SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT is a term coined in 1910 to describe the system of industrial management created and promoted by Frederick W. Taylor (1856– 1915) and his followers. Though Taylor had used the term informally to describe his contributions to factory or "shop" management, Morris L. Cooke, a friend and professional associate, and Louis Brandeis, a prominent attorney, deliberately chose the adjective "scientific" to promote their contention that Taylor's methods were an alternative to railroad price increases in a rate case they were preparing for the Interstate Commerce Commission. The term also came to mean any system of organization that clearly spelled out the functions of individuals and groups. With even less fidelity to the original meaning, it has been used to describe any situation where jobs are subdivided and individuals perform repetitive tasks.
The nineteenth-century factory system was characterized by ad hoc organization, decentralized management, informal relations between employers and employees, and casually defined jobs and job assignments. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, increased competition, novel technologies, pressures from government and labor, and a growing consciousness of the potential of the factory had inspired a wide-ranging effort to improve organization and management. The focus of this activity was the introduction of carefully defined procedures and tasks. Historians have labeled these innovations "systematic management."
The central figure in this movement was the American engineer, inventor, and management theorist Frederick W. Taylor. Born in 1856 to an aristocratic Philadelphia family, Taylor started his career in the machine shop of the Midvale Steel Company in 1878, rose rapidly, and began to introduce novel methods. In the next decade he devised numerous organizational and technical innovations, including a method of timing workers with a stopwatch to calculate optimum times. After a brief career as the manager of a paper company, Taylor became a self-employed consultant, devoted to improving plant management.
During these years Taylor, an 1883 engineering graduate of the Stevens Institute of Technology, also became a major figure in the engineering profession, whose adherents sought an identity based on rigorous formal education, mutually accepted standards of behavior, and social responsibility. In factories, mines, and railroad yards, engineers rejected the experiential knowledge of the practitioner for scientific experimentation and analysis. They became the principal proponents of systematic management.
In the 1890s, Taylor became the most ambitious and vigorous proponent of systematic management. As a consultant he introduced accounting systems that permitted managers to use operating records with greater effectiveness, production systems that allowed managers to know more precisely what was happening on the shop floor, time studies to determine what workers were able to do, piece-rate systems to encourage employees to follow instructions, and many related measures. Between 1898 and 1901, as a consultant to the Bethlehem Iron Company (later Bethlehem Steel), Taylor introduced all of his systems and engaged in a vigorous plan of engineering re-search. This experience was the capstone of his creative career. Two developments were of special importance. His discovery of "high-speed steel," which improved the performance of metal cutting tools, assured his fame as an inventor, and his efforts to introduce systematic methods led to an integrated view of managerial innovation. By 1901, Taylor had fashioned scientific management from systematic management.
As the events of Taylor's career indicate, systematic management and scientific management were intimately related. They had common roots, attracted the same kinds of people, and had the same objectives. Their differences also stand out. Systematic management was diffuse and utilitarian, a number of isolated measures that did not add up to a larger whole. Scientific management added significant detail and a comprehensive view. In 1901, when he left Bethlehem, Taylor resolved to devote his time and ample fortune to promoting both. His first extensive report on his work, "Shop Management," published in 1903 in the journal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, portrayed an integrated complex of systematic management methods, supplemented by refinements and additions, such as time study.
The Diffusion of Scientific Management
After 1901, Taylor devoted his time to publicizing his work and attracting clients, whom he would refer to as trusted lieutenants, such as Henry L. Gantt, Carl G. Barth, Morris L. Cooke, and Frank B. Gilbreth. Taylor and his followers emphasized the importance of introducing the entire system. Most manufacturers, however, only wanted solutions to specific problems. They were particularly drawn to time study and the incentive wage, seemingly the most novel features of Taylor's system, which they had hoped would raise output and wean employees from organized labor. Taylor and his followers had little sympathy for unions and were slow to realize the implications of this course. By 1910, the metal trade unions and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) had become outspoken enemies of scientific management and Taylor and his followers were embroiled in a controversy that would continue for another five years. These developments had a substantial influence on Taylor's efforts to publicize his work. To respond to opportunities like the 1911 rate case hearings, as well as the union attacks, Taylor (with Cooke's assistance) prepared a new account of his system that he called The Principles of Scientific Management (1911). He embraced the term "scientific management," made time study its centerpiece, and used it as a metaphor for the system as a whole. Taylor argued that he had discovered universal "principles" of management: the substitution of scientific for "rule-of-thumb" methods, the "scientific selection and training of the workmen," and an equal division of work between managers and workers. To implement the principles successfully, managers and workers had to undergo a "complete revolution in mental attitude."
