Saturday, August 3, 2013

Confronting Soldiering - Slow Pace of Work - F.W. Taylor


Many of them are paying much higher prices per piece than are required
to secure the maximum product while owing to a bad system, lack of exact
knowledge of the time required to do work, and mutual suspicion and
misunderstanding between employers and men, the output per man is so
small that the men receive little if any more than average wages, both
sides being evidently the losers thereby. The chief causes which produce
this loss to both parties are: First (and by far the most important),
the profound ignorance of employers and their foremen as to the time in
which various kinds of work should be done, and this ignorance is shared
largely by the workmen. Second: The indifference of the employers and
their ignorance as to the proper system of management to adopt and the
method of applying it, and further their indifference as to the
individual character, worth, and welfare of their men. On the part of
the men the greatest obstacle to the attainment of this standard is the
slow pace which they adopt, or the loafing or "soldiering,'" marking
time, as it is called.

This loafing or soldiering proceeds from two causes. First, from the
natural instinct and tendency of men to take it easy, which may be
called natural soldiering. Second, from more intricate second thought
and reasoning caused by their relations with other men, which may be
called systematic soldiering. There is no question that the tendency of
the average man (in all walks of life) is toward working at a slow, easy
gait, and that it is only after a good deal of thought and observation
on his part or as a result of example, conscience, or external pressure
that he takes a more rapid pace.

There are, of course, men of unusual energy, vitality, and ambition who
naturally choose the fastest gait, set up their own standards, and who
will work hard, even though it may be against their best interests. But
these few uncommon men only serve by affording a contrast to emphasize
the tendency of the average.

This common tendency to "take it easy" is greatly increased by bringing
a number of men together on similar work and at a uniform standard rate
of pay by the day.

Under this plan the better men gradually but surely slow down their gait
to that of the poorest and least efficient. When a naturally energetic
man works for a few days beside a lazy one, the logic of the situation
is unanswerable: "Why should I work hard when that lazy fellow gets the
same pay that I do and does only half as much work?"

A careful time study of men working under these conditions will disclose
facts which are ludicrous as well as pitiable.

To illustrate: The writer has timed a naturally energetic workman who,
while going and coming from work, would walk at a speed of from three to
four miles per hour, and not infrequently trot home after a day's work.
On arriving at his work he would immediately slow down to a speed of
about one mile an hour. When, for example, wheeling a loaded wheelbarrow
he would go at a good fast pace even up hill in order to be as short a
time as possible under load, and immediately on the return walk slow
down to a mile an hour, improving every opportunity for delay short of
actually sitting down. In order to be sure not to do more than his lazy
neighbor he would actually tire himself in his effort to go slow.

These men were working under a foreman of good reputation and one highly
thought of by his employer who, when his attention was called to this
state of things, answered: "Well, I can keep them from sitting down, but
the devil can't make them get a move on while they are at work."

The natural laziness of men is serious, but by far the greatest evil
from which both workmen and employers are suffering is the systematic
soldiering which is almost universal under all of the ordinary schemes
of management and which results from a careful study on the part of the
workmen of what they think will promote their best interests.

The writer was much interested recently to hear one small but
experienced golf caddy boy of twelve explaining to a green caddy who had
shown special energy and interest the necessity of going slow and
lagging behind his man when he came up to the ball, showing him that
since they were paid by the hour, the faster they went the less money
they got, and finally telling him that if he went too fast the other
boys would give him a licking.

This represents a type of systematic soldiering which is not, however,
very serious, since it is done with the knowledge of the employer, who
can quite easily break it up if he wishes.

The greater part of the systematic soldiering, however, is done by the
men with the deliberate object of keeping their employers ignorant of
how fast work can be done.

So universal is soldiering for this purpose, that hardly a competent
workman can be found in a large establishment, whether he works by the
day or on piece work, contract work or under any of the ordinary systems
of compensating labor, who does not devote a considerable part of his
time to studying just how slowly he can work and still convince his
employer that he is going at a good pace.

The causes for this are, briefly, that practically all employers
determine upon a maximum sum which they feel it is right for each of
their classes of employees to earn per day, whether their men work by
the day or piece.

Each workman soon finds out about what this figure is for his particular
case, and he also realizes that when his employer is convinced that a
man is capable of doing more work than he has done, he will find sooner
or later some way of compelling him to do it with little or no increase
of pay.

Employers derive their knowledge of how much of a given class of work
can be done in a day from either their own experience, which has
frequently grown hazy with age, from casual and unsystematic observation
of their men, or at best from records which are kept, showing, the
quickest time in which each job has been done. In many cases the
employer will feel almost certain that a given job can be done faster
than it has been, but he rarely cares to take the drastic measures
necessary to force men to do it in the quickest time, unless he has an
actual record, proving conclusively how fast the work can be done.

