Who was Taylor?
Taylor was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 20, 1856, into a wealthy Quaker family (Kanigel, 1997). His father was a Princeton-educated lawyer who had earned a great deal of money selling mortgages. His mother was an abolitionist with a strong personality based on deep-seated personal convictions (Kanigel, 1997). Taylor attended Philips Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, and was accepted at Harvard, but he was unable to attend because of failing eyesight (Kanigel, 1996). In 1878, Taylor found a job at Midvale Steel Company as a machine shop laborer. Over the next 6 years, he was promoted repeatedly. While working at Midvale, Taylor introduced the concept of piece work to the production process (Papesh, n.d.). In 1883, Taylor received a degree in mechanical engineering through an unusual correspondence program at Stevens Institute of Technology while holding a full-time job. In 1890, Taylor became general manager of Manufacturing Investment Company. Then, in 1893, at the age of 37, Taylor became an independent consulting engineer. He focused on helping management find ways to cut costs while improving productivity (Papesh, n.d.).
Taylor eventually became a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. In 1906, he became the president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In 1911, he published his most famous monograph, The Principles of Scientific Management (Kanigel, 1996). Taylor contracted influenza while on a Midwest speaking tour in 1915.He died on March 21, 1915, one day after his 59th birthday (Papesh, n.d.).
Taylor’s principles of scientific management
Taylor is commonly referred to as the “father of scientific management”, because of his development of principles of scientific management. Taylor meant that each element of each man’s work must be thoroughly examined and tested to find the “one best method” and to replace the old ‘rule of thumb’ method” (Taylor, 1911,p. 46). Next, he proposed that the employer spend time and money selecting and training each employee, rather than letting each man figure the job out for himself, which would potentially lead to inefficient choices. The third underlying principle called for the worker’s scientific education and development. By this, Taylor meant that the company should ensure that the employee continues to do the job in accordance with the principles that were established for him. Finally, Taylor called for cooperation between workers and management, his intention here is for a clear division of labor between the groups, with all of the planning and cognitive functions done by management.
Taylor believed it was possible, through scientific study and analysis, to determine the best way to do each job to ensure maximize efficiency. Using a stopwatch he measured the time for each step of the production and then chose the quickest one, and then collect all the quickest and best movements, and implement them into one series (Taylor). However, in industry at that time he found a very low level of supervisors that made him separate planning from execution, then staffed planning departments with engineers, and charged them with four tasks: First, develop scientific methods for doing work. Second, establish goals for worker productivity. Third, establish systems of rewards for workers when the goals are met. Finally, teach or train the personnel how to use the methods and thereby meet production goals (Taylor). For Taylor it was important that the work was planned in advance, not by the workman alone but by the engineers in order to specify not only what is to be done but how it is to be done and the exact time allowed for doing it.
He was very criticized because the perception is that the worker has no chance to think or excel, in fact Taylor’s concept of human motivation was extremely limited (Blake, Anne and Moseley, 2010). He believed that the only way to motivate employees to work more efficiently was through monetary incentives, and sometimes he did expose an attitude that was often biased against workers. For example, he wrote “in the majority of cases . . . man deliberately plans to do as little as he safely can to turn out far less work than he is well able to do” (p. 6). However using the economic argument of increased demand due to decreased pricing he emphasized the idea of sharing gains with workers, addressing his concern by emphasizing justice for both parties. In essence, he believed that it is unethical to attempt to apply his techniques without also adopting the philosophy behind them to make the system fair for each part.
Taylor`s scientific management settled in as a “stimulus to thinking about the function of organizations and a series of techniques for improving short-run economic performance” (Nelson, 1992, p. 27). The influence of Taylor’s work extends far beyond business and industry. He was the original organizational theorist. During his lifetime, most small businesses were attached to homes and larger businesses comprised open workspaces, which facilitated communication and the flow of ideas. The entire field of organizational behavior developed around the study of Taylor’s theories and methods. The elements of scientific management that were most influential to the study of organizational behavior include: “the clear delineation of authority, responsibility, separation of planning from operations, incentive schemes for workers, management by exception and task specialization” (Accel-Team, 2007, para. 13).
Taylor’s influence can be seen all over the word in the way the industries focused on outcomes, using benchmark for measuring and improving typical performance levels. Also focus on producing competent performance in employees. Finally, managers start to believe that management is ultimately responsible for deficiencies in employees’ performance.
Accel-Team, Inc. (2007). Historical perspective on productivity improvement. Retrieved July, 2010, from http://www.accel-team.com/scientific/scientific_02.html.
Blake, Anne M.; Moseley, James L.(2010).FrederickTaylor's Performance Improvement, Apr2010, Vol. 49 Issue 4, p27-34, 8p, 1 Chart; DOI: 10.1002/pfi.20141
Kanigel, R. (1996). Frederick Taylor’s apprenticeship. The Wilson Quarterly, 20(3), 44–51
Kanigel, R. (1997). The one best way: Frederick Winslow Taylorand the enigma of efficiency. New York: Viking Penguin. International Society for Performance Improvement. (2009). Retrieved July, 2010 from http://www.ispi.org/content.aspx?id=54.
Nelson, D. (1980). Frederick W. Taylor and the rise of scientific management. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Nelson, D. (1992). A mental revolution: Scientific management since Taylor. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
Papesh, M.E. (n.d.). Frederick Winslow Taylor. Retrieved July, 2010 from http://stfrancis.edu/ba/ghkickul/stuwebs/bbios/biograph/fwtaylor.htm.
Taylor, F.W. (1911). The principles of scientific management. New York: Harper & Row.