Scientific Management

Scientific management (also called Taylorism or the Taylor system) is a theory of management that analyzes and synthesizes workflows, improving labor productivity. The core ideas of the theory were developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the 1880s and 1890s. Frederick Taylor believed that decisions based upon tradition and rules of thumb should be replaced by precise procedures developed after careful study of an individual at work. Its application is contingent on a high level of managerial control over employee work practices.

A central part of the study of organization and management is the development of management thinking and what might be termed management theory. The application of theory brings about change in actual behavior. Managers reading the work of leading writers on the subject might see in their ideas and conclusions a message about how they should behave. This will affect their attitudes towards management practice. The study of management theory is important for the following reasons: It helps to view the interrelationships between the developments of the theory, behavior in organizations, and management practice.

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An understanding of the development of management thinking helps in understanding principles underlying the process of management. Knowledge of the history helps in understanding the nature of management and organizational behavior and reasons for the attention given to main topic areas. Many of the earlier ideas are of continuing importance to the manager and later ideas on management tend to incorporate earlier ideas and conclusions. Management theories are interpretive and evolve in line with changes in the organizational environment.

The Human Relations Approach can be seen as being almost entirely antithetical to the principles of classical management theory. Where classical management focused on the rationalization of work routines, human relations approaches stressed the accommodation of work routines and individual emotional and relational needs as a means of increasing productivity. The human relations approach was made possible by the fairly coercive suppression of the most radical organized labor movements. In the 21st century, observers find it increasingly difficult to subdivide management into functional categories in this way.

More and more processes simultaneously involve several categories. Instead, one tends to think in terms of the various processes, tasks, and objects subject to management. Branches of management theory also exist relating to nonprofits and government: such as public administration, public management, and educational management. Further, management programs related to civil-society organizations have also spawned programs in nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship. In management literature today, the greatest use of the concept of Scientific Management (or Taylorism) is as a contrast to a new, improved way of doing business.

In political and sociological terms, Taylorism can be seen as the division of labor pushed to its logical extreme, with a consequent de-skilling of the worker and dehumanization of the workplace. Many of the classical writers were concerned with the improvement of management as a means of increasing productivity. At this time, emphasis was on the problem of obtaining increased productivity from individual workers through the technical structuring of the work organization and the provision of monetary incentives as the motivator for higher levels of output.

A major contributor to this approach was F. W. Taylor (1856–1917), the ‘father’ of scientific management. Taylor believed that in the same way that there is the best machine for each job, so there is the best working method by which people should undertake their jobs. I considered that all work processes could be analyzed into discrete tasks and that by the scientific method it was possible to the ‘one best way’ to perform each task. Each job was broken down into parts, each part timed and the parts rearranged into the most efficient method of working.

The four objectives of management under scientific management were as follows:

  1.  The development of a science for each element of a man’s work to replace the old rule-of-thumb methods.
  2. The scientific selection, training, and development of workers instead of allowing them to choose their tasks and train themselves as best they could.
  3. The development of a spirit of hearty cooperation between workers and management to ensure that work would be carried out by scientifically devised procedures. The division of work between workers and the management in almost equal shares, each group taking over the work for which it is best fitted instead of the former condition in which responsibility largely rested with the workers. Self-evident in this philosophy are organizations arranged in a hierarchy, systems of abstract rules, and impersonal relationships between staff. While scientific management principles improved productivity and had a substantial impact on the industry, they also increased the monotony of work.

The core job dimensions of skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback all were missing from the picture of scientific management. While in many cases the new ways of working were accepted by the workers, in some cases they were not. The use of stopwatches often was a protested issue and led to a strike at one factory where “Taylorism” was being tested. Complaints that Taylorism was dehumanizing led to an investigation by the United States Congress. Despite its controversy, scientific management changed the way that work was done, and forms of it continue to be used today.

In essence, the human relations approach sees the organization as a cooperative enterprise wherein worker morale is a primary contributor to productivity, and so seeks to improve productivity by modifying the work environment to increase morale and develop a more skilled and capable worker. Theory X and Theory Y suggest two aspects of human behavior at work, or in other words, two different views of individuals (employees): one of which is negative, called Theory X and the other is positive, so-called Theory Y. According to McGregor, the perception of managers on the nature of individuals is based on various assumptions. Employees can perceive their job as relaxing and normal. They exercise their physical and mental efforts inherently in their jobs. Employees may not require only threat, external control, and coercion to work, but they can use self-direction and self-control if they are dedicated and sincere to achieve the organizational objectives. If the job is rewarding and satisfying, then it will result in employees’ loyalty and commitment to the organization. An average employee can learn to admit and recognize the responsibility.

He can even learn to obtain responsibility. The employees have skills and capabilities. Their logical capabilities should be fully utilized. In other words, the creativity, resourcefulness, and innovative potentiality of the employees can be utilized to solve organizational problems. Best practice management concepts in the late 20th century also included excellence and total quality management, reengineering, systems thinking, cross-functional teams, empowerment, delayering and flat organization charts, learning organization, dialogue, reinventing work, and diversity.

As knowledge in general increased with “Internet speed,” management thought, already heavily influenced by psychological sciences, received infusions from numerous disciplines. Moreover, cross-fertilization between academia and the business community created a vast increase in management-related research activity. Some of these trends – such as TQM and reengineering – seemed by 2000 to have run their course. The permanent value of the new thinking underlying them, however, should not be denied; and 21st-century versions of these movements should actually be welcomed.

Others trends – such as learning and diversity – progressed to the point where “second generation” (learning organization) or “new” (diversity) versions appeared. In the early 21st century, it was even easy to see the development of a “third wave” in these well-established concepts. Just as the 21st century has seen new types of organizations and new ways of doing business arise, so, too, will there be new management trends, ideas, and techniques.

While running after every trendy idea is hardly a recommendable strategy, the wise manager will learn, study, and apply the best current thinking. At the start of the 21st century, the following rate to be the most important ideas regarding management:  Management is for everyone: As educational levels rise and information technology accelerates, the distinction between “managers” and “workers” will fade away and management knowledge will be everyone’s responsibility.

Management is for learners: As information becomes the chief product of every business and as knowledge continues to explode, everyone will be a learner, and the manager’s foremost task will promote learning. Management is based on communicating. As techniques for planning, strategizing, decision-making and problem-solving become the common province of everyone in the organization, the need for improving communication will be paramount and managers will be increasingly using dialogue and other communication tools.

Management is about change. As technology and information reshape all our lives, change management will be “business as usual” and managers will be change agents who guide everyone to find and embrace the best new practices. Management is broad-based. As boundaries disappear within organizations and in the world at large, the scope of management will grow and managers will be organizational development experts, diversity experts, facilitation experts, consultation experts – and much else.

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Scientific Management. (2016, Sep 28). Retrieved from