Scientific management by F.W. Taylor

F.W. Taylor’s important ideas on scientific management approach are explained in his writings. In ‘A Piece Rate System’ he propounded three basic principles.

(1) Observation of work through time study (to complete the work and to determine the standard rate) for completion of work,

(2) differential rate system for completing piecework and

(3) payment to men not to positions. In his article on “Shop Management’ he focused basically on organisation and management of workshop. He dealt about the need to maintain low production unit costs and payment of high wages, applying scientific methods of research, standardisation of working conditions, need for training and cooperative relations between workers and managements.

Taylor’s stay at Midvale Steel Company and his close observation and study of different operations in different factories, made him to know the defects in their management. They are: lack of clarity of responsibilities by workers and managements, lack of standards of work, restricted output because of soldering of work, lack of job clarity which promotes soldering of work, lack of scientific base for decisions, lack of division of work, and placement of workers at different jobs without considering their ability, skills, aptitude and interest.

His work on ‘The Art of Cutting Metals’ is based on extensive research of thousands of experiments conducted over a period of 26 years. He developed instruments for cutting of steel, studied motion and time and analysed how workers handle materials, machines and tools when they perform different works. Taylor felt that there is a best way to do every work and scientific selection of right men for right job is essential for maximum production in any organisation.

Scientific management: the basic principles

To overcome the deficiencies in the management Taylor formulated four new principles / new duties to be assumed by the management which are known as the principles of scientific management. They are:

1. The development of a true science of work
2. The scientific selection of workmen and their progressive development
3. Bringing together of science of work and the scientifically selected workers
4. The equal division of work and the responsibility between management and workers

The Development of a True Science of Work

Taylor believed that there is a need to develop science of work. He further believed that there is one ‘best way’ of doing every job. This can be achieved by systematic study of any work and replacing the old thumb-rule method by developing a scientific method. This requires gathering mass of traditional knowledge, recording it, tabulating it and in many cases finally reducing it to laws rules and even to mathematical formulae. And later these laws and rules are to be applied to the everyday work of all workmen of the organisation. The scientific method of work saves worker from unnecessary criticism of the boss and the management to get maximum work from worker. It also results in establishing a ‘large daily task’ to be done by the qualified workers under the optimum conditions.

Scientific Selection and Progressive Development of Workmen

To ensure effective performance of the scientifically developed work there is a need to select the workers on scientific basis. It is the duty of the management to study the character, the nature and the performance of each worker with a view to finding out his limitations and possibilities for his development. Taylor believed that every worker has potentialities for development. Every worker must be systematically and thoroughly trained. Scientific selection involves selecting a right person for a right job. It is also necessary to ensure that the employee accepts the new methods, tools and conditions willingly and enthusiastically. There should be opportunities for advancement to do the job to the fullest realisation of his normal capabilities.

Bringing together of Science of Work and Scientifically Selected Workers

The third principle of the scientific management is bringing of science of work and scientifically selected and trained workmen together. Taylor says ‘bringing together advisedly because you may develop all the science that you please and you may scientifically select and train workmen just as much as you please, but unless some men bring the science and workmen together all your labour will be lost’. Taylor felt it is exclusive responsibility of the management to do this job. He believed that workers are always willing to cooperate with the management but there is more opposition from the side of management.

Division of Work and Responsibility between Worker and Management

Traditionally the worker bears the entire responsibility of the work and the management has lesser responsibility. But Taylor emphasised on equal responsibility between worker and management. This division creates understanding and mutual dependence between them. This results in elimination of conflict and mistrust between the worker and management. Taylor thinks that scientific management can be justly and truthfully characterised as management in which harmony is the rule rather than discord.

