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Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management

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Essay title: Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management

Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management

A summary of the work of Frederick Taylor, including the famous time and motion studies and Taylor's principles of scientific management.

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Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management Top

In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor published his work, The Principles of Scientific Management, in which he described how the application of the scientific method to the management of workers greatly could improve productivity. Scientific management methods called for optimizing the way that tasks were performed and simplifying the jobs enough so that workers could be trained to perform their specialized sequence of motions in the one "best" way.

Prior to scientific management, work was performed by skilled craftsmen who had learned their jobs in lengthy apprenticeships. They made their own decisions about how their job was to be performed.

Scientific management took away much of this autonomy and converted skilled crafts into a series of simplified jobs that could be performed by unskilled workers who easily could be trained for the tasks.

Taylor became interested in improving worker productivity early in his career when he observed gross inefficiencies during his contact with steel workers.


Working in the steel industry, Taylor had observed the phenomenon of workers' purposely operating well below their capacity, that is, soldiering. He attributed soldiering to three causes:

The almost universally held belief among workers that if they became more productive, fewer of them would be needed and jobs would be eliminated.

Non-incentive wage systems encourage low productivity if the employee will receive the same pay regardless of how much is produced, assuming the employee can convince the employer that the slow pace really is a good pace for the job. Employees take great care never to work at a good pace for fear that this faster pace would become the new standard. If employees are paid by the quantity they produce, they fear that management will decrease their per-unit pay if the quantity increases.

Workers waste much of their effort by relying on rule-of-thumb methods rather than on optimal work methods that can be determined by scientific study of the task.

To counter soldiering and to improve efficiency, Taylor began to conduct experiments to determine the best level of performance for certain jobs, and what was necessary to acheive this performance.

Time Studies

Taylor argued that even the most basic, mindless tasks could be planned in a way that dramatically would increase productivity, and that scientific management of the work was more effective than the "initiative and incentive" method of motivating workers. The initiative and incentive method offered an incentive to increase productivity but placed the responsibility on the worker to figure out how to do it.

To scientifically determine the optimal way to perform a job, Taylor performed experiments that he called time studies, (also known as time and motion studies). These studies were characterized by the use of

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