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Frederick Taylor Scientific Management

September 12, 2019


(soft music) – [Narrator] Frederick
Taylor is a founding father of organizational studies. His scientific management approach has surely touched many aspects
of your professional life, as you will see. He was a mechanical engineer
and a management consultant. That meant that he was an outside person that would come into organizations to try to help them make things better. Factories at the time were
springing up everywhere and standardized ways didn’t yet exist to manage large groups of people and handle increasingly complex work. So Taylor saw this need
and he wanted to step in and make organizations more standardized, efficient and productive by studying their work processes closely. Scientific management is the term he used. He did a lot of studies
and wrote books about it. This basically meant
applying science to work. Studying tasks carefully, systematically, at the micro level to speed up work. He wanted to break away from
the common sense rules of thumb that he saw as unproven and inefficient. So workers had their own
self-styled ways of doing things that they would pass around and he said, “Hey, there’s
really no way to know “if this is the best way to
do things so let’s study it.” Scientific management’s
also known as Taylorism, which of course is named after him. Division of labor is a
practice that he believed in. He wanted to divide work process into very small, simple,
and separate steps. Division of labor. And that meant instead
of doing a whole project where you did it from beginning to end, you would only do one or two little steps and then the next task was
performed by the next person. So this is a very different
way to do work at the time. He wanted to determine the
one best way, a standard, to do every part, every
task, to boost productivity. That’s what he’s really known for, looking for that one best
way to solve the riddle. He also believed in hierarchy. He wanted a clear chain of command that separated all the employees at the bottom of the organization from all the managerial
people toward the top. And the reason he wanted to do this was that he wanted the managers
to design the work process and enforce how that work was performed. Employees, as a result,
would just follow directions. They just became doers and the managers were then the thinkers. He believed in selection and
training and compensation in a way that was a little
different at the time. He wanted to select and train
high-performing workers, or what he called first-class employees, and then match them to a job
that was best suited for them. He saw this as the ideal. And he believed that the
most productive workers should be paid more. He thought, on average, that most employees were
not very hard workers and he didn’t have a very
high opinion of employees, and he wanted to get rid of those people and if they couldn’t
meet the higher standard he would fire them and only
the good people would be left. His method was called
time and motion studies. That meant he wanted to figure out the least amount of time, on average, it took to perform each task and even each part of each task. He really broke it down. What were the fewest
number of motions required for each small task? He wanted employees to basically work like they were machines. As I mentioned, he was
a mechanical engineer by training and background, and so that’s what they do,
they design and build machines. And he wanted people to act like that. His shovel experiments
were a great example of the time and motion study. The idea here is he said,
“Hey, you know what? “Instead of just using whatever shovel, “why don’t we figure out
the exact amount of poundage “a shovel should hold to
make work the fastest?” So he did experiments
where he took 10 guys and he lined them up and gave them all a pile of sand or coal. And he said, “I want you
to take this shovel,” which held about 26 pounds, “and move your piles from
here, at about 10 feet, “over to there.” And so they worked at it all day and he kept track of everything with a clipboard and a timer, and at the end of the day they went home. And then overnight he cut
off a little piece of metal off of each shovel so that it was about a pound lighter. In other words, it held about
a pound less of coal or sand. And then they came back the next morning and he told the workers, “Okay, remember those
piles that you moved? “Now I want you to move ’em back “to where they were in the first place.” Which was probably a little
frustrating for the employees but they were getting
paid and so they did it. And he did this every night and kept taking a little
bit off of the shovel until he saw the number peak. And every time he took a little bit off, the numbers went up. Then he noticed that he kept taking more
and more off the shovel and then the numbers started to go down. They were actually finishing their piles later in the day each day on average. And so he said, “Oh, maybe
we’ve passed the midpoint.” So he went back to slightly
larger shovels and, sure enough, the numbers went in the
right direction again. And he settled on 21.5 pounds, that was the perfect
amount of sand or coal that you should fit in a shovel to move the most amount in a given day. So that amount meant you
could move it faster, ’cause it was a little lighter, and it also meant that you