The Principles of Scientific Management was an immediate success. Its simplicity, colorful anecdotes, and insistence that the details of factory management were applicable to other activities captured the imaginations of readers. Translated into many languages, it became the best-selling business book of the first half of the twentieth century.
Two additional developments greatly extended Taylor's influence in the following years. First, other writers restated his principles in more inclusive terms and explored their implications. The most notable example was Henri Fayol, a prominent French mine manager who discussed the functions of top executives in several technical papers and in General and Industrial Administration (1916). Though Fayol operated independently of Taylor, he demonstrated that Taylor's ideas applied to the entire organization, not just the factory. Second, a growing corps of consultants installed scientific management in industry. Gantt, Barth, Cooke, Gilbreth, and others closely associated with Taylor initially dominated this activity, but outsiders such as Harrington Emerson and Charles Bedaux, who took a more flexible and opportunistic approach to the application of Taylor's methods, became increasingly popular.
Scientific Management in Industry
Between 1901 and 1915, the year Taylor died, his close associates introduced scientific management in at least 181 American factories. Some of the plants were large and modern, like those of the Pullman Railcar and Remington Typewriter companies; others were small and technologically primitive. Most of the 181 companies fell into one of two broad categories: first were those whose activities required the movement of large quantities of materials between numerous work stations (such as textile mills, railroad repair shops, and automobile plants); the second group consisted of innovative firms, mostly small, that were already committed to managerial innovation. Executives at these latter firms were attracted to Taylor's promise of social harmony and improved working conditions.
The history of scientific management in these 181 plants provides little support for the contention, common to many later accounts, that Taylor's central concern was the individual employee. Consultants devoted most of their time and energies to machine operations, tools and materials, production schedules, routing plans, and record systems. In one-third of the factories, these activities generated such controversy that time and motion studies were never undertaken. In others, such as the Franklin automobile company and several textile mills, the installation consisted almost exclusively of improvements in production planning and scheduling. As a result, one-half or more of all employees were passive participants. They may have experienced fewer delays, used different tools, or worked for less powerful supervisors, but their own activities were unaffected. Taylor promised that those workers directly affected would receive higher wages and have less reason for conflict with their supervisors. Most assessments of these claims have concluded that Taylor promised more than he could deliver.
The experiences of the 181 firms suggest that union leaders and other critics also exaggerated the dangers of scientific management. One example was the argument that skilled workers would lose their autonomy and opportunities for creativity. In the relatively few cases where skilled workers were timed and placed on an incentive wage, they devoted more time to their specialties, while less-skilled employees took over other activities. Critics were on firmer ground when they argued that scientific management would lead to speedups, rate cuts, and the elimination of employees whose skills or motivation were below average. In theory, only the most inferior workers had to worry. But many employers were less scrupulous or less patient. They gave lip service to Taylor's idea of an interrelated whole, but looked to the employees for immediate results. The association of time study with rate cuts sparked a famous strike at Watertown Arsenal in 1911, and was the apparent cause of strikes at the Joseph and Feiss Company and at three American Locomotive Company plants. Outside the Taylor circle the problem was even more widespread.
In summary, the available data from these early examples suggest that (1) first-line supervisors lost much of their authority to higher-level managers and their staffs; (2) the proportion of the work day devoted to production increased as delays were eliminated; (3) fewer decisions depended on personal judgments, biases, and subjective evaluations; (4) individual jobs were more carefully de-fined and some workers exercised less discretion; (5) in most cases earnings rose, but there were enough exceptions to blur the effect; (6) the level of skill required in production did not change, though the most highly skilled employees, like foremen, lost some of their de facto managerial functions; (7) some unskilled jobs disappeared as improved scheduling and accounting reduced the need for laborers.
Though the initial impact of scientific management would have seemed surprisingly modest to a contemporary reader of The Principles, in retrospect it is clear that Taylor and his associates provided a forecast and a blueprint for changes that would occur in most large industrial organizations over the next quarter century.
