“Scientific management”, as it is called, plays a significant role in my life as well as the lives as others. Whether we recognize it or not is a different story. Who knew that such simple things such as handling pig iron, shoveling, and bricklaying could be approached in scientific and experimental ways in order to make these processes more efficient? A majority of workers work the minimal amount needed in order to get by and get paid, and many believe that by increasing their output, more men will be out of a job. Why work sedulously when you still get paid the same amount as the person who does the bare minimum?
“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” (p.7) This concept of systematic soldiering is “almost universal” and is synonymous with “underworking”. I am guilty of this, as I am sure most people are. For the past two summers I had a job as a fashion intern in Manhattan, and was paid according to how many days I worked instead of how much work I did. When sent out on errands on beautiful sunny days to buy fabric or return clothes to stores thirty minutes away, I was guilty of “keeping the employers ignorant” of how fast I could do work. I could have run errands and immediately gotten back to work, but instead I opted for sitting in a park for an hour and sun bathing or shopping at the nearest stores. Either way, I was still getting paid for working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This same behavior is seen in pig-iron handlers, men who shovel, and bricklayers. In all of these cases, until the principles of scientific management were applied, the work being done was inefficient just like the work that I did during my summers. Had the scientific principles been applied to my job, I would have gotten a lot more done and the output would have been significantly greater.
“Under the old type of management success depends almost entirely upon getting the ‘initiative’ of the workmen, and it is indeed a rare case in which this initiative is really attained. Under scientific management the ‘initiative’ of the workmen (that is, their hard work, their good-will, and their ingenuity) is obtained with absolute uniformity and to a greater extent than is possible under the old system; and in addition to this improvement on the part of the men, the managers assume new burdens, new duties, and responsibilities never dreamed of in the past” (p.15).
When Mr. Frank B. Gilbreth applied the principles of scientific management to bricklaying, he managed to drastically increase the amount of work accomplished and decrease the amount of time it took. He studied and observed how bricks were laid, how much time it took, and the positioning of the workers laying the bricks. By examining this process, he was able to introduce a new simple apparatus called the scaffold to save time and physical energy, and created packs of bricks that were already positioned for being laid. Even though these ideas seem so simple, no one had ever implemented these strategies. Mr. Gilbreth’s methods enabled 350 bricks per man per hour to be placed, while with the old method only 120 bricks per man per hour were laid. Those workers who laid the bricks using this method earned higher wages, leaving them happy, while leaving the employer happy as well because there was an increase in the amount of output.
Had someone taught me how to execute my job the way Mr. Gilbreth did, the amount of work I would have accomplished would have been much more. However, the decisions I made were left up to me and the rest of my co-workers. No rules or standards were set for me, there was no training involved or an elimination of workers who were unable to perform the job, a daily bonus for doing a good job quickly did not exist, and there was no equal division between the workers and employers. If all of these principles had been followed, management of the workers would have been a lot more efficient.