Scientific management is a management concept developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) and presented in his main work of the same name in 1911. Taylor believed that management, work and business could be optimized with a purely scientific approach in order to solve social problems and achieve “prosperity for all”. The essential components are:
- The separation of executive and planning work ( work preparation ),
- Time studies for process improvement and determination of target times,
- Differential wage system,
- Daily workload requirements and
- Function master system.
The scientific organization of work (SOW)
The scientific organization of work (SOW), which had had applications in Europe since the 14th century, was formalised, then disseminated and widely used during the second industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century. As a method of management and organization of production workshops, its principles have been developed and applied industrially by a number of personalities (Pierre-Paul Riquet, Vauban, Frédéric Japy, William Leffingwell, Henri Fayol, Charles de La Poix of Freminville etc). But the best known is Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 – 1915), which explains why the SOW is often equated with Taylorism. As a result, and particularly in the United States, the so-called Fordism movement applied it very widely and contributed to its dissemination.
The SOW leads to an extreme division of labor, the fragmentation of tasks, forcing workers and employees to become mere performers in huge mechanized enterprises. The white-collar profession thus underwent a strong devaluation from the Belle Époque, visible for example among stenographers-typists. A radical separation is thus introduced into the world of work between those who design and those who produce (vertical division of labour). For Taylor and Taylorism, the worker is not there to think, but to execute gestures skilfully calculated for him after having each been timed. He is encouraged to perform by a bonus system. All intellectual work must be removed from the workshop and concentrated in the planning and organizational offices of the enterprise.
With hindsight, a more appropriate term would be “productivist organization of work”, since this goal is to improve productivity, based on so-called “scientific” methods. It has existed since 1854.
According to DHA, scientific management of work is essentially a change in the mindset of both workers and managers. It does not reside in the consensus between employees and employers around a common objective: to increase the added value of the company, which should benefit everyone. For Taylor, this should make it possible to suppress social conflicts. These are in fact due to disagreements on the distribution of the company’s receipts: the workers want to increase the share of wages and the owners the share of profits. If the value added is sufficiently high, it would become “useless to quarrel over its exact mode of distribution”. To achieve this objective, the most efficient manufacturing processes must be scientifically researched.
Term Scientific Management
The term scientific management was not coined by Taylor himself, but by Louis D. Brandeis at a meeting he organized, which was attended by Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Henry Laurence Gantt , among others . Taylor himself was very reluctant to accept the term.
He completely rejected the alternative designation Taylor system and preferred the term process control himself (original: task management). In the end, he agreed with the term scientific management after it was able to gain public acceptance.
Principles of Scientific Management
As a starting point for his analysis, Taylor chose the so-called loafing of workers. The question was how to get the workers to do the full job they couldcould move. He concluded that there was a power struggle between workers and management and that this struggle would be won by the workers as long as they alone knew and controlled the work and management did not know what the actual achievable work output was. Taylor was convinced of the absurdity of such a power struggle and postulated that the achievement of the maximum possible daily output by a worker is not only in the convergent interest of both parties, but even of society as a whole. Therefore, he proceeded from two principles :
- Instead of fighting each other, employees and managers should be aware of their common interests and work together to ensure the best possible well-being for both sides and thus for the company and society.
- Both sides should rely on the new science of scientific management, which impartially and unquestionably determines the requirements and conditions of work.
The aim is “high wages, low production costs” with a workload that enables the worker to perform this service day after day for years without health problems . For this he demanded the application of the following principles:
- A heavy daily workload,
- Equality and regulated working conditions,
- High wages for high work performance
- Loss of wages in the event of underperformance.
For workshops that have already largely successfully introduced his system, a fifth principle should be added, namely: “The daily workload should be so high that it can only be accomplished by a first-class worker”. This principle is already very much based on his methods and instruments .
Basic Principles (Methods)
The methods proposed by Taylor are based on various basic principles (axioms) and only work as long as these principles can be adhered to:
- The external (e.g. suppliers) and internal (e.g. work processes) processes of a company can be calculated and controlled.
- The work can be separated into executive and planning work.
- The workers and machines only fulfill individual functions (specialization) that can be planned and controlled centrally (centralization).
- Using scientific methods, it is possible to determine the best way to carry out a work step.
- The work processes necessary to manufacture a product consist of a specific and definable sequence of execution functions.
- People only work to make money.
In practice, however, these basic principles often cannot be observed. Suppliers can be late and workers can get sick, machines break down or workpieces do not meet the quality requirements and have to be reworked. Due to the high degree of specialization of the work, monotony arises among the workers , which is detrimental to their productivity. As a result, more and more effort is required (with increasing bureaucracy) to maintain the predictability and controllability of the work systems. Reserves must be built to absorb late deliveries, replace sick workers, or broken machines, all of which incur additional costs.
Methods and measures employed by the Scientific Management
- The study of the time factor, as well as the necessary tools and methods; To this end, Methods Offices have been established, one of whose missions is to analyze and evaluate operating times using chrono-analysis and a detailed breakdown of movements (standard time method or MTS, Method Time Measurement or MTM), then the method of instantaneous observations.
- Functional and distributed supervision, and its advantages over the traditional single supervisor system.
- The standardization of tools and their context of use for each trade, as well as the gestures and
- Movements of workers in each trade;
- The creation of a planning department or room;
- The application of the “exception principle” in management;
- Using mathematical rulers and other time-saving tools;
- Preparation of instruction cards for workers;
- The preparation of task descriptions, accompanied by a large bonus for the success of this task;
- The application of differential rates;
- The use of mnemonic systems to list manufactured products as well as tools used in industries;
- The use of routing systems;
- The use of modern cost analysis systems.
Questioning of the Scientific Organization of Work (SOW)
New forms of work organization are developing due to changes in society which highlight the main limits of Taylorism and Fordism… Due to the standardization of products linked to mass consumption, Fordism does not always respond to a more demanding demand, which requires differentiated products. Moreover, if the quantity produced is increased by Fordism, it is not necessarily the same for the quality.
Taiichi Ōno (1912-1990) then developed “toyotism” for Toyota, based on the harmonization of production: improving the productivity of each position is not an end in itself, it is useless for a position produce more if the post before cannot supply the parts and/or the post after cannot absorb the parts. You have to produce what is needed at the right time. The objectives, summarized around the 5 zeros, will tend to reduce costs and improve responsiveness to demand.
Despite the productive organizations subsequent to Ford or Taylor, the organization of work based on the decomposition of tasks and on repetitive tasks has not disappeared. A growing number of employees denounce, for example, the repetitiveness of the tasks they perform, including in the tertiary sector (call centre, fast food, etc.).