After 1915, scientific management—usually features of scientific management rather than the Taylor system—spread rapidly in the United States. There were undoubtedly wide variations in practice and, in the work of Charles Bedaux and others like him, efforts to exploit time study and the incentive wage to achieve immediate cost reductions at the workers' expense. But the surviving evidence suggests substantial continuity between the early experiences, reviewed above, and those of the 1910s and 1920s. One ironic measure of this continuity was the alliance between organized labor and scientific management that emerged after Taylor's death. By the mid-1910s, union leaders, with considerable prodding from Taylor's more liberal followers like Morris Cooke—realized that they had more to gain than lose from scientific management. Experience had shown that supervisors, not workers, were the real targets of scientific management and that the structured relationships characteristic of scientifically managed plants were compatible with collective bargaining.
By the 1920s, self-conscious management, systematic planning, specialization of function, and highly structured, formal relationships between managers and workers had become the hallmarks of modern industry. These features of the twentieth-century factory system were the legacy of systematic management and especially of Taylor and his disciples, the most important contributors to the campaign for order and rationality in industry. In the process of reorganizing the factory they made scientific management a malleable symbol of the potential of modern organization for changing virtually every facet of contemporary life.
Aitken, Hugh G. J. Taylorism at Watertown Arsenal: Scientific Management in Action, 1908–1915. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960. Case study of famous incident at the height of Taylor's career.
Kanigel, Robert. The One Best Way: Frederick W. Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency. New York: Viking, 1997. A readable, comprehensive biography.
Nadworthy, Milton J. Scientific Management and the Unions, 1900– 1932. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1955. Traces the great controversy of Taylor's later years.
Nelson, Daniel. Frederick W. Taylor and the Rise of Scientific Management. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980. Taylor's career as a manager and a theorist.
———. A Mental Revolution: Scientific Management since Taylor. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992. The evolution of scientific management after 1915.
Schachter, Hindy Lauer. Frederick Taylor and the Public Administration Community: A Reevaluation. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. Scientific management and government administration.
Taylor, Frederick W. Scientific Management. New York: Harper, 1947. A collection of Taylor's major publications.
A traditional social science, sociology, informs this entry. Sociology is subdivided into areas of specialization that may overlap. Areas relevant to this topic include historical sociology, economic sociology, organizations and work, and theory.
The term Taylorism is synonymous with scientific management, both named after the American industrial engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915) and his 1911 monograph, The Principles of Scientific Management. Taylor provided the framework for a management philosophy and method and for the organization of work. He based his framework on scientific law, breaking work into parts and separating mental from physical labor. His principles involved the following: (1) Developing a science of production; (2) carefully selecting and training workers; (3) connecting the science and the workers; and (4) splitting responsibility between management and workers. Taylor’s ideas contributed to a movement across industrialized countries. The Germans called it the rationalization movement.
Taylor’s framework rested on the assumption that workers are motivated by money. Through his time-and-motion studies, he established specific standards for how long each particular job should take and which kinds of physical routines it should involve. These efficiency guidelines were used as bases against which each worker’s output was measured, and pay was calculated once workers were selected in terms of their work ethic and trained consistent with established standards. The greater the worker’s output, the more pay the worker received. Taylor’s equation incorporated breaks during the workday at specific intervals and for a specified length of time because he realized breaks increased productivity and workers’ stamina. He saw breaks as efficient and effective for both workers and management.
Management was charged with the mental work in this hierarchical division of labor. In planning rooms above the shop floor and sometimes housed behind plate glass windows, management delegated responsibility, designed products, set the production schedule, and checked performance.
As a consequence of Taylorism, the organization of production became compartmentalized and control became centralized. Product design and production were separated. Work became task specific and mechanical as workers were turned into quasi machines. According to some critics, deskilling resulted, and the engineering of workers replaced the engineering of materials. In addition, productivity declined.
This model of economic organization lends itself well to mass production, historically the dominant form of industrial production in the United States. It catered to waves of immigrants and a growing middle class. With its focus on efficiency, the model emphasizes quantity over quality and innovation. This focus affected even the design and production of American machine tools, necessary for the production of most other products. Machine tools were designed for convenience of operation and to minimize motion and the operators’ need for skill. These machine tools were adequate for mass production, but not for flexible production or custom production.
The negative outcomes of Taylorism are consistent with Adam Smith’s (1723–1790) concerns. While Smith embraced the division of labor because he believed when works specialize, they become more productive, he emphasized that oversimplification of a worker’s tasks may have inhuman, demoralizing effects. Although famous for advocating a free market economy, Smith argued for government intervention if it is necessary for enhancing the quality of life, particularly for those with the least resources, to ensure the common good.
