Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sixth Century Scientific Managment

Frederick Taylor outlines the main ideas of what he calls “Scientific Management” in his book The Principles of Scientific Management. In this book Taylor explains in detail how to increase output and improve the lives of both the worker and the employer. The general outline of this method is outlined in the following passage.

“These new duties are grouped under four heads: First. They develop a science for each element of a man’s work, which replaces the old rule-of-thumb method.
Second. They scientifically select and then train, teach and develop the workman, whereas in the past he chose his own work and trained himself as best he could.
Third. They heartily cooperate with the men so as to insure all of the wok being done in accordance with the principles of the science which has been developed.
Fourth. There is an almost equal division of the work and the responsibility between the management and the workmen. The management takes over all work for which they are better fitted than the workmen.” (Taylor 17)

These four principles constitute Taylor’s “Scientific Management”. Taylor is attempting to change the work environment to one that rewards hard work, and puts people in jobs that they are best suited for. At the same time this method attempts to quell the animosity between workers and their managers. As a result of this production and wages go up. In Mark Twain’s book A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court, the main character, Hank Miller, uses these methods in order to build his “civilization”.

Hank Miller can be seen utilizing each of the four principles of Taylor’s “Scientific Management”. By returning to the sixth century Hank Miller brings with him all the knowledge of modern industry. So even though he does not develop a science himself he does implement one to replace the old rule-of-thumb methods. He implements and modern system of communication, the telegraph, in order to speed up communication. He also builds factories with (I assume) modern machinery. In this way Hank Miller “replaces the old rule-of-thumb”, which is Taylor’s first principle of scientific management?

Hank Miller also selects, trains, teaches and develops his workmen on an individual bases. Miller’s scientific method for selecting workers suited to work for him is to find men who have the ability to do their own thinking and are not blindly loyal to the king or church. During his adventure’s Hank Miller eats with a bunch of men and introduces the idea of electing a leader rather than just have a bloodline of kings. Only one of the men believes that this is a possible idea and a good one. Miller is quick to send the man to one of his factories. It is in this factory that Miller says the man will learn to read and write and be trained to work for Miller. (Twain 128)

Miller set up and organized this entire operation. Since he was the only person with the original knowledge in this time he singlehandedly made sure that everyone that worked for him did things according to his plan. This plan was the scientific one that he implemented. Hank Miller also addressed these men on an individual bases when he met and selected them. He let them know that he thought they had something special. It was in this way that Miller established a positive, cooperative relationship whit the people he sent to his factories.

Finally Miller shared a lot of the work equally between himself and his workers. As he traveled he frequently used his skills to help create his “civilization”. He fixed the well at the Valley of Holiness and fought along side his last loyal “workers” at the end of the book. It was in this way he shared the responsibilities and ultimately the consequences of the empire he was trying to create.


Taylor, Frederick Winslow The Principles of Scientific Management

Twain, Mark A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

A couple people before you worked on similar topics, and other people (at least one) have used the same passage. Ideally, since you're working after them, you would have either built on, responded to or critiqued the relevant posts - we all want to avoid reinventing the wheel here.

Your discussion of Twain ends up being rather vague. For instance, is it really so obvious that Morgan (not Miller) successfully secures the loyalty of his men, in the way that Taylor indicates he should? You're generalizing about connections between Twain and Taylor, not really working with the texts (beyond Taylor's original quote) - working with, rather than repeating, the earlier posts would have helped you here.