Scientific Management

What is scientific management?

Early beginnings

The term was coined in early twentieth century, some say by Frederick Winslow Taylor, reputed to be the Father of Scientific Management, although Lord Kelvin supposedly said “science begins with measurement” thereby possibly setting the scene for the introduction of work measurement somewhat later. However little progress in this direction was made by the early pioneer in the United Kingdom. It was left to the enthusiast Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 to 1915) in the United States to lay the foundations for scientific management.

The “science” element came from Taylor’s work and included four requirements:

  1. All production processes must be analysed into simple elements followed by the methodical elimination of unnecessary activities in the work. The improvements in each job were meticulously recorded.
  2. the timing by stop-watch of all remaining elements of the job as performed by a trained, experienced operator
  3. the establishment of a piecework system, using the results of these times, to reward and penalize the faster and slower workers respectively.
  4. the enforcement of these practices on the workforce.

The first two requirements were developed into what is now called time study.

Further development

During those early days a novel development was financial control as a managerial tool by such pioneers as Garke and Fells (1887), J. Slater Lewis (1896) and much later by Edward Tregaskiss Elbourne in his Factory Administration and Accounts (1914). Elbourne’s book, Fundamentals of Industrial Administration (1934) was revised in 1947 and later in 1960 by Dr. J. Batty with contributions from the author of this present Topic.

The next stage in the development of scientific management was the move away from the piecework and incentive systems by the Human Relations School with Elton Mayo’s Hawthorne Experiments which put forward some revolutionary new ideas on motivating people rather than using the “carrot-and-stick” approach.

This thinking paved the way for the Behavioural Sciences with workers such as Abraham Maslow with his “Hierarchy of Human Needs” and Douglas McGregor’s Theories X and Y. Probably the best known in the field is Prof. Frederick Herzberg who introduced the Hygiene-Motivation Theory.

Other researchers of note adding to the body of knowledge in this field are David McClelland, Chris Argyris and Rensis Likert.

For more about these pioneers see the Topic on “Motivation

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