Karl Marx (1818–1883) preceded Taylor in history and did not address Taylorism specifically. Marxist theory, however, regards the mode of production as rooted in the economic system. Individuals must consume in order to survive, and they cannot consume unless they produce. They must therefore enter into relations they cannot control, such as economic relations. According to Marx, this differentiates them from nature, from their own kind, and leads to alienation. Marxist theory rejects Taylorism as a strident form of worker exploitation under capitalism that strips workers of control over their work. Workers become mere means to capitalists’ ends.
Fordism is a form of mass production linked to Henry Ford (1863–1947) of the Ford Motor Company during the early twentieth century. Fordism adopted the same principles as Taylorism, including the separation of mental and physical labor and the segmentation of work. Both pivot on quantity and speed. Using Taylor’s principles, Ford introduced the assembly line, which automated the control of work. The speed of the assembly line controlled workers’ movements and output and dictated the timing of breaks during the workday. The method of Fordism preceded the social scientific concept of Fordism, a term coined by the French regulation school. This school arose in the context of the first significant post-war recession during the 1970s as a critique of the capitalist mode of regulation, regarded as co-opting social and political life.
Globalization means interdependence of nations, groups, and individuals around the world. One dimension of such interdependence is economic globalization, which is fueled by capital’s search for cheap labor internationally. Cheap labor equals cheap technology; poor countries provide cheap labor and rich countries provide technological innovations. This division of labor between poor and rich countries represents a separation of physical from mental labor that is rooted in Taylorism. Technological innovations, like the Internet, facilitate speed by compressing time and space. A more holistic, flexible, and less hierarchical approach to the economic enterprise is required, however, for continuous innovation. Such an approach may provide the potential for the reintegration of physical and mental labor across the globe.
SEE ALSO General Motors; Time and Motion Study
Neary, Brigitte U. 1993. Management in the U.S. and (West) German Machine Tool Industry: Historically Rooted and Socioculturally Contingent. PhD diss., Duke University, Durham, NC.
Sachs, Jeffrey. 2000. A New Map of the World. The Economist (June 24): 81–83.
Taylor, Frederick Winslow. 1911. The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Harper.
Taylor, Frederick Winslow. 1947. Scientific Management: Comprising Shop Management, The Principles of Scientific Management, and Testimony Before the Special House Committee. New York: Harper.
Brigitte U. Neary
Early attempts to study behavior in organizations came from a desire by industrial efficiency experts to answer this question: What can be done to get workers to do more work in less time? It is not surprising that attempts to answer this question were made at the beginning of the twentieth century, since this was a period of rapid industrialization and technological change in the United States. As engineers attempted to make machines more efficient, it was natural to focus efforts on the human side—making people more productive, too.
The scientific method of management and job design, which originated with Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915), entails analyzing jobs to determine what the worker does and what the requirements are for the job. After this analysis, the job is designed to ensure that employees will not be asked to perform work beyond their abilities. Another aspect of the scientific method is that jobs are divided into small segments for the worker to perform, a method that works well in establishing expected levels of worker performance. While not as popular as in the past, this method of job design is still used in the twenty-first century.
To Taylor, it was obvious that workers were producing below their capacities in the industrial shops of his day. As a foreman in a steel mill, Taylor noticed, for example, that laborers wasted movement when moving pig iron. Believing that productivity could be increased substantially, Taylor carefully analyzed the workers' motions and steps and studied the proper distribution of work and rest. Based on this analysis, he determined a more appropriate method for performing each aspect of the job. He then carefully selected employees and gave them detailed instructions on how to perform the job using the new method. He required that employees follow the instructions precisely. As an incentive, all workers were told that
they would receive a substantial pay increase provided they followed instructions. As a result, worker productivity increased substantially.
However, most of the short-sighted management of that time would set certain standards, often paying by piece-rate for the work. Then, when a worker discovered how to produce more, management cut the rate. In turn, the workers deliberately cut down on output, but management could do nothing about this. Taylor came to realize that the concept of division of labor had to be revamped if greater productivity and efficiency were to be realized. His vision included a superefficient assembly line as part of a management system of operations. He, more than anyone else at the time, understood the inability of management to increase individual productivity, and he understood the reluctance of workers to produce at a high rate.
