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Over the past decades, there have been a number of controversies concerning whether Taylorism, dating back to 19th century, still can be found in modern organizations. Although Song (2010) has pointed out that the old method might not be suitable for tackling new problems and old organization culture might not be appropriate for new organizational development and context either, this essay would argue that the significant factors of Taylorism are still widely used and implemented in current organizations in terms of management. In this essay, firstly, it is necessary to give an introduction to Taylor's principles of scientific management and the interpretation of it. Then, the examination of the application of Taylorism in McDonald's will reveal the extent to which Taylorism is employed in the management of modern organizations and how it is applied. Last but not the least, this essay will claim that there are several limitations related to the application of Taylorism in current organizational context, which should be aware of.
Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915), commonly accepted to be the father of scientific management (also called Taylorism), was an American mechanical engineer and later became a management consultant, specializing in industry efficiency and worker productivity. Taylor wrote two important books, first is Shop Management in 1903 and second is The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911.
According to Taylor (1967), the main elements of the scientific management are: "time study", functional or specialized supervision, standardization of tools and implements, standardization of work methods, separate planning function, management by "exception principle", the use of "slide-rules and similar time-saving implements", "instruction cards for workmen", task allocation and large bonus for successful performance, the use of the "differential rate", "mnemonic systems" for classifying products and implements, a "routing system", a "modern costing system etc. etc." Taylor calls these elements "merely the elements or details of the mechanisms of management". He regards them as extensions of the four principles of management, which can be summarized as, the development of a true science, the scientific selection of the workman, the scientific education and development of the workman, intimate and friendly cooperation between the management and the men. Taylor, in addition, contends that the success of these principles required "a complete mental revolution" on the part of management and labor. Rather than quarrel over profits, both sides should try to increase production. By so doing, he believes profits would rise to such an extent that labor and management would no longer have to fight over them. In short, Taylor believes that management and labor had a common interest in increasing productivity.
The assertion that scientific management can be described as "an approach within classical management theory that emphasizes the scientific study of work methods in order to improve worker efficiency" (Bartol & Martin, 1998) clearly points out the prime goal of Taylorism. In line with Daft & Samson (2005), scientific management can be interpreted by that every human being is the same, thus expectation from each individual is the same and continuous. In other words, human is equivalent to machine, in the sense that human is expected to produce the same quantity and quality within a certain period of time. Standardization is necessary in production and all activities in the company. Reward is given according to performance and productivity. The more productive a worker is the better or higher reward the worker will get. Regulation is the only correct rule and the employees or workers cannot have their own opinion, or they have no opportunities to say. There is only one best way in doing things. Recruitment of staff should be done in a very selective manner, choosing people that have the same view with management, the necessary characteristics that are aligned with corporate mission and vision. Workers should be trained with a standard method. Division of work and job description must be clear and not overlapping. Scientific management focused more on productivity in a more tangible way, as it views things in a rather short-term focus.
The archetypical example of McDonald's success by adapting Taylorism explained by Morgan (2006) provides a basis for examining whether there are aspects of scientific management being used and if they are influential to management or not. The following essay will discuss in which aspects McDonald's employs Taylorism.
Above all, the description that the basic McDonald's approach is based the restaurant on the principles of high speed, large volume, and low price (Ritzer, 2007), is clearly consistent with the initial goal of Taylorism, which is maximum output, in place of restricted output (Taylor, 1967).
As has been noted, the first principle of Taylorism is the development of a true science. In order to apply this principle, Taylor has developed a variety of techniques including subdivision of labor, time-motion study and standardization (Taylor, 1967) which can be easily found in the management of McDonald's. The method of creating hamburger is a reflection of division of labor. Specifically, they simplify the job by firstly grilling the burger, putting in lettuce and tomatoes, adding sauce, putting onto rolls and then wrapping it up (Ritzer, 2007). As you can see that this is a break down of the job and by having individuals do each task, it not only improves efficiency but also creates specialized personnel. Other aspects such as cooking times, drinks dispensers, French fries machines, and programmed cash registers (Morgan, 2006) are all methods that are used to limit time that is needed to complete the task. All these methods show the application of Taylor's techniques of time-motion study and standardization. In addition, within this restaurant chain, uniformity is completely same. No matter what country you are in every branch of McDonald's, the methods used to prepare food, clean floors, promote staff and lock up on closing are consistent with the manuals. It is this ability to efficiently supply standard food and service throughout the world that has allowed McDonalds to "built a solid reputation for excellent performance in the fast-food industry" (Morgan, 2006).
The second principle of Taylorism is selecting workers with appropriate abilities for each job. Through planning, Taylor suggests that all preparation and servicing task should be performed by unskilled worker rather than skilled one. He also believes that the concept of proper task allocation allows workers to produce optimum solutions to the task (Taylor, 1967). This similar idea, although not exactly the same due to time changes and employees rights, can be seen in Macdonald's again when workers are hired for their previous cashier experience rather than their cleaning experience for a job at the counter of McDonald's. Thus, in the lunch rush hour, the cashiers hired can do a more efficient job as compared to a person hired with a cleaning experience job instead. Furthermore, if they have more talent in a counter job after some experience they would be placed at the cashier since their proficiency would benefit the organization in terms of the increase of productivity.
