Scientific Management has had an enormous impact on my life and America as a whole.
Taylor lays out a principal object of management being to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee(1). He argues that these things coupled scientifically create a optimally managed organization. That the employer will not be happiest without the employee being happy and vice versa. Taylor gives several examples of how to do this. For example on page 40 he illustrates a plan implemented by the manager of a brick laying company, Mr. Frank B. Gilbreth. This man analyzed what his employees were doing and optimized their work by providing simple yet useful tools, eliminating useless movements and teaching useful movements. On page 49 Taylor outlines an example where factory workers were being pressed for 10.5 hour days with few breaks and high productivity. Then when examined from a distance, the manager realized his employees were being over worked and by cutting hours and adding breaks productivity was actually increased. This speaks to the symbiotic relationship between worker and manager. In our economy offering a break or helping hand is more effective than cracking the whip.
This ‘Scientific Management’ has become quite clear to me on certain occasions. As a sophomore I had the opportunity to work in construction management, a field where Taylor’s methods would be very useful. There was one instance where I was walking through the site with the superintendent, Jack, who was essentially the manage in the field. We came across some work that had been left unfinished and was needed to stay on pace for the next day. My boss simply got down on his hands and knees with his knife and without words completed the work that was not directly his responsibility. When I asked him why he did this he virtually replied ‘If I try to go find the worker it will take me more time and energy than doing the work myself. I will simply remember who was supposed to do this work, not hire them again and, since this is a task I can complete, I will finish the work myself and give tomorrows worker a chance to perform his job effectively.’ This is an exact example of what Taylor talks about. “Fully one half of the problem is up to the management(17),” or possibly better represented when Taylor says “The body of this paper will make it clear that, to work according to scientific laws, the management must take over and perform much of the work which is now left to the men; almost every act of a workman should be proceeded by one or more preparatory acts of the management which enable him to do his work better and quicker than he otherwise could.(10)” I’m not sure if Jack ever read Taylor, But by not thinking twice and possibly swallowing his pride he showed me how to scientifically manage a project.
A curtail part of scientific management is keeping costs down for the employer and pay up for the employee. This seems like an impossible feat however it is not. This brings up another way that Taylorism has effected me as a person. In the 1950s and 1960s my grandfather worked for General Electric. They were a fast growing company who was clearly interested in scientific management. In looking for a way to keep costs down and employee pay up they came to a genius decision which has now become common place. Instead of paying my grandfather a high wage to keep him happy, which would be a burden to the company. They paid him in shares of the company. This is a great idea for several reasons. The employee is now invested in the company, invested in his work, if the company does well he does well. So now the work my grandfather did not only earned him his salary but also boosted stock prices which in turn made him money as a partial owner of the company. Yet again the symbiotic relationship between employer and employee is able to propel an organization to prosperity. Not to mention paying for his grandchild’s University of Pittsburgh tuition, further propelling knowledge into the future.
Scientific management has benefited me as a person; however, not everything about scientific management benefits society. American consumerism is made possible by the availability of cheap goods and our ability to constantly reproduce them. It can be perfectly profitable and prosperous for a company to, for example, produce millions of tons of waste to enter land fills. Even to produce products with built in obsolescence so the consumer will need to repurchase a product in a predetermined time. A company can be perfectly scientifically managed while destroying society.
To revisit the example on page 49 where work days were cut short to increase productivity, Taylor clearly states ‘thirty-five girls did the work formerly done by one hundred and twenty.(49)” So now 35 girls have a perfectly scientifically managed, symbiotic relationship with there manager. Grossly 85 girls are left unemployed. While the working girls received a 50% pay increase, 70% are now jobless.
The efforts of an employer to effectively manage an employee are in no way social. Presumably it is called ‘work’ for a reason and clearly your boss is not there to be your friend, but I see serious problems with the advancement of Taylorism. The disassociation with individualism and desire to methodically complete a task for a specific outcome not only eliminates the idea of art but also eliminates the personality of an employee. While the efforts to shorten a work day or provide breaks are good and well, they are simply to increase productivity. A large part of Taylorism is to eliminate the downtime an employee exhibits, or soldiering as Taylor calls it. Taylor talks about eliminating ‘soldiering,’ he even mentions two different types of soldiering, that which is brought upon by the individual and that which is brought on by other workers. By eliminating this idle time every worker becomes the same. With the loss of the personality of an employee come the loss of that employee. To me he is essentially speaking of eliminating anybody from being a person. This brings me to a scary, true point. Taylor would be better off with robots.
Contrary to Taylorism I feel that a unique personality or a unique product holds value.
While Taylorism may have been good during the industrial revolution, it is very dangerous in the technology revolution.
(to my editor, I began to confuse myself with my run on argument, the essay really takes a turn at the star, and I use Taylorism synonymously with scientific management.)