For more than twenty-five years, Taylor and his associates explored ways to increase productivity. Scientific management has often been described as a series of techniques for increasing production rates by means of better cost-accounting procedures, premium and incentive payments, and time and motion studies (which are designed to classify and streamline the individual movement needed to perform jobs with the intent of finding "the one best way" to do them). Even Taylor protested this interpretation. In his view, using these techniques did not in itself constitute scientific management, because, as he put it, the main objective of scientific management was "to remove the causes for antagonism between the boss and the men who were under him." Ironically, at times during his experimentation, Taylor achieved the opposite effect by creating antagonism.
As Taylor made his techniques known, others began to contribute to the body of knowledge of scientific management. These theorists included Carl G. L. Barth (1860–1939), a mathematician and statistician who assisted Taylor in analytical work, and Henry L. Gantt (1861–1919), who invented the slide rule and created the Gantt chart. Another associate, Sanford E. Thompson (1867–1949), developed the first decimal stopwatch. Walter Shewhart eventually transformed industry with his statistical concepts and his ability to bridge technical tools with a management system. Frank G. (1868–1924) and Lillian Gilbreth (1878–1972), aware of Taylor's work in measurement and analysis, chose the ancient craft of bricklaying for analysis. It was assumed that productivity in bricklaying certainly should have reached its peak thousands of years ago and nothing could be done to increase worker productivity. Yet the Gilbreths were able to show that by following Taylor's techniques and using proper management planning, productivity could be raised significantly and workers would be less tired than they were under the old system.
By 1912, the efficiency movement had gained momentum. Taylor was even called before a special committee of the House of Representatives that was investigating scientific management and its impact on the railroad industry, whose members regarded it as a way to speed up work. Little did Taylor realize how workers would perceive his effort at producing more efficiently. Taylor found out the importance of the cooperative spirit the hard way. He was strictly the engineer at first. Only after painful experiences did he realize that the human factor, the social system, and the mental attitude of people in both management and labor had to be adjusted and changed completely before greater productivity could result. He referred to his early experiences in seeking greater output and described the strained feelings between himself and his workers as miserable. Yet he was determined to improve production. He continued his experiments until three years before his death in 1915, when he found that human motivation, not just engineered improvement, could alone increase output.
Unfortunately, the human factor was ignored by many. Shortly after the railroad hearings, self-proclaimed efficiency experts damaged the intent of scientific management. Time studies and the new efficiency techniques were used by incompetent consultants who sold managers on the idea of increasing profit by speeding up employees. Consequently, many labor unions, just beginning to feel their strength, worked against the new science and all efficiency approaches. With the death of Taylor in 1915, the scientific management movement lost any chance of reaching its true potential as the catalyst for the future total quality management system that was to evolve as a key ingredient of organizations of the future.
see also Management: Historical Perspectives ; Management/Leadership Styles
Benton, Douglas A. (1998). Applied Human Relations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
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Whetten, David A., and Cameron, Kim S. (2005). Developing Management Skills. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Yukl, Gary (2005). Leadership in Organizations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice-Hall.
Taylorism, also known as "Scientific Management," emerged from the work and writings of Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915), an engineer who, beginning in the early 1880s, at the Midvale Steel Company initiated a series of time studies devised to raise the efficiency of the machine shop. Becoming the most generally recognized and leading factory management system throughout industrialized nations by the early decades of the twentieth century, one can define Taylorism as "an intellectually complex set of techniques for coordinating human behavior in organizations or for providing organizational members with the skills and knowledge to do so" (Beissinger, pp. 4–5). Although representing more than the sum of its individual parts, important elements of Taylorism include the subdivision of tasks into basic components and then timing each part in order to determine a methodology for increasing the speed of the entire job, the implementation of an incentive system, the maintenance of accurate records, and the planning and organizing of production by specialists.
While Taylorism exerted considerable influence on the development of Fordism, the two are not synonymous. Although both production systems are based on time-and-motion studies for intensifying the division of labor, one major difference between Fordism and Taylorism is that the former is built on controlling the production speed of workers through the assembly line. Based on the overhead trolleys used by Chicago meatpackers to process beef, Ford's assembly line, first implemented in 1913, eschewed extensive record keeping and the utilization of experts in the coordination and planning of work inherent in Taylorism, in favor of determining the production pace through the design of the machinery itself. While a benefit of Fordism was its leading to the mass production and the affordability of automobiles (the Model-T) for vast segments of the U.S. population, Fordism (as originally practiced by Ford), unlike Taylorism, had a much darker side in that it extended control of employees outside of the factory through instruments of coercion in dictating workers' private lives.