The third principle, which means management should be responsible for providing and overseeing their training, is also embraced by McDonald's. The depiction that "the firm actually has its own 'Hamburger U' for teaching this science to its managers, and has a detailed operating manual to guide franchisees in the daily operation of the McDonald's system" presented by Morgan (2006) implies McDonald's not only pays much attention to training but also has its precise training system to control the training process.
In terms of incentive, Taylor believes that managers should provide workers with their special incentives to obtain their best effort or initiative. The reason is that workers believe "it to be directly against their interests to give their employers their best initiative" (Taylor, 1967). This method of special incentive system can be seen in McDonald's though the Target Incentive Plan (TIP) which links employee performance with the performance of the business they support. TIP pays a bonus on top of employees' base salaries based on business performance and their individual performance. (Macdonald's Cooperation, 2006). This incentive pay provides employees with the opportunity to earn bonus incentives when their performance meets and exceeds goals. Indeed, McDonald's has a variety of incentive methods, such as the President's award, the Circle of Excellence Award and long term incentives (Macdonald's Cooperation, 2006) and all these special bonus incentives will help motivate them to increase efficiency and thus productivity, which will be beneficial for the organization. Regarding the Taylorism, we should admit that piece-rate pay is not applied in McDonald's, but the "differential rate" is still extensively implemented.
It is safe to assert that McDonald's is an organization employing scientific management in production and management successfully even though there is slight variation to it, which reveals strong evidence that scientific management is still being used in modern practices influentially. Although we have gained numerous advantages from applying Taylorism, which can be glimpsed by the success of McDonald's, we should be aware of the limitations involved in the application of Taylorim in modern world since the increasing pace of social and cultural change.
Building on the Ritzer's (2007) statement, this essay would present the first limitation of application in modern practices which is that Taylorism produces a "dehumanizing system". This statement is also recited by Morgan (2006). As jobs are broken down into their constituent elements, and workers' tasks are made easier, human beings become little more than machines in the chain in order to pursue the biggest efficiency and productivity. In contrast, by attending to a tightly organized structure of rational authority, managers leave no opportunity to consider the motivations of workers in terms of social and psychological needs, which leads to negative consequences to both employees and managers.
According to Maslow's (1943) theory of hierarchy of needs, human's motivations move through by satisfactions of needs of physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem and self-actualization. In today's society, the average intelligence of employees has sharply risen, people have become aware of their value as human beings. People are no longer content to receive only fiscal reward for their tasks. However, under Taylorism, workers were viewed as working solely for economic reward, which goes against Maslow's theory of hierarchy since Maslow asserts that when people get enough money for the needs of physiological and safety, their motivations will level up. Another aspect can be explained by Maslow's theory of hierarch is that workers under scientific management are unable to make decisions, give suggestions or to take up challenging jobs, workers tend to feel bored, demoralised and demotivated at work (Anne & James 2010). Specifically, the reason of this is that manager ignores the workers' needs of esteem and self-actualization, which means employees want to contribute more to their company, not only in production but also in decision making, innovation, and etc. and they should be given chance to do so.
Morgan's (2006) argument that scientific management draws back the organization's step of adapting to changing circumstances provides the second limitation of application in modern world. He claims that flexibility and capacities for creative action become more important than narrow efficiency since changing circumstances call for different kinds of actions and responses. However, standardized procedures and channels of communication are often unable to deal effectively with new circumstances ¼ˆMorgan, 2006¼‰. More specifically, because of the highly organized hierarchy, information are transferred in the organization slowly but get distorted easily. Therefore, it may be too late for the person who has power to make a decision concerning the change gets the information finally. Another reason that results in difficulty of achieving effective responses is high degree of specialization¼ˆMorgan, 2006¼‰. Although Morgan (2006) asserts that specialization would lead to poor interdepartmental communications, coordination and overall view, this essay would argue that it could also result in resistance to change. For example, the changes of consumers' demands will pose a problem for managers in this kind of situation.
The third limitation could be that Taylorism system wastes human's advanced skills and initiative, which restricts the innovation of organizations. Weymes's(2004) argument that the innovation and suggestion from the employees, which are necessary for modern realities to keep growing, are not encouraged by Taylorism highlights this limitation. Similar statement is presented by Morgan (2006) that the system tends to limit rather than mobilize the development of human capacities, molding human beings to fit the requirements of organization rather than building the organization around their strengths and potentials. By contrast, Ritzer(2007) claims that most skills and abilities of workers remain unused since they do only one or a few tasks. Overall, individuals who have advanced skills are limited to highly simplified tasks, which can be treated as a kind of waste. Furthermore, just because not fully takes advantages of human's creativities and intelligence, organizations hardly find a way to innovation.
In conclusion, I have argued that there are numerous major factors of Taylorism that are currently being successfully implemented in the 21st century by analyzing McDonald's. Furthermore, I have pointed out there are three main limitations when Taylorism being applied. Finally, it should be stressed that if scholars and practitioner can achieve an appropriate adaptation to changeable contexts, the principles of scientific management will still be brilliant as it was in history.