It evidently becomes for each man's interest, then, to see that no job
is done faster than it has been in the past. The younger and less
experienced men are taught this by their elders, and all possible
persuasion and social pressure is brought to bear upon the greedy and
selfish men to keep them from making new records which result in
temporarily increasing their wages, while all those who come after them
are made to work harder for the same old pay.

Under the best day work of the ordinary type, when accurate records are
kept of the amount of work done by each man and of his efficiency, and
when each man's wages are raised as he improves, and those who fail to
rise to a certain standard are discharged and a fresh supply of
carefully selected men are given work in their places, both the natural
loafing and systematic soldiering can be largely broken up. This can be
done, however, only when the men are thoroughly convinced that there is
no intention of establishing piece work even in the remote future, and
it is next to impossible to make men believe this when the work is of
such a nature that they believe piece work to be practicable. In most
cases their fear of making a record which will be used as a basis for
piece work will cause them to soldier as much as they dare.

It is, however, under piece work that the art of systematic soldiering
is thoroughly developed. After a workman has had the price per piece of
the work he is doing lowered two or three times as a result of his
having worked harder and increased his output, he is likely to entirely
lose sight of his employer's side of the case and to become imbued with
a grim determination to have no more cuts if soldiering can prevent it.
Unfortunately for the character of the workman, soldiering involves a
deliberate attempt to mislead and deceive his employer, and thus upright
and straight-forward workmen are compelled to become more or less
hypocritical. The employer is soon looked upon as an antagonist, if not
as an enemy, and the mutual confidence which should exist between a
leader and his men, the enthusiasm, the feeling that they are all
working for the same end and will share in the results, is entirely

The feeling of antagonism under the ordinary piecework system becomes in
many cases so marked on the part of the men that any proposition made by
their employers, however reasonable, is looked upon with suspicion.
Soldiering becomes such a fixed habit that men will frequently take
pains to restrict the product of machines which they are running when
even a large increase in output would involve no more work on their

On work which is repeated over and over again and the volume of which is
sufficient to permit it, the plan of making a contract with a competent
workman to do a certain class of work and allowing him to employ his own
men subject to strict limitations, is successful.

As a rule, the fewer the men employed by the contactor and the smaller
the variety of the work, the greater will be the success under the
contract system, the reason for this being that the contractor, under
the spur of financial necessity, makes personally so close a study of
the quickest time in which the work can be done that soldiering on the
part of his men becomes difficult and the best of them teach laborers or
lower-priced helpers to do the work formerly done by mechanics.

The objections to the contract system are that the machine tools used by
the contractor are apt to deteriorate rapidly, his chief interest being
to get a large output, whether the tools are properly cared for or not,
and that through the ignorance and inexperience of the contractor in
handling men, his employees are frequently unjustly treated.

These disadvantages are, however, more than counterbalanced by the
comparative absence of soldiering on the part of the men.

The greatest objection to this system is the soldiering which the
contractor himself does in many cases, so as to secure a good price for
his next contract.

It is not at all unusual for a contractor to restrict the output of his
own men and to refuse to adopt improvements in machines, appliances, or
methods while in the midst of a contract, knowing that his next contract
price will be lowered in direct proportion to the profits which he has
made and the improvements introduced.

Under the contract system, however, the relations between employers and
men are much more agreeable and normal than under piece work, and it is
to be regretted that owing to the nature of the work done in most shops
this system is not more generally applicable.

The writer quotes as follows from his paper on "A Piece Rate System,"
read in 1895, before The American Society of Mechanical Engineers:

"Cooperation, or profit sharing, has entered the mind of every student
of the subject as one of the possible and most attractive solutions of
the problem; and there have been certain instances, both in England and
France, of at least a partial success of cooperative experiments.

"So far as I know, however, these trials have been made either in small
towns, remote from the manufacturing centers, or in industries which in
many respects are not subject to ordinary manufacturing conditions.

"Cooperative experiments have failed, and, I think, are generally
destined to fail, for several reasons, the first and most important of
which is, that no form of cooperation has yet been devised in which each
individual is allowed free scope for his personal ambition. Personal
ambition always has been and will remain a more powerful incentive to
exertion than a desire for the general welfare. The few misplaced
drones, who do the loafing and share equally in the profits with the
rest, under cooperation are sure to drag the better men down toward
their level.

"The second and almost equally strong reason for failure lies in the
remoteness of the reward. The average workman (I don't say all men)
cannot look forward to a profit which is six months or a year away. The
nice time which they are sure to have today, if they take things easily,
proves more attractive than hard work, with a possible reward to be
shared with others six months later.

"Other and formidable difficulties in the path of cooperation are, the
equitable division of the profits, and the fact that, while workmen are
always ready to share the profits, they are neither able nor willing to
share the losses. Further than this, in many cases, it is neither right
nor just that they should share either in the profits or the losses,
since these may be due in great part to causes entirely beyond their
influence or control, and to which they do not contribute."

F.W. Taylor, Shop Management

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