Scientific Management: F W Taylor
Frederick Winslow Taylor is widely regarded as the father of scientific management. He was born on March 20, 1865 in Philadelphia to a well-off Quaker family who taught him the virtues of hard work and self-control. Even during his adolescence, Frederick was constantly counting and measuring things and looking for ways to improve how things worked. Excluded from Harvard where he wanted to study law, Taylor went to work as an apprentice at a hydraulic works plant in Philadelphia and then as an unskilled labourer at the Midvale Steel Company where he quickly rose through the ranks to become chief engineer. He earned an engineering degree while holding down these jobs, a rare event for those days. But it was his introduction of new scientifically-based practices that revolutionised the way he and eventually the whole world of management looked at work.
F W Taylor: the Secret to Productivity
While he was working at Midvale, Tayor closely watched how work was done. These were times of great industrial expansion in America where most enterprises were run by wealthy owners of capital who had little understanding of how to manage and motivate their workers other than through giving or withdrawing incentives. Taylor realised that the secret to productivity lay in measuring both work and people. First jobs had to be studied to find the optimum methods. Then the best tools for the job had to be found or made. Next, work had to be controlled and measured by those in charge. And finally the right people had to be put into the right job and rewarded accordingly. At the age of 35, Tayor became an engineering consultant and went to work at the Bethlehem Steel Company. Here he was able to introduce a time-and-motion system with cost accounting methods and daily output quotas that would show how his ideas worked. As a result, within a short space of time, production doubled and costs fell dramatically. But Taylor also made many enemies.
F W Taylor: the Cornerstones of Management
At the Bethlehem Steel plant, Taylor had proved the validity of the scientific management approach but he had also reduced the number of workers and changed the way lower management worked. In May 1901 he was fired. He never worked for money again and spent his later years giving talks and writing down his ideas into the work by which he is most known, "The Principles of Management", published in 1911. In this book, he laid down the core values of scientific management including the rule of reason, the need for management-worker co-operation, clear tasks and goals, the careful selection and training of people, and the importance of review. Extraordinarily, all of these principles are still cornerstones of the way people manage today, whether they adhere to the principles of scientific management or not.
Taylor died from influenza while on a speaking tour of the Midwest. His principles soon became the standard approach to management adopted everywhere in the world. Even today, 100 years on from "The Principles of Management", it is Taylor's basic approach that is still the model that exists in most manufacturing plants. And that is his lasting legacy.
More Information on F W Taylor
An excellent, though critical, youtube video on how Henry Ford adopted F W Taylor's theories.
Click here to read Taylor's 1911 work, "The Principles of Scientific Management".
Read a fascinating biography of F W Taylor here.