Scientific Management Theory

Fredric W. Taylor (1856-1915) was a mechanical engineer. He joined the Midvale Steel, works as a laborer and rose rapidly to Foreman and later chief engineer. He was afterward employed at Bethlehem Steel, works as a consultant and devoted to the propagation of his idea.

Theoretical View for Scientific Management

To find out the best way of doing things was the essence of the movement knows as scientific management. The central tenets of their approach is that if material rewards are closely related to work effort, the worker will respond with maximum performance if he is physically capable of Taylor essentially paid attention to the physical character of the human body in routine job in using hammer, pick up loads. Eventually Taylor come to view human and machine resources as complementary to one another. Motivation, division of work, responsibility, good salary, time and motion study are the
main contribution of the Taylor.

The following are some typical proposition or statement of scientific management:
  • The two hands should begin and complete their motion simultaneously.
  • Smooth, continuous motion of hands are preferable to zigzags or straight line motion involving sudden and sharp changes in direction.
  • Proper illumination increases productivity.
  • There should be a definite and fixed place for all the tools and materials. (Taylor wanted the worker to be paid weekly if not daily).
Taylor pioneered the scientific method with its emphasis on experimentation, observation, collection of data, classification and analysis and derivation of laws and principles.

Taylor stated the principle object of management is to secure maximum prosperity for the employer as well as to the employee. For the employer maximum prosperity means not just large profits in the short term but the development of all aspects of enterprise to a state of permanent prosperity. Likewise, for the employee, maximum prosperity mean not just immediate higher wages but his development and security for his future so that he may perform efficiently in the higher grade of work for which his natural ability fit him.

What the workmen want from their employer beyond anything else in higher wages and what employers want from their workmen in low labor cost of manufacture. What are the inefficiency or drawback to achieve this common aim of the both? He suggested three causes:

a) The fallacious belief of workers that nay increase in output may cause unemployment to them.
b) The defective system of management, Taylor after serious observation and study of operation of many factories, identified the following defects of management.
  • Management had no clear understanding of worker’s management responsibilities.
  • Lack of effective standard of work.
  • Failure of management to design jobs properly and to offer the proper incentives to worker.
  • Most decisions of the management were unscientific as they were based on hunch (idea not based on evidence), intention and past experience.
  • Placement of worker without consideration of their ability, aptitude (natural ability) and interests.
c) The rule of thumb or effort wasting method to avoid all these weaknesses or drawbacks, Taylor lays down four slogans of management. He says,
  1. Science – Not rule of thumb
  2. Harmony – Not discord (disagreement or quarreling)
  3. Co-operation – Not individualism
  4. Maximum output – In place of restricted output
Besides this, Taylor lays down four principles of management:

1. The development of true science of work
When science is viewed as an ‘organized knowledge’, every act of a work men can be reduced to a size in the interest of the worker and management. It is necessary to know as to what constitutes a fair day’s work. It saves the worker from the unnecessary criticism of the boss, and enables the management to get the maximum work from the worker. This needs a scientific investigation of ‘a large daily task’ to be done by qualified workers under optimum (most favorable) condition. Such development of science of work enables the organization to produce more; enables the worker to receive higher wages and much larger profit to the company.

2. The scientific selection and progressive development of the workmen
To ensure the effective performance of the scientifically developed work, there is also need to select the worker scientifically possessing physical and intellectual qualities. This need a deliberate study of the aptitude, nature and performance of the worker and finding out what possibilities and limitation one has for future development. Taylor believed that every worker has potentialities for development. He insisted that every worker must be systematically and thoroughly trained. He felt that it is the responsibility of the management to develop the worker offering him opportunities for advancement to do the job to the fullest realization of his natural abilities. Employees accept the new methods, tools and conditions willingly and enthusiastically in learning to do a good job for a high rate of pay.

3. The bringing together of the science of work and the scientifically selected and trained men
To enable the workers to do his job and to ensure that he may not slip back to the early methods of doing works, there must be somebody to inspire the workers. Taylor felt it as the exclusive responsibility of the management. He believes that workers are always willing to co-operate with the management, but there is more opposition from the side of management. Taylor maintained that this is process of bringing together causes the mental revolution.

4. The division of work and responsibility between management and workers
In the traditional management theory, the worker bares the entire responsibilities. But Taylor’s scientific management assumes the equal responsibility between management and worker. The manager unlike in the part, is equally busy as the worker. This division of work creates between them as understanding and mutual dependencies. This led to the constant and intimate cooperation between them. All this results in elimination of conflicts and strikes.

After the use of scientific management principles the following result appeared;

30 percent production roses
50 percent labor force decreased, and
60% percent income increases.

Criticism or intellectual exercise (Art of making judgment on literature)

  1. The trade union were against the modern methods of increasing outputs. The labor leader considered Taylorism as not only destroying trade unionism but also destroying the principle of collective bargaining and creating employment.
  2. Taylorism was also often attacked by the mangers. Those who wanted quick promotion to the high managerial position without any merit based on higher education opposed Taylor’s stand, which advocated tanning by highly trained experts. Taylor had to resign from both Midvale Steel works and Bethlehem Steel because of friction with the company managers.
  3. Among others who criticized Taylor include Oliver Sheldon, Miss Marry Parker Follett, Elton Mayo, Peter Drucker and others. They changed that Taylor’s scientific management was mechanical, impersonal and under emphasized the human factor.
  4. Behaviorist charged that Taylor’s method of scientific management sacrifices the initiatives of the worker, his individual freedom and the use of his intelligence and responsibility. 
  5. Herbert A. Simon and March have described the scientific management as the physiological organist theory.


Despite the limitations concerning an adequate understanding of human psychology, sociology and anatomy of work – Taylor’s work remains supremely important. By all accounts Taylor must be regarded as a pioneer in the study of human beings at work. He was the first person to initiate the quest (search or trying to find) for better performance at work.

Scientific management had a tremendous effect on industrial practice in the USA. It even spread to Germany, England, France, USSR and other European countries. Taylor’s principles were included in the curriculum of the education and training of the engineers in Russia.

Taylor, in brief, combined theory and practice, thought and experiment and doing and teaching all in the one person and in one life. This movement had a major influence on the growing reform and economy movements in Public Administration.

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