Scientific Management

Before talking about the scientific management, it is important to give a little introduction about a strong advocate of this concept. Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 – 1915), who later came to be known as the father of the scientific management was a mechanical engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. Taylor was one of the first management consultants, mainly in the mining industry, and he was among the pioneers to pursue a profession as management consultant. Moreover, Taylor was one of the intellectual leaders of the efficiency movement. His ideas were broadly conceived and highly influential during the progressive era (1890 – 1920). One of the themes from that period was to achieve efficiency in every sector by identifying rule of thumb methods, which were categorized as old ways that needed modernizing, and then prescribing the appropriate scientific, medical, and engineering solutions.


In his monograph, “the principles of scientific management”, Taylor talked about his vision of an efficient management, and he referred to that vision as being part of the scientific management. He adds:


Scientific management is no new set of theories that has been tried on by any one at every step. Scientific management at every step has been an evolution, not a theory. In all cases the practice has preceded the theory, not succeeded it. In every case one measure after another has been tried out, until the proper remedy has been found. That series of proper eliminations, that evolution is what is called scientific management. There is nothing in the scientific management that is fixed. There is no one man, or a group of men, who invented scientific management. What I want to emphasize is that all of the elements of scientific management are evolution, not an invention. Scientific management is in use in an immense range and variety of industries. Almost every type of industry in this country has scientific management working successfully. (Shafritz, Ott & Jang, 2011, P. 67)


After years of various experiments to determine optimal work methods, Taylor proposed the following four principles of scientific management.


The first principle of the scientific management is to replace the rule of thumb concept and work methods with ones that are based on a new approach of a scientific study of any particular task or job function. Taylor’s classification of this first principle is based on the process of collecting, gathering, and compiling massive amount of the know‐how or knowledge that is normally resides inside the heads of individual workers, supervisors, foremen, and managers, and then save it and present it in a form of procedural processes. Such an activity of knowledge collection and analysis are normally done through multiple motion and time studies, which are truly referred to as science.


The second principle of the scientific management is to scientifically create a method to select, train, and develop each worker instead of leaving them to passively train themselves. Taylor refers to this principle as a new way of getting the management to be scientifically engaged with their workers by getting to know their level of skills and then be responsible of developing those skills by providing the appropriate training in order “to be able to do better and still better class of work than ever before, and to then pay them higher wages than ever before” (Shafritz, Ott & Jang, 2011, P. 70).


The third principle of the scientific management is bringing together the concept of this science that has been discussed along with the new trained workmen, to ensure that the scientifically developed methods are being followed. He is essentially stating that management has a major role in ensuring that employees embrace the scientific approaches in order to fully realize the benefits among employees and their employers.


The fourth principle of the scientific management is to divide work almost equally amongst managers and workers, so that the managers would have the knowledge to apply scientific management principles to planning the work, which then enables the workers to actually perform the tasks effectively and efficiently. This type of division or the proposed share of work‐load is the most basic principle of all, which aims at achieving efficiency.


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