Scientific management: other important concerns of Taylor

In addition to the above four basic principles Taylor also expressed the concern for the following in the scientific management method. They are:
• Mental Revolution
• Functional Foremanship
• Work Study and Work Measurement
• Standardisation of Tools
• Selection and Training of Workers
• Task Prescription
• Incentive Schemes
• Work as an Individual Activity
• Trade Unions
• Development of Management Thinking

Mental Revolution:

Taylor was of the view that scientific management requires a great revolution that takes place in the mental attitude of management as well as the workers. Instead of focusing more on the division of surplus they should together turn their attention towards increasing the size of the surplus until the surplus become so large that it becomes unnecessary to quarrel over how it should be divided. Both should stop pulling one another and instead both should work together in the same direction to increase the surplus. They should realise that the friendly cooperation and mutual help results in increasing the surplus. Once the surplus increases there is ample scope for increasing the wages for the workers and increase in profits for the management. It is along this a complete change in the mental attitude of both the sides is required. Taylor further emphasised that the scientific management involves change in the attitude of the workers and the management with regard to their duties and responsibilities and towards their fellow workers. It demands the realisation of the fact that their mutual interest is not antagonistic and mutual prosperity is possible only through mutual cooperation. The principle object of management is to secure maximum prosperity for the employer as well as the employee. Taylor believed that there is no conflict in the interest of employees, workers and consumers. His major concern was that the results of higher productivity should equally benefit the employer, worker and consumer.

Functional Foremanship:

Taylor is critical of linear system of organisation in which each worker is subordinated to only one boss. He replaced this system with what is called functional foremanship. In the functional foremanship the worker receives orders from eight different specialised supervisors. Thus he divided work not only among the workers but also at the supervisory level. Out of the eight functional supervisors, four functional foreman, namely the gang boss, the repair boss, the speed boss and the inspector will look after the execution of work and the remaining four will take care of planning aspects. They are the route clerk, the instruction clerk, the time and cost clerk and the shop displinarian. Through this functional foreman system Taylor wanted to create the narrowly specialised supervisor for each type of skilled work. He thought this will result in efficiency rather than one supervisor looking after all the activities. He further believed that in this type of organisation a foreman can be trained quickly and specialisation became easy.

Work Study and Work Measurement:

Taylor advocated the need for systematic study of work. The use of time study can help us in finding out the optimal way of study carrying out a task. He considered it as an essential component of scientific management. It involves measuring and studying the ‘unit times’. Taylor conducted several studies to find out the standard unit of work to be carried out by an individual worker. He studied each and every movement of the worker in performing a particular task with the help of a stopwatch. By studying each and every movement of the work we can eliminate the unnecessary movements of the workers and find out the time required for the each movement. With the help of time study and work-study it is possible to perform a particular task with a lesser movement. The purpose of work-study is to eliminate not only unnecessary movements but also to eliminate the slow movements and fatigue of the workers there by it is possible to find out ‘the best way’ of performing each activity.

Task Prescription:

Not only the tasks be divided and optimal methods of achieving the tasks be prescribed, the worker should also be given clear description of what he should do. Here Taylor emphasises that the tasks should be well planned in advance and the worker be given clear instructions concerning his particular task to be done. Proper task prescription will provide clarity to the worker as well as the management.

Incentive Scheme:

Taylor suggested that the pay should be linked to the piece of work done by the worker. Payment should depend upon his achieving the prescribed output. In the event of achieving a greater output, then a bonus payment should be made to the worker. The bonus paid should be generous and consistent. This system will provide encouragement to the workers to produce more.

Work as an Individual Activity:

Taylor is always opposed to any kind of group activity. He believes that people are motivated by personal ambition, and that once put into a group the individual looses his individual drive. He believes that the influence of the group makes one produce less. Further he argued that female workers were prone to such personal pressures and indeed separated them in such a way that verbal interaction was impossible. (Clegg and Dunkerley, 1980.p.89).

Trade Unions:

Since Taylor was critical of group activity he was also against trade union movement. He regarded trade unions as unnecessary under his system of work. The employer according to him was on the same side of the workers. The goal of the workers and the employers is the same. Acceptance of scientific management principles would reduce conflict between workers and the management. Since management itself laid down what was the ‘fair day’s pay’ for fair day’s work through objective rationale means, the need for trade unions does not arise.

Development of Management Thinking:

Taylor through scientific management saw the development of management as a science. It implies that specific laws could be derived for management practice and those laws relate specifically to wage rates and ways of doing work. Arriving at these laws involved management in the use of scientific method.

Division of Work:

Taylor felt that not only there should be a division of labor on a shop floor but also the division of work between the worker and management. According to Taylor the main function of management should be planning for future. The responsibility of worker is to concentrate totally on carrying out the given task. He believed that there were distinct personality types for performing planning function and doing function. The planning function relates to the managements and doing function relates to the workers. He also recommended minute division of tasks for each individual in the organisation.