Compare and Contrast the Scientific Management Theories

Table of Content

People have developed models to understand management, and Quinn (2003) used the competing values framework to relate the main models. The human relations model emphasizes flexibility, while the rational goal model emphasizes control. There are more differences than similarities between the two models. Taylor (Pugh and Hickson, 1989), a scientific management theorist, emphasizes maximizing workers’ prosperity, while Follett, a human relations management theorist, focuses on developing human resources.

The theories introduced by Frederick Taylor, the founder of scientific management, are still widely used in many organizations. Scientific management emphasizes scientifically determined changes to improve labor productivity (Daft, 1997). Taylor proposed that increasing wages can enhance workers’ motivation and provided opportunities for professional growth and advancement. However, the ultimate objective remains maximizing profit (Pugh and Hickson, 1989).

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According to Graham (1995), although Follett found limitations in scientific management and proposed the human relations model, both theories have a common goal of maximizing productivity, albeit through different methods. Additionally, Taylor and Follett both endorse the idea of division of labor. Taylor believed that individuals can excel in specific areas (Pugh and Hickson, 1989), while Functional Management embodies the concept of division of labor. However, Follett did not advocate for an excessively rigid division of labor.

Nevertheless, fundamentally, both theorists believed that division of labor based on the strengths of each worker can increase output (Graham, 1995). However, they approached this concept from different perspectives. Taylor focused on efficiency and productivity, while emphasizing the humanistic aspect of dividing labor. On the other hand, she did not prioritize the higher needs of workers, despite encouraging their development.

What she always desired was to maximize output by encouraging them to perform at a higher level (Pugh and Hickson, 1989). He stressed the importance of standardizing work and ensuring quality control, constantly supervising and controlling the workers. Suggestions are disregarded and there is no freedom under scientific management (Daft, 1997). Follett used the term ‘alleged inhumanity’ to describe Taylor’s concept (Pugh and Hickson, 1989). On the other hand, she focused on understanding human behavior and needs in both the workplace and social interactions (Daft, 1997). She empowered workers to share their own ideas, facilitating rather than controlling them.

Richard (1997) emphasized the importance of workers’ sense of belonging and satisfaction of their higher needs. Taylor’s suggestion, on the other hand, focused solely on increasing workers’ salaries. Moreover, one theory prioritizes scientific methods and treats workers as part of a machine, while the other takes into account human behavior. The handling of conflicts also demonstrates the divergence between the two theories. According to Taylor (1947), she implemented a more complex managerial structure in order to address conflicts. It is worth noting that scientific management resulted in conflicts due to its failure in meeting workers’ needs (Pugh and Hickson, 1989).

Managers hold power over workers during conflicts, leaving the workers no choice but to adhere to strict rules. The exception principle (Taylor, 1947) is rarely applied in typical situations, with lower-level managers only reporting extreme cases to higher-level managers. As a result, workers are left with no option but to abide by the rules. However, Follett advocated for a “power with” approach within a network structure (Graham, 1995), where employees have the right to resist unions and acquire power-over. When conflicts arose, Follett recommended integration as a solution.

Integration is a more effective technique for resolving conflicts as it allows for the consideration of individual ideas and results in the creation of something new. This approach saves time in the long run as it addresses problems comprehensively. Simply obeying rules does not address the root causes of conflicts, which will continue to occur. The main differences between the two theories, “power with” and “power over,” are key to understanding their respective approaches. These theories were proposed by two theorists a century ago and continue to be widely adopted by companies, including the French-based energy company GDF Suez.

The company adopts the functional management (GDF Suez, 2009) and has various branches including energy production, service, and environment. By specializing in different areas, the company can maximize output by assigning the most qualified person to each job. In line with Follett’s theory, workers have the opportunity to obtain shares by signing up for the company’s offer (ENP Newswire, 2010). This share ownership plan not only allows workers to have a say in decision making but also enhances their sense of belonging and empowerment.

Using the internationally-acclaimed company McDonalds as an example to illustrate the theories, it can be seen that they implement certain strategies. For instance, the food is standardized to minimize production expenses. Additionally, there is a division of labor within the company, with some employees serving as cashiers and others responsible for food preparation.

Furthermore, McDonalds in Hong Kong also follows Follett’s theory. Workers within the same location hold regular meetings to discuss any challenges encountered during work and engage in recreational activities. This approach fosters a stronger sense of belonging among the employees, consequently boosting their motivation levels.

Overall, although there are similarities between the two theories, they are fundamentally different. Taylor’s theory emphasizes the worker-production system relationship, while Follett’s theory highlights human relations. Scientific management requires strict adherence to rules, whereas the latter theory suggests that workers have the autonomy to contribute their own ideas. Both theories continue to hold importance in modern management and are widely utilized by many companies. It is not uncommon for firms to incorporate both approaches simultaneously.

The reference list:

1. GDF Suez, (2009), Operational Organisation(online), Available from, (accessed: 17 November 2010)

2. ENP Newswire, (2010), Major success for GDF SUEZ’s 1st worldwide employee share ownership plan, over 67,000 employees have signed up to Link 2010(online), Available from, (accessed: 17 November 2010)

3. Pugh D. S. and Hickson D. J., 1989, Writers on Organisation, 4th edition, London, Penguin Book


Taylor Frederick Winslow, 1947, Scientific Management, New York and London, Harper and Brothers Publishers

Vecchio Robert P. , 2000, Organizational Behavior Core Concepts, 4th edition, New York, the Dryden Press

Daft Richard L. , 1997, Management, 4th edition, New York, the Dryden Press

Grahim Pauline, 1995, Mary Parker Follett- Prophet of Management, Boston, Harvard Business School Press

Boddy David, 2008, Management An Introduction, 4th edition, Milan, Prentice Hall

Quinn, R. E. , Faerman, S. R. , Thompson, M. P. and McGrath, M. R. (2003), Becoming a Master Manager(3rd edition), New York, Wiley

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