Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Scientific Management in Its Essence - F.W. Taylor


Continued from

The history of the development of scientific, management up to date, however, calls for a word of warning. The mechanism of management must not be mistaken for its essence, or underlying philosophy. Precisely the same mechanism will in one case produce disastrous results and in another the most beneficent. The same mechanism which will produce the finest results when made to serve the underlying principles of scientific management, will lead to failure and disaster if accompanied by the wrong spirit in those who are using it. Hundreds of people have already mistaken the mechanism of this system for its essence. Messrs. Gantt, Barth and the writer have presented papers to, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers on the subject of scientific management. In these papers the mechanism which is used has been described at some length. As elements of this mechanism may be cited:

Time study, with the implements and methods for properly making it.

Functional or divided foremanship and its superiority to the old-fashioned single foreman.

The standardization of all tools and implements used in the trades, and also of the acts or movements of workmen for each class of work.

The desirability of a planning room or department.

The "exception principle" in management.

The use of slide-rules and similar timesaving implements.

Instruction cards for the workman.

The task idea in management, accompanied by a large bonus for the successful performance of the task.

The "differential rate."

Mnemonic systems for classifying manufactured products as well as implements used in manufacturing.

A routing system.

Modern cost system, etc., etc.

These are, however, merely the elements or details of the mechanism of management. Scientific management, in its essence, consists of a certain philosophy, which results, as before stated, in a combination of the four great underlying principles of management:*

[*Footnote: First. The development of a true science.
Second. The scientific selection of the workman.
Third. His scientific education and development.
Fourth. Intimate friendly cooperation between the management and the men.]

When, however the elements of this mechanism, such as time study, functional foremanship etc., are used without being accompanied by the true philosophy of management, the results are in many cases disastrous. And, unfortunately, even when men who are thoroughly in sympathy with the principles of scientific management undertake to change too rapidly from the old type to the new, without heeding the warnings of those who have had years of experience in making this change, they frequently meet with serious troubles, and sometimes with strikes, followed by failure.

The writer, in his paper on "Shop Management," has called especial attention to the risks which managers run in attempting to change rapidly from the old to the new management in many cases, however, this warning has not been heeded. The physical changes which are needed, the actual time study which has to be made, the standardization of all implements connected with the work, the necessity for individually studying each machine and placing it in perfect order, all take time, but the faster these elements of the work are studied and improved, the better for the undertaking. On the other hand, the really great problem involved in a change from the management of "initiative and incentive" to scientific management consists in a complete revolution in the mental attitude and the habits of all of those engaged in the management, as well of the workmen. And this change can be brought about only gradually and through the presentation of many object-lessons to the workman, which, together with the teaching which he receives, thoroughly convince him of the superiority of the new over the old way of doing the work. This change in the mental attitude of the workman imperatively demands time. It is impossible to hurry it beyond a certain speed. The writer has over and over again warned those who contemplated making this change that it was a matter, even in a simple establishment, of from two to three years, and that in some cases it requires from four to five years.

The first few changes which affect the workmen should be made exceedingly slowly, and only one workman at a time should be dealt with at the start. Until this single man has been thoroughly convinced that a great gain has come to him from the new method, no further change should be made. Then one man after another should be tactfully changed over. After passing the point at which from one.-fourth to one-third of the men in the employ of the company have been changed from the old to the new, very rapid progress can be made, because at about this time there is, generally, a complete revolution in the public opinion of the whole establishment and practically all of the workmen who are working under the old system become desirous to share in the benefits which they see have been received by those working under the new plan.

Inasmuch as the writer has personally retired from the business of introducing this system of management (that is, from all work done in return for any money compensation), he does not hesitate again to emphasize the fact that those companies are indeed fortunate who can secure the services of experts who have had the necessary practical experience in introducing scientific management, and who have made a special study of its principles. It is not enough that a man should have been a manager in an establishment which is run under the new principles. The man who undertakes to direct the steps to be taken in changing from the old to the new (particularly in any establishment doing elaborate work) must have had personal experience in overcoming the especial difficulties which are always met with, and which are peculiar to this period of transition. It is for this reason that the writer expects to devote the rest of his life chiefly to trying to help those who wish to take up this work as their profession, and to advising the managers and owners of companies in general as to the steps which they should take in making this change.

As a warning to those who contemplate adopting scientific management, the following instance is given. Several men who lacked the extended experience which is required to change without danger of strikes, or without interference with the success of the business, from the management of "initiative and incentive" to scientific management, attempted rapidly to increase the output in quite an elaborate establishment, employing between three thousand and four thousand men. Those who undertook to make this change were men of unusual ability, and were at the same time enthusiasts and I think had the interests of the workmen truly at heart. They were, however, warned by the writer, before starting, that they must go exceedingly slowly, and that the work of making the change in this establishment could not be done in less than from three to five years. This warning they entirely disregarded. They evidently believed that by using much of the mechanism of scientific management, in combination with the principles of the management of "initiative and incentive," instead of with these principles of scientific management, that they could do, in a year or two, what had been proved in the past to require at least double this time. The knowledge obtained from accurate time study, for example, is a powerful implement, and can be used, in one case to promote harmony between the
workmen and the management, by gradually educating, training, and leading the workmen into new and better methods of doing the work, or, in the other case, it may be used more or less as a club to drive the workmen into doing a larger day's work for approximately the same pay that they received in the past. Unfortunately the men who had charge of this work did not take the time and the trouble required to train functional foremen, or teachers, who were fitted gradually to lead and educate the workmen. They attempted, through the old-style foreman, armed with his new weapon (accurate time study), to drive the workmen, against their wishes, and without much increase in pay, to work much
harder, instead of gradually teaching and leading them toward new methods, and convincing them through object-lessons that task management means for them somewhat harder work, but also far greater prosperity. The result of all this disregard of fundamental principles was a series of strikes, followed by the down-fall of the men who attempted to make the change, and by a return to conditions throughout the establishment far worse than those which existed before the effort was made.

This instance is cited as an object-lesson of the futility of using the mechanism of the new management while leaving out its essence, and also of trying to shorten a necessarily long operation in entire disregard of past experience. It should be emphasized that the men who undertook this work were both able and earnest, and that failure was not due to lack of ability on their part, but to their undertaking to do the impossible. These particular men will not again make a similar mistake, and it is hoped that their experience may act as a warning to others.

In this connection, however, it is proper to again state that during the thirty years that we have been engaged in introducing scientific management there has not been a single strike from those who were
working in accordance with its principles, even during the critical period when the change was being made from the old to the new. If proper methods are used by men who have had experience in this work, there is absolutely no danger from strikes or other troubles.

F.W. Taylor, Scientific Management

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F.W. Taylor Scientific Management - With Appropriate Sections

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16. Role of Top Management in Implementing Scientific Management

Updated on
9 July 2016, 4 August 2013

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