Management has been a crucial human activity since time immemorial. Ever since human beings began forming social organizations with the aim of accomplishing particular objectives, management has been essential in ensuring the coordination of individual efforts.
As a matter of fact, the society has constantly depended on group efforts, which have increased with time, raising the significance and complexity of managerial work. Several management approaches have come up with the aim of elucidating how supervision should be executed within organizations.
This paper aims at critically analyzing scientific management, shedding light on its principles and characteristics while establishing its level of applicability and inappropriateness in modern management.
Definitions of Scientific Management
The phrase scientific management is coined from two words; scientific and management. The term ‘scientific’ refers to the logical investigative and objective approach whereas ‘management’ refers to the process of ensuring that duties are executed through others.
According to Fredrick Winslow Taylor, scientific management refers to the art of establishing the best and most cost-effective approach of doing things within an organization. It involves deciding what to do and who to do a particular task and the most appropriate way to perform a given task within the organization.
According to him, scientific management refers to the application of scientific practices to management which include; selection, staffing, training, posting the employees and the most cost-effective means of doing a particular task (SWATI, 2011).
As Harlow Person puts it, scientific management typifies a form of arrangement and practice in a purposive and combined effort which is based on the codes or laws that are formulated via the method of scientific analysis, as opposed to using strategies which are formulated in an experimental and informal manner of trial and error method (SWATI, 2011).
Jones argues that, scientific management refers to a set of clearly set regulations that are laid down by those in the managerial positions which should be applied to harmonize an organization in order to realize profound strictness for maximum productivity (SWATI, 2011).
Lioyd, Dodd and zynch posits that, scientific management aims at getting the most out of the systems, employees and resources while influencing productivity with regards to positioning and planning of the employees towards the ultimate to achieve utmost productivity (SWATI, 2011).
According to Peter F. Drucker, scientific management refers to a structured study of work within an organization, the evaluation of the work in its basic form and the logical upgrading of the employees (SWATI, 2011).
Precisely, scientific management, also known as Taylorism is a theory of management that applies the standards and practices of science in management (Hounshell, 1984). It evaluates and produces workflows with an aim of improving economic effectiveness, particularly on labor output. The theory was among the earliest approaches that applied science in the field of management.
It was pioneered by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the early 1890s and was mostly applied in the manufacturing industries. Its influence hit the highest point around1910 after which an epoch of opposition and syncretism with conflicting or complementary thoughts cropped up (Beissinger, 1988).
While scientific management as a distinctive theory had become out-dated by the 1940s, most of its aspects are still used within the industrial sector as well as managerial positions up to date.
Such aspects include evaluation, synthesis, consistence, prudence, work values, competence, eliminating the unnecessary factors of production, consistency of exceptional practices, disregarding of egoistic customs and training of employees (Taylor, 1911).
In his scientific management approach, Taylor held that the managers of his time depended so much on individual ingenuity of employees in order to attain utmost output. However, these expectations were hardly met (Taylor, 1911).
In an attempt to prove that the employees’ productivity is often far much below their capabilities, he suggested that all managers should apply the four principles of scientific management which are as follows.
Outline a ‘science’ in every aspect of an employee’s work, choose the employees in a scientific manner, train and build the employees scientifically and enhance good-natured cooperation between the employees and the managers in order to facilitate effective execution of work (Beissinger, 1988).
Principles of Scientific Management
Science against Rule of Thumb
According to F. Taylor, the rule of thumb was a practice that was commonly used before the coming of scientific management. According to him, the practice was supposed to be substituted with scientific knowledge within organizations. He argued that the practice of the rule of thumb laid more emphasis on sheer guesswork while scientific management entails strictness in formulating and performing all the aspects of a given task.
According to this approach this can only be achieved through the application of meticulous scientific analysis. This involves precision in all the aspects of work such as consistency of work as well as different degrees of payment for a given level of work (Taylor, 1911).
Harmony as Opposed to Discord
Taylor maintained that, organizations should maintain harmony through collective action while discord should be avoided. Harmony ensures that the different groups of people within the organization work as a single unit leading to the accomplishment of an organization’s objectives.
Harmony guarantees utmost understanding of all the stakeholders within an organization enhancing a mutual relationship amongst the members (Taylor, 1911).
Co-operation vs. Individualism
The approach of scientific management necessitates that all the different sections of an organization should combine forces with the aim of increased productivity. As a matter of fact, scientific management is based on reciprocated confidence, teamwork and benevolence.
In order to achieve this, the employees as well as the management need to undergo a complete transformation with regards to their mental outlook. Taylor maintained that suspicion and enmity should be replaced with mutual confidence and friendliness respectively (Taylor, 1911).
Characteristics of Scientific Management
Development of Individual Employees for Competence and Success
For maximum productivity, extra effort should be put in order to enhance the employees’ competence. While recruiting new employees, emphasis should be laid on the type of work and the competence of the employee towards a particular task, after which scientific training follows.
