Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scientific Management at Regal Cinemas

In his book “The Principles of Scientific Management” Frederick Winslow Taylor lays out his method of scientific management to increase efficiency in the workplace, which in turn was supposed to increase the happiness of everyone. Throughout his essay Taylor shows many examples where he implements scientific management which in turn increased the amount of work the “oxes” were able to do. One of the main passages in Taylor’s essay pertaining to my life, found on pages 15-16, outlines his plan to cut out the long used “rule of thumb” method:

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 train, teach, and develop the workman, whereas in the past he chose his own work and trained himself as best as he could. Third. They heartily cooperate with the men so as to insure all of the work 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, while in the past almost all of the work and the greater part of the responsibility were thrown upon the men.

Over the years I have held a variety of odd jobs. Scientific management pertained to each of these jobs, particularly my job at Regal Cinemas. Throughout the year that I worked there, I worked under two managers. The first was very relaxed, and let the employees do whatever they wanted. When new recruits would come on their first few days the responsibility of teaching them fell on to the shoulders of the more experienced, low level employees. As expected there was a lot of “soldering” going on between these employees who were expected to teach the new recruits. So, this soldiering continued to get passed down, therefore hurting the efficiency of the company. Also, there were many rule-of-thumb methods integrated into the average workday, whether it was the amount of salt/butter put on the popcorn or how early/late to start closing down.

Later in my career at Regal Cinemas I was graced with a new, harsher manager. He had worked his way up from a Staff Lead, which is one step above the regular employee, up to General Manager at another theater. Because of this, he was aware with all of the soldiering that went on between the employees while they worked. He made many changes while I was there that would greatly increase how everyone worked, therefore increasing efficiency as a whole. He gave the responsibility of teaching new employees to actual managers instead of employees, which symbolizes the fourth sub-division laid out by Taylor. He also broke down all of the rule-of-thumb methods, such as the salt, and gave us exact amounts to use and when the prime time to restock would be. One of the most admirable things that he did, in my opinion, was that he took part in everything that went on during the day from helping with trash to counting out multiple registers.

For not really knowing what scientific management was, it actually has played a big part in my life. Scientific management greatly improved the efficiency of my workplace while I worked for Regal, therefore helping the company make larger profits then they were previously. This, according to Taylor should have made everyone happier, but that is a completely different subject in this case.


John Fabry said...

As a whole, I feel that this essay is fairly solid. It addresses the prompt and follows the necessary steps to provide connecting examples between Taylor's ideology and the author's personal experience. After reading through the essay several times, I found myself struggling to critique areas that would help it fulfill the basic assignment to a greater degree. To that end, I feel that the author did some fairly nice work.

Be that as it may, the author completes the assignment but does not go any further with it. Thus, I will mainly attempt to focus on ways in which the author could take the assignment to the next level. For one, I would like to see more detail in regard to the author's experiences. What type of soldiering went on with the employees at the theater? What were some other instances of rule-of-thumb methodology that had been put into place?

Furthermore, how did the second manager go about remedying these supposed problems? The author says that he put into effect firmer guidelines for things like when the employees should start closing the theater, how much of each ingredient should be used with the popcorn, etc. How were these values determined, though? Was there some type of scientific method employed where the manager knew in some way or another that the implemented values would be the most efficient/effective? Or was the manager simply just making his own rule-of-thumb judgement the norm for all employees?

While the previous segments of questions I present to challenge the author will help flesh out some of the author's own background and experience with scientific management, I think that perhaps the biggest impact the author could make with this article would be to relate the outcome of working under a system similar to scientific management to the outcome proposed by Taylor. I am really curious as to how the author and the other employees at the theater reacted to the stricter guidelines implemented by the new manager. Were they grateful for the more structured working environment or did they resent the fact that they had to work harder? Were any extra benefits or incentives provided in order to compensate the employees?

I think that one of the most important aspects to remember with this assignment is that detailing the role of scientific management in one's own life does NOT necessarily mean agreeing with the assertions that Taylor makes about it. Feel free to delve into greater depth with your own experience in order to either expand more greatly upon Taylor's points or to challenge them altogether. If the results you experienced were different from Taylor's predictions, try to think about why that might be and if any aspects Taylor highlighted as critical for the success of scientific management were not given their due time. By the same token, if scientific management was successful overall then you may want to attempt to highlight why.

Adam Johns said...

John - Good feedback, especially re: outcomes

Kevin - You clearly have a good handle on what scientific management *is*. Like John, I thought you did a solid job demonstrating how it moved into your workplace, although with a couple caveats: you give some great examples, but they aren't systematically organized. You convince me that your workplace in some ways operated in accordance with scientific management, but after you carefully define scientific management, it's strange that you don't systematically prove how your workplace lines up with it.

Other than that, I'd echo most of John's comments. This is interesting, but without hearing about how you and/or other employees responded, it's not yet *compelling*