Organisational challenges, tasks and decisions are distinguishing the long term direction for:

  1. The companies activity & scope
  2. Advantages
  3. A strategic fit with the business environment
  4. The organisations resource and competence
  5. The values and expectations

As an adapted article from “The Economist Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus, by Tim Hindle in The Economist Magazine suggested that:

Scientific management was the first big management idea to reach a mass audience. It swept through corporate America in the early years of the 20th century, and much management thinking since has been either a reaction to it or a development of it.

The idea was first propounded by Frederick Winslow Taylor, partly in response to a motivational problem, which at the time was called


—the attempt among workers to do the least amount of work in the longest amount of time.

To counter this, Taylor proposed that managers should scientifically measure productivity and set high targets for workers to achieve. This was in contrast to the alternative method, known as initiative and incentive, in which workers were rewarded with higher wages or promotion. Taylor described this method as poisonous.
Scientific management required managers to walk around with stop watches and note pads carrying out time-and-motion studies on workers in different departments. It led to the piece-rate system in which workers were paid for their output, not for their time. Taylor’s first publication, which came out in 1895, was called “A Piece-Rate System”.
He believed that,

The principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity of each employee.

The interests of management, workers and owners were, he maintained, intertwined. He wanted to remove “all possible brain work” from the shop floor, handing all action, as far as possible, over to machines.

In the past, the man has been first; in the future the machine must be first,

he was fond of saying.

He ignited a debate about man versus machine that continued far into the 20th century. The famous book in which he enunciated his theories, The Principles of Scientific Management, had a strong impact on subsequent management thinking.

It influenced such people as Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, American time-and-motion experts; it influenced industrial psychologists, many of whom saw it as an insult to the human spirit and set out to show that allowing free rein to human initiative produced superior results; and it influenced industrialists like the Michelin brothers (of tyre fame).
At the core of scientific management lie four principles:

1. Replace rule-of-thumb methods of doing work with ones based on scientific study of the tasks to be carried out.

2. Select and train individuals for specific tasks.

3. Give individuals clear instructions on what they have to do, then supervise them while they do it.

4. Divide work between managers and workers, so that the managers plan “scientifically” what is to be done, and the workers then do it.
Peter Drucker once wrote that Taylor was,

The first man in history who did not take work for granted, but looked at it and studied it. His approach to work is still the basic foundation.

The trade union movement, however, always hated it. A union officer once said:

No tyrant or slave driver in the ecstasy of his most delirious dream ever sought to place upon abject slaves a condition more repugnant.

There is little space for Taylor’s ideas in today’s world of freewheeling teamwork. But the writings of people such as Michael Porter and Michael Hammer, with their emphasis on breaking business down into measurable (and controllable) activities, hold more than a faint echo of Taylor’s ideas.

It led to the piece-rate system in which workers were paid for their output, not for their time. Taylor’s first publication, which came out in 1895, was called A Piece-Rate System“.


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