Although Taylorism was developed in the United States, it was not long before it spread to Europe and was modified to fit the industrial systems unique to the individual cultures and economies of the European countries. In France, for example, the widespread use of Taylorism emerged in 1914 with the country's entry into World War I. Much production up to this time had been based on the "rule of thumb" method of skilled craftsmen who retained control of manufacturing information. However, a new system of production, which was found in Taylorism, was required in order to increase the speed in turning out of shells, cannons, and airplane engines for the war effort. Although Taylorism was embraced by both technical and intellectual circles in France as a method for the rational planning of industries and the state, it remained primarily a tool used at the top of the organizational structure and had more difficulty in penetrating management practices at the lower levels.
In Germany, scientific management arrived early in the twentieth century when engineers first implemented Taylorism in the factories. During these years, this system was strongly opposed by the well-organized German working class and generated a cultural hostility in society as a whole. Such opposition intensified during World War I, although immediately after the war, there was renewed interest that led to the development of a scientific management with a specifically German face. This unique brand of Taylorism involved combining the general philosophy of scientific management with the basic values of the corporate state; in addition, it represented the system as nothing more than a manifestation of the resourceful frugal work patterns exhibited by German craftsmen. Finally, beginning in 1924, Taylorism became a major component of the German rationalization movement undertaken by key German industries.
Taylorism was even implemented in socialist Russia shortly after the 1917 October Revolution. Vladimir Lenin, who admired Taylor's techniques once they were divorced from capital's control, advocated the use of scientific management in 1918 in transitioning the Russian economy from one of state capitalism to socialism. Leon Trotsky, first as the Commissar of War, used Taylorism to reorganize the repair of locomotives as well as to get the railways operating again. During the 1920s, Taylorism became firmly entrenched within Russia, not only as a tool to organize factory production but also as an administrative methodology for engaging in state economic planning. Scientific management techniques were integrated into the First Five Year Plan, approved in 1929, and was connected to Stakhanovism, the drive for speed-up and labor discipline, during the Second Five Year Plan in the 1930s.
Although Taylorism was adapted to fit the needs and requirements of the cultures and economies of different countries, this system was certainly the dominant methodology of standardizing the manufacturing process in the industrialized nations in the twentieth century. While ostensibly new forms of organizing industrial production, such as "Toyotoism," have emerged in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, scholars continue to debate whether these methods constitute a distinct break from Taylorism or are merely new versions of scientific management dressed up in innovative ideologies.
Beissinger, Mark R. Scientific Management, Socialist Discipline, and Soviet Power. Cambridge, Mass., 1988.
Devinatz, Victor G. "Lenin as Scientific Manager Under Monopoly Capitalism, State Capitalism and Socialism: A Response to Scoville." Industrial Relations 42, no. 3 (2003): 513–520.
Merkle, Judith A. Management and Ideology: The Legacy of the International Scientific Management Movement. Berkeley, Calif., 1980.
Victor G. Devinatz
INDUSTRIAL MANAGEMENT. Industrial management, in its most comprehensive meaning, refers to the systematic management of all aspects of the factory, and more specifically, to early studies of production efficiency known as scientific management. The term came into use in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century, when the Industrial Revolution dramatically shifted methods of generating output from craftsmanship to mass production and automation. Massive centralized production facilities, like those of the Ford Motor Company, Bethlehem Steel, and Western Electric, brought with them the unprecedented need to understand work that had become increasingly complex. To bring some measure of control and discipline to the industrial behemoths, such luminaries as Frederick Taylor, Henry Ford, and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth developed "scientific" methods of observation in factories. The term "scientific" brought a patina of respectability to a field of study, which by its very nature contained some measure of dehumanization with regards to work methods. Frederick Taylor sought the "one best way to manage" by systematically recording the time to perform work elements that comprised a laborer's repetitive movements, while the Gilbreths developed "time and motion" studies. Henry Ford is credited with institutionalizing division of labor in factories with his development of the assembly line, an innovation that dramatically reduced the time it took to produce an automobile.
