Frederick W Taylor and Scientific Management

Taylor entered industry originally as a worker and therefore had a clear understanding of the existing, its strong traditions, and its general apathetic atmosphere. In this static environment, Taylor initiated a tidal wave of change in managerial philosophy that shook many organizations from top to bottom.

The essence of Taylor’s scientific management philosophy was that the scientific method could and should be applied to all managerial problems. The methods by which work was accomplished should be determined by management trough scientific investigation. In his book, Principles of Scientific Management (1919), Taylor started four new duties of management, which may be summarized as follows:

1) The development of a science for each element of human work to replace the old rule-of-thumb methods.
2) The scientific selection and development of workers instead of the old practice of allowing workers to choose their own tasks and train themselves as best they could.
3) The development of hearty cooperation between workers and management to ensure that work would be carried out in accordance with scientific procedures.
4) The division of work between workers and management in almost equal shares, each group taking over the work for which it was best fitted, instead of the former condition in which most of the work and responsibility fell on the workers.

These four ideas lead to a great deal of new thinking about industrial organization, and they are an integral part of present day managerial thinking. Entire fields of managerial specialization have developed from Taylor’s principles. For example, under the general heading of point 1, the fields of methods engineering and work measurement have developed, with research areas of experimental psychology, physiology, and ergonomics. From points 2 and 3, the field of personnel management developed, with its techniques of personnel selection and placement together with the organizational function of industrial relations. From point 4 developed the basic managerial function of planning and control and the functional organization, which was also a Taylor idea.

Taylor was also known for some pioneering experiments in wage payment and in the scientific procedures for such tasks in the steel industry as metal machining and in the scientific procedures for such tasks in the steel industry as metal machining, pig iron handling, and shoveling. In his metal cutting experiments, he used metal over a period of 10 years, which resulted in specifications for the feeds and speeds that could be used for different metals and tool materials. In connection with these experiments, he discovered high speed in collaboration with Maunsel White, which made him wealthy and allowed him to spend the bulk of his later life furthering his philosophy of scientific management.

Many individuals worked within Taylor’s general philosophy and made contributions of their own. Henry L Gantt developed the Grant chart, which was used extensively for the scheduling and control of operations before faster, more flexible computer methods replaced them. Carl Barth and Harrington Emerson worked in the field of wage incentives. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth developed motion study and fostered the concept of the one best way.

Taylor believed that his important contributions were in his general philosophy rather than in any of his specific discoveries, the later being merely applications of scientific management to specific situations. But the science of management was slow to develop, partly because there rally important tools were not yet available and partly because of the natural resistance to new, unsettling ideas. The mathematical techniques to cope with probability and variation were not known in Taylor’s time, nor were techniques available to cope with large scale programming problems. The complexity of managerial problems required computers, but they were not to be available in practical form for more than fifty years.