The managers should employ incentive wage plan when dealing with individual employees. A combination of these efforts ensures that the employees attain their highest potential which leads to utmost success to both the individual and the company (Taylor, 1911).
Standardization of Tools and Equipments
According to scientific management, it is crucial to produce standard products and services and also bring about uniformity in the production of high quality goods and services. In fact, standardization should be applied with regards to the cost of production, equipments, tools, materials, duration, conditions and quantity of work (Taylor, 1911).
Scientific Selection and Training of Workers
The approach of scientific management demands that choosing and training employees should be done in a scientific method. This should be done with respect to their academic background, their wellbeing, experience, talents, physical fitness as well as intelligence. Appropriate training should then be offered with the help of qualified personnel with respect to their ability and type of work (Taylor, 1911).
Experimentation and Scientific Investigation
The achievement of scientific management relies heavily upon research and investigation. It entails logical study, surveillance research, experimentation and exploration. In a contemporary organization, the most preeminent and most effective methods of doing work can only be achieved through continuous testing and scientific research (Taylor, 1911).
Incentive Wage System
Taylor supported a wage system that was in form of differential piece wages. This system entailed two different wages where employees who attained a given target within a given time limit were paid their wages at a higher rate per unit while those who could not meet the right standards within a given time limit were paid their wages at a lower rate per unit.
In other words, the incentive wage system entails a substantial disparity in wages between those who are able to achieve or outdo a given target within a given time and those who do not (Hartness, 1912).
Efficient attain system
The approach of scientific management involves caution in determining the total cost of production and also the cost at every level of production. It is based on a cost-effective economy.
While implementing an organization’s objectives, any needless factors of production are done away with in an attempt to achieve maximum production within minimum cost. The approach ensures minimum wastage in all the factors of production (SWATI, 2011).
Scientific Allotment of Task
Scientific management ensures that any task is delegated to the best employee available, depending on one’s ability and professional qualification for the particular task. Indeed, no matter how well an individual is competent, it is extremely difficult to execute all the tasks proficiently.
For this reason, managers should cautiously establish the best individual for every job and the best job for every individual. This is because one is able to execute a given job most proficiently as long as it matches his preference, ability and qualifications (Head, 2005).
Effectiveness of Scientific Management in Business Running
Scientific management can be termed as the most established approach of designing the tasks of employees. The principles of this approach are the foundation of modern industrial and organizational production methods in job planning. These techniques entail making work practices more proficient, establishing the most appropriate means of executing the jobs and aligning the work flows (Noble, 1984).
In addition, several contemporary management terminologies such as quality circles, reengineering, and total quality management can be traced back to scientific management.
Moreover, employee and manager training which is common in modern companies was also an indispensable aspect of the principles of scientific management (Aitken, 1985). As a matter of fact, modern management borrows a lot of concepts from scientific management.
Such concepts include; the use of incentives for excellent performance, planning of jobs with the use of proficient work procedures, choosing of employees depending on their abilities to execute specific tasks, training of employees to improve efficiency in their work and training the managers in order to effectively supervise the workers ( Aitken,1985).
However, its tremendous achievements, Taylor’s scientific management approach failed to solve all the challenges experienced by the managers while supervising the employees as they execute their day to day work. This can be attributed to the intrinsic flaws of scientific management (Drury, 1915).
These flaws include the idea of breaking down work into its basic constituents to achieve the accomplishment of the tasks by the employees as evaluated by the managers as well as the flaw of isolating the planning of work from the execution.
According to some critics, these only made the employees to gain more experience and routine other than knowledge and appreciation. The approach of scientific management has also been criticized for the discrepancy of the workers needs (Drury, 1915).
Such criticisms with regards to Taylor’s approach of scientific management led to the development of other alternatives. This included the modern theories of management such as performance management approach. These theories included job enrichment as well as job enlargement.
Job enrichment incorporates accomplishment, development, and appreciation prospects in the job while Job enlargement merges numerous tasks into a single task providing variety (Mullins, 2004).
In Conclusion it is clear that the principles of scientific management are still applied in modern management. The rise of modern management approaches, and the criticism may not have been directed upon the principles of scientific management, but on scientific management that cropped up in the modern management schools of thoughts.
Research indicates that, contemporary industrial production, quality circles, reengineering schemes, and total quality management innovations depend on workflow knowledge and other practices that mirror the first principle of scientific management.
On the other hand, the modern recruitment system employed by the human resource personnel as well as the selection criteria reflects the second principle of scientific management while training and development of the employees and the managers can be seen in the third principle.
Furthermore, several modern organizations call for mutual cooperation between the employees and the managers, representing the fourth principle of scientific management. For this reason, Taylor is still regarded highly by various management experts to date (SWATI, 2011).
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