What is Scientific Management?
Scientific management is a management theory that focuses on how the productivity of labour can be improved by analyzing and synthesizing the workflow. The Importance here is given to the careful analysis of tasks, selection criteria, and compensating/rewarding the performance of the workers. Worker efficiency is maximized by training and developing him to be the best he can be. The theory was developed in the 1880s and 1890s by Frederick Winslow Taylor. It is therefore often referred to as Taylorism in his honour.
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About the Approach
Taylor approached business management and the improvement of processes in a scientific manner.
According to Taylor, a working individual needs to be carefully studied and based on the findings, precise procedures should be developed. Such procedures should then be the basis on which decisions are taken rather than by depending on traditional ideas and rules of thumb. This approach also gave more importance to a higher level of managerial control over the work practices of employees.
Scientific management includes multiple other concepts like lean manufacturing, Fordism, time and motion study, and the use of thriftiness.
Highlights of the Approach
In this approach, each job is first analyzed and a standard method for performing each job is developed. In the next stage, workers with the right aptitude, technical competence and experience for each job are selected and trained on the standard procedure developed for that particular job. When the workers are on the job, help is provided by planning their activities and by eliminating any interruptions. Finally, workers are incentivized for output increases.
This approach uses mass-production methods where labour is clearly defined and official responsibility is given. The hierarchical setup of power draws a clear line between management and company ownership. Here the rules are set in place to ensure predictable behaviour and every action/decision is recorded.
Through observations, Taylor identified that when workers engage in repeated tasks for the same amount of money; they are most likely to do that task at the slowest rate that does not attract punishments. He, therefore, opined that existing work practices must be inefficient. Therefore, to increase productivity, it was important that the best method to complete the task be identified using scientific study. Taylor also introduced the concept of offering rest breaks to help overcome worker fatigue and to improve productivity.
Role of the Managers
Managers should equally distribute responsibility with the worker. Additionally, they should help and guide the workers under them to help them do their work quicker and better than before. The aim here is to develop a relationship between managers and workers that is close, intimate and personal. Such an equal effort from both sides, it is hoped will lead to maximum output from both man and machine.
- Assembly lines – Eg. Car manufacturing.
- Fast-food Restaurants – Eg. Mc Donalds where every burger prepared in outlets across the world look the same.
- Armies – Follow most principles except wage incentives.
- It is a scientific approach to business management.
- Importance is given to accurate record keeping.
- The approach focused on ‘maximum prosperity for both employer and employee.’ Maximum prosperity for the worker referred to higher wages for him as well as developing him to reach his highest potential. For the employer, maximum prosperity referred to large dividends, as well as to the development of all company branches – to reach the highest levels of excellence so that prosperity could become permanent.
- Taylor is credited with inspiring the culture where time, order, efficiency and productivity is given importance – At times by even measures tasks to the hundredth of a minute to improve efficiency.
- Taylorism is viewed as an approach that results in the de-skilling of workers and dehumanizing of the workplace.
- The approach can lead to work becoming menial, tedious or repetitive.