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Scientific Management

Frederick Winslow Taylor


Scientific management is the brainchild of Frederick Winslow Taylor. In its simplest form the theory asserts there is one best way to do a job and scientific methods can be used to determine that "one best way"

This diagram captures the 5 scientific management guidelines from Taylor's Scientific Management Theory

Scientific management guidelines diagram

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 five guidelines below:

  1. Develop a science for each element of an individual's work, which will replace the old rule of thumb method.
  2. Scientifically select and then train, teach and develop the worker.
  3. Heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure that all work is done in accordance with the principles of the science that has been developed.
  4. Divide work and responsibility almost equally between management and workers.
  5. 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:


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.


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