Analysing the influences of scientific management

1. Scientific management was originally developed in the 1800s by an economist, Adam Smith. He was interested in a factory that operated and produced pins, and through the breaking down of tasks e.g. division of labour he increased output from 20 pins per employee per day to 4,800 pins. However the greatest break through in scientific management came in the 1900s during the peak of the industrial revolution, and due to the emergence of the factory system more attention was being given to methods or factors that could contribute towards increasing output levels. It was here that Frederick Taylor began his studies into this field and his ideas were later furthered by individuals such as Gilbreth and Gantt. Despite each individual having a significant input into the study of scientific management Taylor was widely regarded as the ‘Father of Scientific Management’ and hence the term ‘Taylorism’ being introduced.

2. Technically Scientific Management is the “management thought concerned primarily with the physical efficiency of an individual worker” [1] . However George Ritzer defined Scientific Management as a procedure that “produced nonhuman technology that exerted great control over workers” [2] . In this statement Ritzer refers to the effect of scientific management. Before the study by Taylor and most businesses followed the old ‘Rule of Thumb’ management procedure in which the worker had the ‘initiative’ [3] and control and therefore it was only his hard work that resulted in the businesses success or failure. Taylor studied his place of work, The Bethlehem steel Company, and came to the conclusion that the “Old Rule of Thumb’ was very inefficient. His time and motion studies were aimed at replacing the unproductive rule of thumb and replace it by the “one best way”. He believed that there was one perfect method which could be adopted by employees to carry out a task and this would generate the best job. In effect Taylor wanted to deskill workers i.e. create division of labour and wanted employees to be specialised in one segment of production and repeat this task constantly. Hence logic would tell you that constant repetition of a task would result in better productivity output and ultimately higher quality. Taylor’s approach to creating an efficient structure for an organisation was ‘bottom up’ in which he concentrated on improving efficiency and motivation of staff on the bottom of the structure i.e. the shop floor. This was a different view of structure improvement compared to organisation structure designers such as Max Weber and Henri Fayol who were ‘top down’ and aimed at improving the management or top section of the hierarchy of an organisation.

3. One of the time and motion experiments that Taylor redesigned was the loading of ‘pigs’ of iron into an open railroad car. By redesigning and breaking down the workers movements Taylor managed to improve the employee’s efficiency and loading from 12.5 long tons a day to 47.5 long tons a day. During his study Taylor also described workers as people who are motivated by nothing else but money and he devised the idea of a ‘fair days wage based on a fair days work’, which simply means that employees were paid extra according to their level of output and paid bonuses for reaching targets. This idea was then furthered by Douglas McGregor in the 1900s and was known as ‘Theory X’ [4] 

4. During this time of scientific study Taylor’s ideas were furthered developed by Frank Gilbreth, who like Taylor was a practising engineer and manager. Gilbreth area of expertise was in the construction area and he conducted his experiments on bricklayers. Unlike Taylor who focused most of his attention on time and no as much as motion, Gilbreth decided to look at how the study of motion could simplify jobs and break them down. By using electric lamps he photographed workers actions and from this he developed wire models of the actions of the workers and redesigned these movements to make them more efficient and quicker. Once this was put into practice it resulted in output increasing from 120 bricks an hour to 350.

5. Another individual, alongside Gilbreth, who furthered Taylor’s initial ideas, was Henry Gantt. [He took the negative aspects of Taylor’s ideas and decided to ‘humanize’ scientific management taking into consideration the physiological needs of an employee. He made three major contributions to scientific management. The first one was:

Best known way at present- in this method he used Taylor’s idea of ‘one best way’ for a task but didn’t go into too much detail and hence not deskilling employees as much.

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Task and bonus- this was Gantt’s alternative to Taylor’s piece rate payment scheme and Gantt insisted that each worker was to be given a standard days wage and additional bonuses.

Gantt chart- he developed a plan that could be used by employees and managers to co-ordinate tasks.] [5] 

6. Another individual that adopted and furthered the major principles of scientific management was Henry Ford. He was the owner of the world renowned car plant known as ‘Ford’ even today. The movement of ford was given the name of fordism which according to John Bratton in the Work and organisational Behaviour book is defined as the “mass production using assembly line technology that allowed greater division of labour”. This was very different to post fordism. Before fordism craftsmen were very limited and hence it took a very long time for individuals to learn the trade of car manufacturing, and hence it was batch production. However Henry Ford introduced the ‘single purpose’ machine tool which had many different effects. For example by breaking down the tasks using the moving assembly line it destroyed crafts men. By deskilling employees Ford financially benefited as it meant that employees didn’t have to be highly skilled. During this period immigrants were entering the country and this meant that Ford could employ staff for as cheap as possible and yet keep quality and efficiency at a satisfactory level. In the Fordist method of management all products were mass produced as the moving assembly line meant that workers were working according to the speed of the assembly line. This was different from Taylor’s idea as Taylor invested in the differentiated piece rate system to motivate workers however Ford invested in technology e.g. moving assembly line).

