Frederick Winslow Taylor – the father of scientific management

FREDERICK WINSLOW TAYLOR – THE FATHER OF SCIENTIFIC MANAGMENT

Valentyna Norenko

National Technical University of Ukraine “Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”

Frederick Winslow Taylor was an American mechanical engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. He is regarded as the father of scientific management and was one of the first management consultants. Taylor was one of the intellectual leaders of the Efficiency Movement and his ideas, broadly conceived, were highly influential in the Progressive Era. Born in Pennsylvania in 1878, Taylor began working for the Midvale Steel Company. He became a foreman of the steel plant and applied himself to studies in the measurement of industrial productivity. Taylor developed detailed systems intended to gain maximum efficiency from both workers and machines in the factory.

From 1890 until 1893 Taylor worked as a general manager and a consulting engineer to management for the Manufacturing Investment Company of Philadelphia, a company that operated large paper mills in Maine and Wisconsin. He spent time as a plant manager in Maine. In 1893, Taylor opened an independent consulting practice in Philadelphia. His business card read «Consulting engineer». Through these consulting experiences, Taylor perfected his management system. In 1898 he joined Bethlehem Steel in order to solve an expensive machine-shop capacity problem. After leaving Bethlehem Steel, Taylor focused the rest of his career on publicly promoting his management and machining methods through lecturing, writing, and consulting. Frederick Winslow Taylor and his Scientific Management methodologies became famous worldwide.

On October 19, 1906, Taylor was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Pennsylvania.  Taylor eventually became a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. In early spring of 1915 Taylor caught pneumonia and died, one day after his fifty-ninth birthday, on March 21, 1915. He was buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

Taylor’s scientific management consisted of four principles:

  •  use methods based on a scientific study of the tasks;
  •  scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leave them to train themselves;
  •  provide detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker’s discrete task;
  •  divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.

It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.

Workers were supposed to be incapable of understanding what they were doing. According to Taylor this was true even for rather simple tasks.

Taylor believed in transferring control from workers to management. He set out to increase the distinction between mental (planning work) and manual labor (executing work). Detailed plans specifying the job, and how it was to be done, were to be formulated by management and communicated to the workers.

Taylor’s own written works were designed for presentation to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). These include Notes on Belting (1894), A Piece-Rate System (1895), Shop Management (1903), Art of Cutting Metals (1906), and The Principles of Scientific Management (1911).

Taylor was the president of the ASME from 1906 to 1907. While working as the president, he tried to implement his system into the management of the ASME but was met with much resistance. He was only able to partially reorganize the publications department. He also forced out the ASME’s long-time secretary, Morris L. Cooke, and replaced him with Calvin W. Rice. His tenure as president was trouble-ridden and marked the beginning of a period of internal dissension within the ASME during the Progressive Age.

Under Taylor’s influence Hugo Münsterberg created industrial psychology and Harvard University, one of the first American universities to offer a graduate degree in business management in 1908, based its first-year curriculum on Taylor’s scientific management. In Switzerland, the American Edward Albert Filene established the International Management Institute to spread information about management techniques. In the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin was very impressed by Taylorism, which he and Joseph Stalin sought to incorporate into Soviet manufacturing. Nevertheless, Frederick Taylor’s methods never really took root in the Soviet Union. The situation in the Soviet Union was very different. Because of the continuing labor shortage, managers were happy to pay needed workers more than the norm, either by issuing false job orders, assigning them to higher skill grades than they deserved on merit criteria, giving them ‘loose’ piece rates, or making what was supposed to be ‘incentive’ pay or bonus for good work — effectively bigger part of the normal wage.

The basic ideas, developed from Taylor’s techniques, are widely used in modern management:

  • use of scientific analysis to select the best ways to perform tasks;
  • choose employees that are better suited to perform the tasks of their training;
  • systematic use of incentive for workers;
  • provide employees with the resources needed to perform tasks efficiently;
  • separation planning and reflection on the work itself.

The emergence of the school is connected first of all with the works of Frederick Taylor. In 1911 F. Taylor, summarizing the practice of management of industrial enterprises, published the book “Principles of scientific management”. Since that time, the theory and practice of management was developing under the influence of changes in the global economic system, continuous improvement of the rationality of the production and the need to address changing socio-economic factors.

The research school of management has become a critical stage, thanks to which management was recognized as an independent field of activity and scientific research. For the first time it was proved that management could significantly improve efficiency of an organization.

References:

  1. Charles Custis Harrison (October 8, 1906). «Letter to Taylor». Stevens Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved May 5, 2008.
  2. Kanigel, Robert (1997). The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-86402-1.
  3. Atta, Don Van (1986), “Why Is There No Taylorism in the Soviet Union?” in: Comparative Politics, Vol. 18, No. 3. (Apr. 1986), pp. 327–337
  4. Nelson, Daniel (1980). Frederick W. Taylor and the Rise of Scientific Management. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-08160-5.

 

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