scientific management

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Source: Stacey, 2000, pp 61-64

Engineers developed scientific management in the early 20th century. The originators are Fredric Taylor (1911) in the United States and Henry Fayol (1916) in Europe. The focus of this approach was on the parts of the overall organization - the jobs and tasks. With the right definition of the tasks and their assignments to jobs, the organization was believed to be able to achieve an optimal efficiency. This can be referred to as part - whole thinking.

Fredrick Taylor's central concern was with the efficient performance of he physical activities required to achieve an organizational purpose. His prescriptions were to provide standardized descriptions of every activity, specify the skills required, define the boundaries around each activity and fit the person to the job requirement. Taylor believed the one best way, the optimal way, could be found for work. He is most remembered for his time and motion studies used to assess and design work. Henri Fayol's focus was on the functions of management that he identified as planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. Controlling is based on process feedback and process adjustment in order to achieve optimal efficiency. To achieve this ultimate efficiency, Taylor emphasized unity of command.

The manager, in the theory of management science, chooses the rules driving the behavior or the organization's members. Rationalist Teleology, pertaining only to the manager, is brought into play, to exercise the freedom of autonomous choice in the act of choosing the goals and designing the rules that the members of the organization are to follow in order to achieve the goals. The system, following secular Natural Law Teleology produces optimal behavior in line with those choices. See teleology and organizational theory for an explanation of basic organization teleologies.

This ""less than fully human"" view of the workers was being challenged mid-century. This added a Human Relations element to scientific management.

Taking scientific management and Human Relations together, we have a theory in which stability is preserved by rules, including motivational rules, that govern the behavior of members of an organization (a mixture of Rationalist Teleology and Natural Law Teleology). Change is brought about by managers when they choose to change the rules, which they should do in a way that respects and motivates others (Rationalist Teleology) so that the designed set of rules will produce optimal outcomes (secular Natural Teleology). Because they are governed by efficient cause, organizations can function like machines to achieve given purposes deliberately chosen by their managers.

Within the terms of this framework, change of a fundamental, radical one cannot be explained. Such change is simply the result of rational choices made by managers and just how such choices are made are not part of what this theory seeks to explain.

Application of scientific management
The result is a powerful way of thinking and managing when --

  • the goals and the tasks are clear,
  • there is not much uncertainty, and
  • people are reasonably docile,
  • but inadequate for other conditions.

Truly novel change and coping with conditions of great uncertainty were simply not part of what scientific management and its Human Relations consort set out to explain or accomplish.

The principles discussed above were developed a long time ago, and they have been subjected to heavy criticism over the years, but they still quite clearly form the basis for much management thinking.

Contribution of scientific management -- (Stacey, 2000, pp 80)

Scientific management greatly enhanced the understanding and practice of efficiency management.

Criticism of scientific management --
The major criticism of management science is that it ignores the importance of interaction between the parts, especially since those parts are human beings. There is an emotional, if not ethical, criticism. The causality is rationalist teleology for the manager and secular natural law teleology for the members of the organization. The members are not understood as human beings with autonomous choice of their own but as rule-following parts making up the whole organization. In its use in scientific management, rationalist causality is stripped of its quality of the unknown, and also of the ethical limits within which action should take place, to provide a reduced rationalist causality. The manager is in the role of scientist, optimizing the organization.