Scientific Management

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In the early 1900s, classical organisational theory was often combined with the theory of scientific management. Scientific management is most closely associated with the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor. His 'time-and-motion' studies refined the rules of classical organisation.

Time-and-motion studies

Taylor, an engineer by training, felt that the best way to improve productivity was to improve the physical techniques and methods used by workers. Consequently, he focused on specifics such as efficiency ratings, studies of arm movements and production rates. He believed there was one best way to perform any given task and by performing it in this manner, efficiency would be maximised.

The Manager's Role

Managers' roles under the scientific management theory were similar to their function in classical organisations. The manager was to set up and enforce performance standards based on time-and-motion studies.

These standards were maintained through a system of financial rewards. Taylor viewed money as a prime motivator and believed that, if offered a sufficient amount, workers would choose productivity as a means to financial gain.


As the father of 'time-and-motion studies', Taylor paved the way for efficiency engineers and the scientific approach to manufacturing and production. But his emphasis on the purely physical aspects of jobs and his refusal to examine the psychological and social desires of employees are two of the biggest limitations of scientific management theory. His view of financial motives may have appropriate at the turn of the 20th century when many workers were concerned with the satisfaction of basic physical needs but when income levels increase to satisfy these needs, satisfaction of other needs becomes a higher priority.

Scientific management theory did not deal with psychological and social concerns. The 'one best way', as determined by 'time-and-motion' studies, was often tedious and repetitious, denying workers creativity and challenge. Not surprisingly, workers found such an environment frustrating and unsatisfying and retaliated with unionisation, featherbedding and work slowdowns. The result, of course, was loss of profit.



The Principles of Scientific Management*
by Frederick Winslow Taylor
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2016)

Also see:
Business and Management Books*

* Affiliate links

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