7. Mcdonaldization is a thesis that was originally derived from the Braverman thesis. However before Braverman it was Robert Merton in 1947 who stated that technological advancements had social effects for example deskilling of workers hence making them specialised in one task, took skills and identity from work and increased discipline in work [6] . Braverman in the 1970s brought up this argument again and hence came the name of ‘Braverman thesis’. However by the year 1990 this idea of Braverman was rephrased as Mcdonaldization. In his book of Mcdonaldization in society Braverman defines this as:

“the process by which principles of the fast food restaurants are coming to dominate more and more sectors of society as well as the rest of the world” [7] 

8. However his argument was simply that this movement was replacing the Bureaucratic structures that were described by Max Weber and that this movement of Mcdonaldization was damaging. He goes onto describe the use of scientific management in modern day and age in the classic example of McDonalds.

9. In the 21st century you have to carefully analyse businesses and individuals to work out whether there are aspects of scientific management being used and if they are being useful to the business or not. One of the biggest users of scientific Management in the 21st century is McDonalds. This is an American fast food restaurant that has spread its business successfully worldwide. One of the main aspects of scientific management that McDonalds have implemented into their business is the Fordist management style where everyone works according to an assembly line. In the he days of Ford he implemented his style in a car manufacturing firm, and McDonalds have distinctly adapted this idea into their corporate culture. For example the company has designed all of its food chain braches in such a style that employees don’t have to take more than two steps to complete their task. Hence they are like in an assembly but instead of using car parts it is food. There are also aspects of Gilbreth here as he studied the motion of work and he came up with the idea of getting rid of ‘unnecessary’ actions. If you study small food businesses today they have to go to the other end of their shop to collect something minor however McDonalds has avoided this ‘wasteful’ due to the layout of their machinery.

10. Not only are their aspects of Gilbreth and Ford in the McDonalds food chain but when studied closely there is also evidence to suggest that Taylor’s ideas have also been implemented. Taylor’s main objective was to create the best man for the job and hence the division of labour and ultimately this brought about specialisation amongst employees. The method in which McDonalds for example create their hamburger is a form of deskilling and division of labour. For example they have simplified the job by firstly grilling the burger, putting in lettuce and tomatoes, adding sauce etc, putting onto rolls and then wrapping it up [8] . As you can see that this is a break down of the job and by having individuals do each task it not only improves efficiency but also creates specialised personnel. Other aspects such as cooking times, drinks dispensers, French fries machines, and programmed cash registers [9] are all methods that are used to limit time that is needed to complete the task and hence showing that aspects of Taylor, Ford and Gilbreth have been adapted. This shows that in the 21st century McDonalds has successfully adapted scientific management into its company and it can safely be said that without this management style they wouldn’t probably be in such a dominant and efficient position in the market.

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11. However despite there being the fact the adaptation of scientific management in McDonalds has made it successful there are huge criticisms of its method. For example individuals that have advanced skills are limited to highly simplified tasks and hence their skills are wasted. There is also the fact that by denying them the opportunity to present their skills it is denying them their human rights. There are also the more general disadvantages of McDonalds such as the tasks are repetitive and boring and hence employees are not motivated to do the job whole heartedly.

12. Another example of scientific management being implemented is in supermarkets. This is a more extreme form of deskilling as supermarkets have different employees to stack shelves, scan products, handle queries and hence this is all adapting some aspects of Taylor in terms of division of labour.

13. Another sector that is using scientific Management in modern day and age are call centres [10] . In the White Heat video it was shown that call centre staff were checked upon by their supervisors on whether they were giving an efficient but also appropriate service. This is in fact the whole foundation of scientific management which replaced the old rule of thumb. As Ritzer defined it as a method used by managers to gain control over employees, and hence by recording or listening to their conversations they are in fact keeping them under control. Not only is there a broad adaptation of scientific management adapted into call centres there is also more specific methods adopted to motivate staff and that is the piece rate system that was initially introduced by Taylor. Taylor described his payment method as fair according to output and similarly in call centres staffs are given a basic wage and then commission for every sale and it they meet their daily or weekly targets they are given bonuses. This is a direct implementation of Taylor’s payment method and it is successfully working in the 21st Century.

