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The influence of the theory of scientific management in the design of the modern organisation
The question of better ways to utilise organisational resources in an efficient and effective manner has triggered a research by professionals from different field of studies, and have arguably answer these question with their theories. One of the remarkable individual that came up with a solution in answering the question was Frederick Winslow Taylor a mechanical engineer born in America (1856-1915). Taylor looked for ways to minimize the time employee spent on every part of production process to effectively change the way works are been carried out. Scientific methods were to be adopted as a means of achieving this instead of the usual traditional ways, ‘rule of thumb’(Combe, 2014,). He identified some rules through which resourcefulness could be achieved. These are:
Use of scientific methods to determine the ‘one best way’ to undertake a specific task, employing the right candidate to undertake the task, train the right candidate to follow defined procedures, financially reward the employee and finally charged the managers with the responsibility of planning, organising and problem-solving instead of the employees(Boddy, 2016,p.47).
These set of principles are what scientific management are based on and it was highly adopted in large production industries between nineteenth, twentieth and even twenty-first century that saw a need for a change in production process in order to meet up the high demand of products(Boddy, 2016,). Scientific management, also known as (Taylorism) improved production output, standardise job routine, lower the cost of production and cut down time in production processes(Combe, 2014). However, it has its flaws which pose serious threat to other organisation resources and will be discuss later on. It still play a major part in some of the twenty-first century organisations/companies, such as Foxconn in China(Combe, 2014).
Origins of scientific management
Taylor was a mechanical engineer he briefly practiced it before working as a shop-floor worker in the Midvale Steel Company where he acquired lots of experience that led to the idea of scientific management(Cole and Kelly, 2011). He rose as a manager at Midvale Steel Company, that gave him more experience on how to accomplish his idea on scientific management and later left them for Bethlehem Steel Company, where he worked as a consultant and carried out his experiments in improving workers productivity(Cole and Kelly, 2011). He closely monitor the work of individual machine workers to identify the particular method they carried out their tasks; he pinpointed each step of the task and measured everything measurable(Donnelly et al., 1998). His aim was to provide the machine operator with a standardised way of carrying out their task, which arguable will save time, improve production out-put and eliminate the traditional guess-work method of executing task in an industry.
He related his idea by identifying five essential principles that form the foundation of scientific management. Firstly, the use of scientific methods to determine the “one best way” to do a job(Taylor, 2014). he searched for an alternative to replace the traditional method of “rule of thumb” that were widely practiced by managements and workers, whereby workers used guess-work or their intuition to carrying out their daily task. He used time and motion to determine how a specific task should be carried out and argued that duties would be done quickly if only employees knew a correct method to use(Combe, 2014). “The work of every workman is fully planned out by the management at least one day in advance, and each man receives in most cases complete written instructions, describing in detail the task which he is to accomplish, as well as the means to be used in doing the work “(Boddy, 2016). Secondly, after identifying the one best way to complete a task there is a need to select the best individual with a physical and mental capability to do the work. Thirdly, a training session was provided for the capable employees to teach them the precise method to use in completing their daily task. The fourth principle involved the use of monetary incentive to drive employees into sticking to the defined method of completing a task. The fifth and final principle argued that some activities such as; planning, organising, critical thinking should be the concern of managers and not employees’ thus, shifting these responsibilities from workers to managers.
Advantages and disadvantages of Taylorism and its impact on the 21th centaury organisations
Henry Ford were among the earliest people that used Taylor’s scientific management method in his production industry. He owns a car manufacturing company that deals with different aspect of assembling a car, before the initiation of scientific management methods, it normally takes 12hours to assemble a complete car and after the application of scientific management principles it took 93minus to complete a car assembly. He achieved these through the establishment of moving conveyor belts in his factory which controls the pace of work, instead of employees moving on their own pace, also determine the most effective way to divide task to suit the needs of a programmed production method(Meyer et al., 2007). Although, the system helped in doubling up production output, resources was utilise to it maximum, profit increased tremendously and employees were financially rewarded according to the rate of their performance, but it totally ignore the human resource aspect of the production process, employees’ social well-being were ignored by management and workers were seen as common machines in the workplace. Employees became tired of repeating the same task over and over and as a result; ‘there was a high rate of worker turnover, increasing amounts of sick leave and absenteeism’(Combe, 2014).
According to Mayo (Hawthorne studies), he argued that money wasn’t the only thing that motivate employees to improve their performance, his methodology recognise the significance of human resource as the key factor of production process, sees people as individual that loves to work in teams/groups, socialise and have an opinion in the decision-making in the organisation(Pyöriä, 2005). Another theorist named Mary P. Follett also argued that Taylorism ‘took little account of individual differences and ignored the human side of the organisation’(Meyer et al., 2007, p.46). Meanwhile, Ford company continued expanding a cross major countries in the world, still looking for a way to cut down costs of production by investing into cutting-edge technologies that helps in fastening production processes, workers are trained on how to use these technologies in today’s modern assembly line (“Innovation,” n.d.).
Another, 21st century organisation that has successfully implemented scientific management principle in their production process is a Chinese-based company Foxconn. Foxconn is a big organisation with thousands of employees that engaged in activity of assembling computer components and other electronics, assembly line are been deployed and tasks are broken into smaller units for workers to follow a prescribed method, employees are monitored and controlled by line managers that makes all decisions and maintain order in the assembly line, most workers in the production line are very young due to the physical demand of the tasks and new employees are trained to follow a prescribed method to carry out their task in good time(Combe, 2014). The deployed system helped the firm to potentially meet up with high demands thereby increasing production output, lower the cost of production, increased revenue, and productions are processed in good time and high quality(Combe, 2014).
But, it has its flaws that totally neglects its employees’ well-being. The way employees are being managed and controlled by their line manager who constantly put heat on them, making working condition unbearable, this led some of the workers into depression and some of them suicidal (Merchant, 2017). Despite the increase of wages by management, suicide was still at its increase at the firm. Maslow argued that people as individuals have different kinds of needs and as such should be recognised by management (Pate, 1987). Management at Foxconn, should therefore pay attention to workers’ needs and try to improve the working conditions in the factory while practising scientific management approach. The issue of suicide by employees should potentially reduce while maximum production output should still be maintained.
It could be said that some elements of scientific management principles are still relevant in today’s modern organisations and some companies still use it in its full context to achieve their organisational goals, the likes of Foxconn in China. However, some have modified it to suit the modern term management practises, the likes of Ford motor company that still engage in assembly line for more than 100years.
Though majority of modern organisations were been shaped by scientific management theories in terms of planning and organising their work, training and selection of new employees, and ways of rewarding workers of their efforts towards achievement of organisational goals through bonuses and loyalties. Its human negligent that was identified and criticised by some theorists like Mayo and Follett makes the modern organisation flexible and social, with more organisations striving to create more interactive environment for their workers. Stalker suggests that successful companies are those that have the ability to balance the unwritten needs of their employee’s with the needs of the company, such companies use a simple formula of caring, communicating, listening , knowing and rewarding’(Mullins, 2007, p.15).
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