Saturday, February 7, 2009

Taylor is the Sunshine of My Love!

The best example of scientific management in my own life is derived from a multi-year summer job experience.  For the first time, in the summer of 2006, I started off on an out-of-state job adventure.  I'd been hired by Internal Drive Tech Camps (iD) to teach video game making and video production to kids from 6-18.  

iD's follows very closely the four principles of scientific management:

"First:  They develop a science for each element of a man's work, which replaces the old rule-of-thumb method."

Each class has a core curriculum, an intermediate curriculum, and an advanced curriculum- students are pre-tested by the instructors and work for the whole week according to their determined ability.  The curriculum is developed by previous instructors, allowing flexibility year to year and wisdom passed down by experienced alumni. 

"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."

The interview process is grueling, two one and a half hour phone sessions which each candidate must pace and sweat through before being hired.  Although I don't know what indicators the regional managers look for during the hiring process, it works.  With a staff of forty at just one of their fifty locations which live, work, and play together for a solid nine weeks, the balance must be just right.  

The training is incredibly thorough and fun, believe it or not.  All staff, no matter what their level or their years of service are required to attend a one hour online training, as well as a weekend training in one of three cities across the states, and an additional 'weekend before camp' setup training just to make sure everyone is on the same page.  During the training, you don't only go over curriculum objectives, but you learn how to play games, positively discipline complex youth, deal with a coworker that may not be doing his or her share, trouble shoot, ask for help with technical issues, and maneuver through each and every department of the company from finance to travel.  

By far, the best part of 'workman development' with iD is the camp-name activity at the weekend before camp starts setup training.  All of the people you have been through rigorous training with get to give you your  summer long camp name.  You will, in a sense, lose your identity for the summer and join in the camp culture as decided by your peers.  This is one of the most obvious similarities between SM and iD.  My camp name is Sunshine, which has come to represent all that is fun, creative, and childlike in my self.  My camp friends refer to me as Sunshine in and outside of camp, it's like a non-secret club and we share the glory with our coworkers from every other camp iD runs.  

"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."

Cooperation is central at camp.  The director is almost always in her office and ready to talk.  She will listen to your story, call in anyone else involved, and get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.  We have an all-staff meeting on Sundays and Fridays where we celebrate the week to come and the success of the prior week respectively.  Twice per week we have a half-staff meeting where we talk about our days, our students, our plans for the evening.  

Another form of cooperation:  they provide all of our food and shelter.  It's incredible how easy it is to be happy when basic necessities and money is taken out of your daily equation.  

"Fourth: There is an almost equal division of the work and the responsibility between the management and the workmen.  The management take 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."

So very true this rings!  Let me explain the organizational structure...  You have the corporate office with the CEO and his family- Pete, Natalia, and their two young children (who are all spontaneous visitors and deeply involved with our work.)  Under them comes the administration, then regional managers, camp directors, assistant directors, lead instructors, instructors, health and safety coordinators, and finally activities coordinators.  I could not tell you what the CEO and overhead have as job descriptions, they are only there when I need them.  
Regional managers are in charge of hiring, periodic reviews, and making sure there are the right number of certain instructors at each sight in their region.  

Directors make the schedule and provide materials for activities, updates nation-wide contests or news, and occasionally psychotherapy. 

Assistant directors make name tags, room lists for students, and keep peace in whatever 'house' they're in.  (We live in 3 fraternity or sorority houses on campus, each has it's own AD.)

Lead instructors are in charge of teaching and making sure that master-backups happen on time and correctly.  

Instructors are responsible for instructing, making sure everyone has a great time, and is the first go-to for students.

Health and safety and activities seems self-explanatory.  Meds and fun, respectively.

Not only are responsibilities equally divided, but each level knows the job of each other level, making it easy for people to be held accountable.

All in all, Taylorism has worked wonders for iD Tech Camps.  Quality instruction in professional media applications stems from thorough training and a culture of fun and creativity which ultimately results in a very marketable product and a series of damn good paychecks.  Hooray Taylorism!


Megan Schwemer said...

You offer an interesting discussion of Taylorism outside of manufacturing or other such fields. It certainly is interesting to see just how far-reaching Taylorism is. That said, you could expand a bit more on the first point of scientific management, as it barely gets a mention compared to the other three, despite the first being a sort of foundation for the rest. You might also want to be more specific as to how your experience meets the first criteria for scientific management, as one could argue that using passed-down knowledge is more akin to the way of things before Taylor.

In your other points, it might be helpful to provide more specific examples as to how your experience manifests Taylorism. What are the grueling interviews like, aside from long? Is it evident that they are hiring 'scientifically'? Could you take some guesses as to what you think some of their hiring criteria might be? Is everything dictated to you by the management, or do you have some degree of independence in the way you do your job? I think your last two points are more or less fine, as the role of management in any field reflects Taylorism to some degree, I think.

Adam Johns said...

Megan - Excellent response.

Tricia - I'm not at all sure how the curriculum is scientific. It seems like you're assuming that it's scientific because it is organized, which seems like a stretch.

Your discussion of the second point is far more detailed, and you certainly get across the idea that both the training for employees and the curriculum is rigorous. Nonetheless - I think you're conflating rigor with science here.

The third point was good, if perhaps a bit brief. The fourth one was perhaps the best.

Overall: You do a pretty good and interesting description of the camp, and you relate it credibly to Taylorism. The glaring flaw is that you are defining "science" or scientific very loosely here, as far as I can tell. Maybe a more rigorous definition would work, too, but you aren't, unfortunately, actually doing it that way.