Wed. Aug 3rd, 2022
    Taylorism in scientific management

    Scientific Management Taylorisme

    What is Taylorism in scientific management?
    Taylorism is a method of organizing industrial work, the main characteristics of which are the horizontal and vertical division of labor as well as performance wages.

    The essential components are:
    • Separation of executive and planning work (work preparation).
    • Time studies (time and motion study) for process improvement and determination of target times.
    • Differential wage system.
    • Daily workload requirements.
    • Function master system (separation of manual and mental work).

    A scientific organization of work

    Taylorism owes its name to the American engineer F. W. Taylor (1856-1915) who developed a so-called scientific method of organizing work. Taylor presents the principles in a work published in 1911 entitled “The Scientific Management of Enterprises”. He criticizes the traditional organization of work which is based on trades, more precisely on the know-how of qualified, autonomous workers, responsible for their time and the conduct of their activity. He proposes to replace it with a new organization based on a technical division of labor, that is to say organized by position.

    The objective of the scientific organization of work (OST) is to improve productivity through better control of the activity of workers. Taylor wants to fight against “loitering” in the workshops and find the best way to produce (the one best way). After observing and analyzing worker work (gestures, rhythms, cadences, etc.), he recommends adopting two principles:

    1. A horizontal division of labor, i.e. a maximum fragmentation of tasks between the different workstations, where each worker performs a few delimited and repetitive elementary gestures.
    2. A vertical division of labor, i.e. a strict separation between design work and execution work. A methods office headed by organization experts is responsible for the scientific preparation of the work.

    The standardization of the work of the workers (tools, machines, gestures, deadlines, etc.) is also accompanied by monitoring (timing) which makes it possible to establish a salary directly linked to performance (piecework wages).

    Taylorism in the 20th century

    The principles of Taylorism will be gradually adopted during the 20th century, in the United States and in Europe. The rationalization of the mode of production proposed by Taylorism allows an increase in the productivity of companies. The constraints of fragmented, deskilled work, as well as high production rates, however, make the work of the workers particularly difficult. If the production volume increases, the quality objective is not automatically achieved.

    The need to better integrate the social and human dimension of employees, the increase in qualifications, the mechanization and robotization of unskilled work, the tertiarization of activities, etc. lead to a questioning of the usefulness of Taylorism and its decline as a mode of organizing production.

    Advantages of Taylorism

    There are many advantages in scientific management, from the point of view of organization, staff and the company itself, as follows:

    How to set up the method of Taylorism and what are its advantages?

    A. Organization of Work

    1 – Control of operating times: time each task and determine the minimum time necessary to carry out this task.

    2 – Mastery of work methods: breakdown of the work process. Elimination of unnecessary operations and, for each retained operation, selection of the best method.

    3 – Prescription of tasks: From the study of times and methods, the precise content of each activity is defined. Thus, each worker is assigned a specific task, to be carried out in a prescribed time and according to an imposed procedure.

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    B. Staff management

    1 – For each task the best man: Each type of worker is better for a certain type of work. It is therefore necessary to seek the type of work which suits each individual.

    2 – Recruitment and training of personnel: the management must select the worker, train him, instruct him and perfect him. However, the training proposed by Taylor is limited to a strict acquisition, by the worker, of a particular mode of operation, without explanation of the reasons for this choice.

    3 – Control over the staff: close control of the management over the execution of the work must be carried out. This aims to eliminate any margin of uncertainty and to insert the worker into a network of constraints which leaves him no choice but submission or resignation.

    4 – The role of salary: The salary system is a secondary element. The important thing is that the worker who works at the fixed rate earns a higher salary. A better wage is intended to make the worker accept the change in working methods.

    C. Company organization

    1 – Dismember the attributions of the classic foreman: Taylor suggests creating 8 specialized foremen: 4 dedicated to the direct supervision of the workers and 4 ensuring the link between the organization department and the workers.

    2 – Centralize the design work in a specialized department: the organization department brings together all the administrative and managerial functions of the company, except financial management and the commercial function. This conception did not prevail. On the other hand, Taylor’s contribution concerns the total separation between the functions of designing the work and those relating to the simple execution.

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    According to Taylor, the application of these principles cannot be done without:
    – take the time necessary to set up the new system (depending on the case, 3 to 5 years are necessary);
    – call on an outside contractor capable of designing the new system and leading its implementation. This speaker needs authority.

    The limits and disadvantages of Taylorism

    The first hostile reactions to Taylorism came from the unions. From the outset, they denounce the method taken up by Henry Ford: work is made stultifying and transforms employees into mere accessories of the machine.
    Elton Mayo, Australian psychologist and sociologist, describes in his research that employees are more effective when they feel valued and recognized in their work. The effectiveness of an organization is linked to the work collective, to psycho-sociological or affective factors that emerge from a group. By neglecting the human dimension, Taylorism exposes itself to limits.

    1. Taylorism weakened in the 1960s

    Workers (young people in particular) accepted less and less the hardship of factory work, the lack of social recognition, and the lack of professional prospects. The appearance of strikes, and the increase in absenteeism and turnover reflect the refusal of the scientific management of work organization. Company management realizes that the application of these methods can be counter-productive and can be measured in terms of costs: alterations, product returns, etc.

    In the early 1970s, attempts were made to improve working conditions: task rotation, job enrichment, etc., but this “neo-Taylorism” did not fundamentally change the relationship to work.

    2. Taylorism became difficult in the 1980s

    At this time, companies must now adapt to changing, uncertain and internationalized markets. Product quality and diversity are imperative for companies that want to remain competitive. But Taylorism is a rigid system where machines have become central and where it is very expensive to modify an automated chain according to the fluctuations of the markets.

    3. Scientific Management Post-Taylorism

    Taylorism must therefore adapt to the evolution of the market, which has become competitive, competitive and globalized.

    – rotation of positions: the worker occupies different positions in succession to avoid routine and have an overview of the production process.

    – broadening of tasks: tasks are less fragmented, less arduous, and less repetitive.

    – enrichment of tasks: the work extends to other tasks such as the adjustment and maintenance of machines. The worker is responsible.

    – semi-autonomous groups: a few workers organize themselves freely in order to achieve the production target set by management.

    – quality circles: voluntary groups are formed to improve the production process and product quality.


    Scientific Management | Taylorism, Fordism, Toyotism


    Sources: PinterPandai, Indeed, MindTools, The Business Professor

    Photo credit: Geralt / Pixabay