Taylorism: Scientific Management Approach of Frederick W. Taylor

Scientific management or Taylorism is the brain child of Frederick Winslow Taylor. According to an early definition, Scientific management refers to that kind of management which conducts a business or affairs by standards established by facts or truths gained through systematic observation, experiment, or reasoning.

Promoters of this school of thought attempted to raise labor efficiency primarily by managing the work of employees on the shop floor.

Taylorism Scientific Management Approach of Frederick Winslow Taylor

Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) is generally acknowledged as “the father of scientific management.” The core ideas of scientific management were developed by Taylor in the 1880s and 1890s and were first published in his monographs; “A Piece Rate System” (1895), “Shop Management” (1903) and “The Principles of Scientific Management” (1911).

The terms “scientific management” is also known as “Taylorism”. Taylorism can be defined as the division of labor force pushed to its limit, with a consequent deskilling of the worker and dehumanization of the workers and the workplace.

In management literature today, the greatest use of the term “scientific management” is with reference to the work of Taylor and his disciples as classical approaches of management. Because it’s no longer being used in management areas but still respected for its seminal value.

Because of an eye problem, Frederick Winslow Taylor could not attend Harvard University. As a result he started working as a common laborer in a small machine shop in Philadelphia, USA. Later on he worked as an apprentice, a foreman, a master mechanic and rose to the eminence of a chief engineer of a steel company after obtaining a degree in engineering through evening study.Frederick Winslow Taylor's Taylorism or Scientific Management Approach

This varied experience gave him ample opportunity to have firsthand knowledge and intimate insight into the problems and attitude of workers and to explore great possibilities for improving the qualities of management in the workplace.

Wherever he worked, he found a very ineffective use of employees, unsystematic methods of work, utterly poor co-operation between management and labor. He also observed gross inefficiency, waste and widespread output restriction among workers which he termed “systematic soldering”.

Taylor found out that there is difference among the workers in terms of skill, talent, dedication to work. he also found that workers compensation has a link to the work rate he puts in. He pointed out that the methods of handling labor was actually slowed the productivity and its efficiency.

So he proposed that the labor force should be paid a fair amount of remuneration and there should be window in work time for workers to rest and recover from the physical and mental fatigue or exhaustion. nevertheless he had a condescending view of less intelligent workers, whom he sometimes compared to “draft animals”. his methods faced with challenges and criticism.

Hence Taylor dedicated himself to the relentless pursuit of “finding a better way” and developing and practicing the “science” of work—the underlying laws or principles that govern various activities.

He attempted to do it by using systematic study of time, motion and fatigue involved in work with a view to identifying the best way of doing a job. Taylor’s major concern throughout his life was to increase efficiency which he considered the best recipe to serve the competing interests of both managers and workers for a larger share of a fixed economic pie.

To him, solution lies in increasing size of the pie by raising productivity through scientific management. He called for a “mental revolution” or a radical change of mind among workers and management in order to fuse the interests of both groups into a mutually rewarding one.

Mental Revolution and Taylor’s Principles: Mental revolution, propounded by Taylor, was based on five vital principles:

  • Replacing rules of thumb with science (organized knowledge).
  • Obtaining harmony in the group action, rather than discord.
  • Achieving cooperation of human beings, rather than chaotic individualism.
  • Working for maximum output, rather than restricted output.
  • Developing all workers to the fullest extent possible for their own and their company’s highest prosperity.

Taylor’s theory of scientific management gave rise to a host of disciples who took up the task of spreading the “gospel of efficiency.” Carl Barth, Henry Gantt, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, Harrington Emerson and Morres Cook are his prominent followers who made valuable contributions to the growth of management in a scientific manner.

The essence of this school of thought is to make constant endeavor to find better means of management using scientific methods. Historically, it is associated with economic considerations such as cost-effectiveness, efficiency and productivity.