, Taylor achieved consistent improvements in productivity in the range of 200 percent or more, and he reaffirmed the function of managers to plan and control and that of workers to perform as instructed.

The impact of Taylor’s work cannot be overstated. During the first decade of the century, he delivered numerous public lectures to teach scientific management to interested industrialists. Between 1901 and 1911, at least 18 firms adopted some variation of scientific management. In 1908, the Harvard Business School declared Taylor’s approach the standard for modern management and adopted it as the core around which all courses were to be organized. Taylor himself, began lecturing at Harvard in 1909. Between 1910 and 1912, two events catapulted scientific management into the lime light. In 1910, the eastern Rail road requested a rate increase from the Interstate Commerce commission. Appearing before the commission, an efficiency expert claimed that railroads could save $1 million a day (equivalent to about $17 million today) through the application of scientific management. This assertion became the centerpiece of the hearings and created a national audience for, Taylor’s ideas. Then in 1911, The Principles of Scientific management became an instant best seller. By 1914 Taylor’s principles had become so popular that an efficiency exposition held in New York City, with Taylor as the keynote speaker, drew a crowd estimated at 69,000. Although Taylor spread his ideas not only in the United States but also in France, Germany, Russia, and Japan his greatest influence was on US manufacturing. His method gave US companies a comparative advantage over foreign firms that made US manufacturing efficiency the envy of the world at least for 50 years or so.