Focus on Technological Efficiency – the era of Scientific Management
The primal focus of the Industrial Revolution in its formative years was on increased mechanization of activities. With this arose the need to put more efficiency in the manufacturing processes, for, the final output was directly related to the efficiency of the processes – the better the processes, the better the output. To improve the processes, Frederick Taylor (1856 - 1915) proposed systematic observation and study of the processes involved. He was of the view that a proper observation and analysis would help one arrive at the most efficient way to perform a task. Taylor would observe people working, then put them in controlled situation and analyze the results to arrive at conclusions. As Taylor used scientific ways to arrive at solutions to management problems, he is rightly regarded as the Father of Scientific Management. It was an irony that the first chapter of the book of Management Education was not written in the arena of academics, but was written on the shop floor. However, Taylor was of the view that management needed to be formulated as an academic discipline, and industries should consult those having the knowledge of this discipline to arrive at the most efficient ways of doing things.
Taylor believed that it would be better to separate planning from execution; earlier those who planned would execute. This way he reasoned that most of the work which the workers were doing could be done by the top management in a better way. Thus, the onus to plan shifted to the top management and the workers remained responsible only for the execution of the plans. Taylor also focused on the selection and development of workers. He put the emphasis on imparting skills through education; this was very different from the earlier thought of gaining skills through continual and repetitive practice. Nonetheless, he was of the view that continual practice helped one refine the skills, but ‘which skills to refine’, and ‘the best way to refine the skills’ was to be decided by the top management. Taylor also focused on designing a compensation system which was different from the traditional piece-meal system. The compensation system which he designed valued above-average performance and punished below-average performance; to arrive at the ‘average performance’ he once again took help of the scientific enquiry. This way, Taylor introduced the scientific enquiry into all the fields of management, whether it was selection, training, recruitment or compensation. For the first time, the industry was looking at these activities in a different way: the processes were being standardized and the focus was on finding the best way of doing things through scientific investigation. However, scientific investigation had its limits – in business activities, not all processes could have been standardized. The biggest criticism of scientific management was related with its treatment of humans as mere instrument of production. The men too were seen as being machines, and thus their behavior too was to be molded and standardized! Perhaps, scientific management tried to deliver too much, and with its excessive focus on treating humans as instrument of production, it failed to take care of the human issues inside the organization which had started to surface with the advancement of the industries.
Source for the content
The content to be included in Technology Efficiency Engineering
Modernism and Culture of Efficiency
Book by Evelyn Cobley
Google Book Link
Special Issue on Taylor by Jounal of Business and Management