Little attention was paid to the motivational content of work until the accidental discovery of the importance of human relations by the Hawthorne studies from 1927 to 1932, research supervised by Elton Mayo. While conducting productivity studies at Western Electric, Mayo demonstrated that workers' efficiency depended on a wide range of relations within groups as well as on compensation. This finding led to an eventual split in the study of industrial management, with one branch emphasizing an understanding of organization theory and behavior and the other emphasizing the mechanics of production, also known as operations. While science continued to provide the basis for academic studies of both branches, the practice of management was increasingly recognized as a complex set of knowledge and skills. Later, increased specialization of management talents led to the dissipation of comprehensive studies in industrial management, with more attention paid to specialties like financial management, human resources management, and operations management.
Following World War II, many of the dehumanizing aspects of factory life were a leading concern of both union movements and studies to improve quality of work life. Work design and sociotechnical approaches to work became the focus of industrial management. By the 1960s, however, the U.S. economy had shifted to a service economy, with more than half of the labor in the country employed in services. This shift was to be followed by the information revolution and extraordinarily high rates of global competitiveness, changes that had dramatic impacts on work content. The term "industrial management" became increasingly irrelevant as the nature and content of work shifted to computerization and other spheres of the economy.
In the early twenty-first century, the segment of management that seeks improvements in efficiency and productivity is known as service and operations management. Its most recent developments include integrated methods of management that contain elements of programmable technology, quality improvement, just-in-time delivery, lean production, and supply chain management.
Boone, Louis E., and Donald D. Bowen, eds. The Great Writings in Management and Organizational Behavior. Tulsa, Okla.: PPC, 1980.
Dertouzos, Michael L., et al. Made in America: Regaining the Productive Edge. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990.
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Zuboff, Shoshana. In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power. New York: Basic Books, 1988.
Scientific management, also known as Taylorism, is a system to gain maximum efficiency from workers and machinery. This system was developed by American industrial engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915). As foreman in a steel plant, Taylor undertook time and motion studies and conducted experiments to determine the "one best way" to do any given job. He developed detailed systems to yield the highest possible productivity levels. Taylor first presented his theories in 1903 to the American Academy of Mechanical Engineers. Efficiency was the cornerstone of Taylorism: production processes should not waste time or materials. He published his ideas in the landmark work, The Principles of Scientific Management (1911), and he became a well-known engineering consultant who was contracted by companies eager to maximize their output.
The doctrine of scientific management was soon embraced by U.S. industry. As transportation networks improved and U.S. population grew rapidly in the early 1900s, expansion of markets placed great demands on industry. Applying Taylor's scientific management, manufacturers were able to boost productivity by as much as 200 percent.
Because Taylorism broke production processes into individual tasks, each with its own best practice, new workers could be quickly and easily trained; adherents believed this was another benefit of the concept. Scientific management had many advocates, including engineers Frank Gilbreth (1868–1924) and Lillian Gilbreth (1878–1972). These two furthered Taylor's work by publishing volumes such as Primer of Scientific Management (1911), Psychology of Management (1912), and also studies on motion, fatigue, and time. Among those who applied scientific management were Ford Motor Company (in developing the assembly line for the Model T); Boston retailer Filene's (one of the first commercial enterprises to use the method); and Bethlehem Steel (which conducted experiments in the loading of pig iron).
Scientific management also had its detractors; Taylorism was criticized for having a dehumanizing effect on labor. In making every job routine, some charged, the system separated the minds of workers from their hands. The system was also criticized for eliminating the need for skilled workers and giving management absolute control over production processes. Theories concerning worker output were modified during the second half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, principles of scientific management remained evident in the workplace in the late 1990s. The adoption of scientific management is credited with boosting American productivity and increasing stockholder profits.
Scientific management was the beginning of systematic work study in industry, and impressed not only industrialists (notably Henry Ford) but also leading figures elsewhere, including Lenin. However, it was resisted strongly at grassroots level by workers, trade unionists, and even managers, because of its very tight control of personal work-life. Taylor viewed workers as if they were, or ought to be, human extensions of industrial machinery. Scientific Management (or ‘Taylorism’) ignores the nature of work as a social process, has a dehumanized view of workers, and treats work motivation in crude instrumental terms—defects later criticized by the ‘Human Relations’ school of industrial organization and organizational sociology. In recent sociological studies of the labour process, a lively controversy has surrounded the question of whether Taylorism was unique, or expressed a general tendency for capitalism to divide mental from manual labour (see MANUAL VERSUS NON-MANUAL DISTINCTION).