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Briefly explain the main conclusions that can be drawn from Taylor's theory of Scientific Management and critically evaluate the implications for contemporary management practice.
Frederick Taylor was the father of scientific management. The ideas were instrumental in redefining the roles of workers and management, and leading to huge increases in production efficiency. Taylor developed the theory in the early 20th century and the entire concept is based on systems and procedures which still have strong implications especially regarding increase in efficiency and organizing work in systematic ways. The paper will look at the concept of the theory in detail, and evaluate these profound implications for the contemporary management practice.
Frederick Taylor developed the theory of Scientific Management in Midvale Steel Company in Pennsylvania. It is important to understand what Taylor saw at Midvale that aroused his determination to improve efficiency in the plant. At the time, there were no clear concepts of worker and management responsibilities. Virtually no effective work standards existed. Workers purposely worked at a slow pace. Management decisions were of the "seat-of-the-pants" nature, based on hunch and intuition. Workers were placed on jobs with little or no concern for matching their abilities and aptitudes with the tasks they were required to do (Wreg, 1974). Most important, management and workers considered themselves to be in continual conflict. Rather than cooperating to their mutual benefit, they perceived their relationship as a zero-sum game - any gain by one would be at the expense of another (Wilson, 2008).
Taylor sought to create a mental revolution among the workers and management by defining clear guidelines for improving production efficiency.
Taylor defined four principles of management: (1) Develop a science for each element of an individual work, which replaces the old rule-of-thumb method; (2) Scientifically select and then train, teach and develop the worker; (3) Heartily cooperate with the workers so as to ensure that all work is done in accordance with the principles of the science that has been developed (Wreg and Stotka, 1978); (4) Divide work and responsibility almost equally between management and workers. Management takes over all work for which it is better suited than the workers (Daft, 2007).
Taylor argued that following these principles would result in the prosperity of both management and workers. That is, workers would earn more pay and management more profits (Drucker, 2008).
Using scientific management techniques, Taylor was able to define the one best way for doing each job. Taylor could then, after selecting the right people for the job, train them to do it precisely in this one best way. To motivate workers, Taylor favored incentive wage plans. Overall, Taylor achieved consistent improvements in productivity in the range of managers to plan and control and that of workers to perform as they were instructed.
We can not overlook Taylor's work. Taylor gave many public lectures to convey scientific management to interested industrialists. Between 1901 and 1911, at least eighteen firms adopted some variants of scientific management (Drucker, 2008). In 1908, the Harvard Business School declared Taylor's approach the standard for management and adopted it as the core around which courses were to be organized. This gave the U.S. manufacturing companies a competitive advantage over foreign firms that made U.
S. manufacturing efficiency the envy of the world - at least for 50 years or so (Robbins, 2008).
Based on the concept and formulation of the scientific management theory, Taylor's scientific management had three main contributions that basically shaped up the modern business: systematic work, compensation, and personnel selection and training (Locke, 1982).
Taylor brought 'organization' to organizations, whereby each defines its own standard system of operations. The assembly line efficiency is highly based on the notion of systems brought by Taylor, which is still a valuable tool used in many manufacturing companies all around the world. Due to this systemic approach companies were able to shape each job title differently with different duties and schedules and reduced time delays in workers lagging behind schedules. Without a proper standard system, let it be for production operations, human resource management, financial operations, and so on, not only current activities can be organized but forecasting future performance also becomes difficult (Robbins, 2008). Of course, the time Taylor developed the idea, future forecasting was merely based on intuition. Taylor removed the importance of intuition and developed scientific approach to see and view business (Daft, 2007).
During the industrialization, work load was immense and so was the work force, whereby workers were treated no less than peasants or slaves who had to work in troublesome and dangerous work conditions and their pay was highly low. Taylor developed the idea that workers during that time were working because they had to improve their auspicious living conditions and standards and for that they needed money to fulfill their basic requirements which their current pay was not doing (Griffin, 2009). So, Taylor induced the idea of motivating the workers to work more for more pay which worked out tremendously both for the workers and the management. Now, looking at it with a more tuned perspective, workers even today need to be motivated highly to work productivity, the time has changed and so have the needs surely, but the notion remains the same that the workers have to have motivation to work more, thus, having strong implications in the modern business scenarios as well (Locke, 1982).
Finally, "Right people at the right place," is a common practice of today and will always be as duties and tasks can only be fulfilled by those who know how to do them. Taylor got to the bottom of the problem and that was the misplaced workers, he realized the individual standing of each worker, where each had different skills and different suitability in the organization, thus, giving way for the notion of recruitment and selection, without which companies today can head straight for doom, as people make the business not numbers alone (Drucker, 2008).
As much as Taylor reshaped and organized work tremendously which quite a lot of present day implications, there were also quite a lot of his ideas that failed to hold the importance as business approached the modern era. Such were the ideas of uniform work, which disregarded the notion of uncertainly present in the environment strongly affection the straight line graph of productivity (Griffin, 2009). Also the motivation based on pay was highly applicable in the industrialization era but today workers have higher needs, such as esteem, and social belongingness, which brings the idea of social context which as altogether not a part of scientific management.
Although, Taylor took into account the individual skills of each worker, basically regarding them as machines with specific performance attributes, they were primarily mindless and speechless objects in Taylor's research and theory (Schermerhorn, 2007).
The later management studies proved how far an organization can go with consent and consideration of the ideas and voices of the employees, something that was ignored or rather not understood by Taylor at that time. Then, with time, the entire business environment evolves and lot of things change. Some things, such as the need to motivate employees and work organization have remained intact thus far which make the Taylor's contribution a highly important part of modern management.