14. By having a look at the White Heat video it shows that Airports are also an industry that currently uses aspects of scientific management in its day-to-day operations. For example luggage and handbags are tagged with a barcode and when it passes through the sensors on the conveyor belt the barcode is scanned and the luggage is sent to the correct plane. This is again another implementation of the Ford moving assembly line in which the airport has made it efficient to move bags around with the use of tags. The layout of the airport also gives airports control over visitors just the same way scientific management was developed to give control to managers over workers. In airports for example the tiling on the floor or arrows of VDC screens directs people where to go. Even though it is done through an intermediate (the VDU screen) it still shows that managers are controlling people at airports to some degree.

15. In the 1900s the Fordist approach was developed in the car manufacturing plant and in modern day and age there is still evidence of the Fordist ideas being used in car manufacturing. Companies such as Toyota have used robots to manufacture there products but instead of having one piece of machinery they have used an assembly line with each step broken down. Hence this example clearly shows that scientific management is still being used in 21st century influentially despite the fact that there are huge technological advancements. Other organisations or sectors that have used some basic concept of scientific management are hospitals with the idea of a receptionist on the front desk, Toy ‘R’ Us, John Lewis and also the general retail sector

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16. However despite the above examples clearly showing that scientific management is influential in 21st century, the limitations of the scientific approach have to be addressed and how these are preventing businesses from applying this approach. On a general scale it has to be said that by deskilling employees are de-motivated drastically. Despite the fact that it allows employees to specialise in a certain task and hence in the long term it makes there job easier, it doesn’t provide any job satisfaction. This view has been successfully supported by the Theorist Abraham Maslow (Hierarchy of needs) and Frederick Herzberg (Hygiene). It was Maslow who stated that money is the basic need of an employee and to successfully motivate a person other social factors have to be taken into consideration. Herzberg developed a theory that contradicted Taylor’s ideas as he developed ‘job enrichment’. Herzberg stated that there are two factors that could motivate an individual, Hygiene and Motivator. He quoted as saying that hygiene factors, once fulfilled, will remove job dissatisfaction but will not motivate and in order to motivate the motivator factors have to be fulfilled. This goes against Taylor’s ideas of “workers are just there for the money” as Herzberg’s analysis proved that money is not a motivating factor.

17. In the modern day and age in order for businesses to establish a foothold in markets and to be competitive they have to adapt to change and constantly be developing and flexible in their activities. However in the modern day and age scientific management could result in employees becoming “specialised” in there task and hence it could become their culture. This could be a major disadvantage as it could result in them becoming resistant to change and hence when consumers demand changes from one product to another it could pose a problem for managers.

18. Another reason as to why scientific management is difficult to implement in the 21st century is because individuals want to feel valued in a company and want to have opportunities to move up the managerial ladder. However with the Taylor’s management style this is not possible as workers skills are ignored and they are told to do a highly simplified repetitive task which in effect devalues there skills and ultimately their output.

19. Another major drawback of scientific management is that it totally ignores the social and psychological side of employees as Taylor came to the conclusion that money is everything however going back to Herzberg it shows that social status and a sense of achievement are even bigger motivators.

20. The scientific approach is not the only one that is in use as the Hawthorne study in the early 1900s lead to the Human Relations management approach. This was in going against the Taylorism ideas that social factors do not benefit workers. The Human Relations study found that social factors had a positive influence on work behaviour. It also developed the idea or group work and how women worker better working in groups and this again was contradicting the idea of Taylor who quoted as saying “I do not like dealing with too much men at the same time” hence suggesting that group work was a bad management style. However the Human Relations approach found that group work was a successful idea as it added some social aspects to work and hence motivated staff. Hence this study is still being used in place of scientific management in the modern day and age with one of the main users being call centres and food manufacturers. Food manufacturers are using groups to produce work and each product can be traced back to that one group and hence all individuals are bearing a responsibility for quality and this increases motivation (according to both Herzberg and Maslow).

21. In conclusion I think that there are some major factors of scientific management that are currently being successfully implemented in the 21st century. I think that it is safe to say that in organizations such as McDonald’s and car manufacturing scientific management plays an important role and will do so for the foreseeable future. However I think that in markets where consumer demands is constantly changing I think it will be difficult to successfully adapt the scientific core principles as it will make companies resistant to change.

PLEASE NOTE: this form of referencing, shown below and in the text is NOT the Harvard System, and therefore INCORRECT – use this essay as a model for good practice in Structure and Analysis, but NOT Referencing


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