could take fewer trips. So if you were using
a really small shovel, you’d have to use more motions,
more trips to the pile. So he figured out the ideal
amount of time and motion for shoveling. That’s why, by the way, if you
go into any hardware store, you’re gonna see all kinds
of different shovels, shapes and sizes, and this is all influenced
by Frederick Taylor, his experiments, and his thinking, certainly by extension after that. But it’s not just shovels,
you see this everywhere. Today, in fact, if you go to
a sub shop and order a sub, at the end of the line
they’re gonna ask you if you want anything on it, like mustard, and they pick up their dispenser and they do about three swipes across to put that mustard on. Then they kinda look up at
you like, “Is that enough?” And you decide whether or
not you want more on there. There’s a competitor, however, that has a nozzle with three spouts on it. And that means that they do one squeeze, one motion across, and now the mustard or
the ketchup is done. So they’re saving two motions, they’re saving just a couple seconds on that one little step, but they’re able to make
that sub a little faster. Now, if you break down the
process of making a sub into 20 or 30 steps and you figure out a way to speed up each of those tiny little steps, how to cut the bread,
how to put the meat on, how to put the lettuce on,
how to cook it, et cetera, now you can crank out
more sandwiches per hour with fewer employees, more
sandwiches per day total, and you’re making your company more money. And it’s just not subs. If you go into just about
any fast food restaurant, especially the franchises, you’re gonna see that
they have figured out a very quick method, the one best way, to make almost every
single product they make. If you’re making one burger
versus two burgers, for example, you don’t make it the same way. You have to increase your productivity. So you see this just about everywhere. The guy who took this to the
next level was Henry Ford. Of course, he’s the founder
of the Ford Motor Company that’s still in existence
today, still thriving today. When he first started making cars, the car stayed in one place. And they did a little bit of
time and motion studies on it but it still took them about 12 hours to make a car from start to finish. The workers were all
working around the car. And then he said, “Hey,
let’s really go crazy “with the time and motion studies.” And then he said, “Let’s
also make an assembly line.” He didn’t invent the
assembly line, as they say, but he did perfect it. And so they just kept studying the process as much as they could, and they took a car from 12 hours, which is what it took to
make it at the beginning, all the way down to 93 minutes. They got it just right. They say at its fastest, there was a new car rolling off the end of that assembly line every 11 seconds. It’s just incredible. Boeing recently changed over
the way they made their 737s. They actually used to
make it in once place, like they originally did with the cars. And then they moved it into
more assembly-line style, which they called a lean production, where the plane rolls along with all the tools and
even the workers inside, just a few feet an hour, until it’s done. And from start to finish, they were able to almost
triple their production rate. That’s a lot of savings for the company and a lot of savings for the client. The outcomes of Taylor’s work are mixed. On the plus side, he absolutely helped
people boost productivity by 200 even 400% or more in some cases, so that’s a big win. More work accomplished with fewer people meant more profit for the companies and a more consistent product
of arguably higher quality. So let’s say if you break
something on your car, you can get an exact duplicate
that fits in perfectly, you don’t have to have a handmade piece which would be incredibly expensive and not necessarily higher quality. On the other side of the coin, there are some outcomes
that were not so great. Companies often fail
to pay employees more. This is an essential
part of Taylor’s advice, you have to pay people more because you want to hang
on to the best people and you want to keep them motivated. And he recommended they do this. Ford took that advice and he paid people double
the going rate at the time, which is one of the key reasons that Ford had such great
people and thrived. Most companies, however, did not do that. Managers think, employers do was a philosophy that became normal. Separated workers from the
greater meaning of work. So, if they’re only tightening
a bolt to a painting, a screw, then they’re not really connected to that broader satisfaction of making the whole product anymore. It deskilled employees,
it made theme expendable. You could find and replace
somebody in just a few moments, you didn’t really have
a lot of skill or time invested in each person. Survival of the fittest
philosophy really took over. That harsh atmosphere resulted where it was a very cruel
and unfeeling atmosphere. Employee burnout, that dehumanization of
being treated like a machine and the mental anguish that came along with this mundane and repetitive work were all part of this experience. So, Frederick Taylor, one of the founding fathers
of organizational studies, has clearly influenced many
aspects of our work today and that’s why we study him.

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