The theory of scientific management is the “brainchild”
of Frederick Winslow Taylor. In its simplest form the theory is the
belief that there is “one best way” to do a job and scientific
methods can be used to determine that “one best way”.
Taylor developed his theory through observations and experience as
a mechanical engineer. As a mechanical engineer Taylor noticed that
the environment lacked work standards, bred inefficient workers and
jobs were allocated to people without matching the job to the worker’s
skill and ability. In addition to this the relationship of the workers
with the managers included many confrontations.
Scientific Management Guidelines
Over a 20 year period Taylor devised the “one best way”
to do each of the jobs on the shop floor. He then concluded that prosperity
and harmony for both workers and managers could be achieved by following
the 4 guidelines below:
Develop a science for each element of an individual’s work,
which will replace the old rule of thumb method.
Scientifically select and then train, teach and develop the worker.
Heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure that all work
is done in accordance with the principles of the science that has
Divide work and responsibility almost equally between management
Management takes over all the work for which it is better fitted than the workers (rather than most of the work and responsibility
being assigned to the workers).
Pig Iron Experiment
A well known example of the scientific management theory is the pig
iron experiment. Iron was loaded onto rail cars by workers each lot
weighing 92 pounds and known as a “pig”. On average 12.5
tons were loaded onto the rail cars but Taylor believed that scientific
management could be used to increase this to 47/48 tons per day. Through
experimenting with various procedures and tools Taylor achieved this.
This is how he did it:
Taylor ensured that he matched each of the jobs to each of the workers
skills and abilities.
Taylor ensured that he provided the workers with the correct tools.
Taylor ensured that he provided workers with clear instructions
about how to do each job. Taylor ensured that the workers understood
the instructions and then Taylor ensured that the workers followed
the instructions exactly as he had explained.
Taylor then created worker motivation by providing a significantly
higher daily wage.
It is believed that through the use of scientific management Taylor
increased productivity on the shop floor by 200 percent. Taylor’s
ideas and thoughts were adopted throughout the world including in France,
Russia and Japan. In today’s world scientific management has been
merged with other ideas and is used by managers in the form of time
and motion studies to eradicate wasted motions, incentive schemes based
on performance and hiring the best qualified workers for each job.