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The Concept Of Taylorism

2435 words (10 pages) Essay in Management

11/05/17 Management Reference this

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Initially, Frederick Taylor was an industrial engineer and was interested in practical outcomes. He observed workers at work, and made accurate measurement of what they did in a time-and-motion study. By conducting this, Taylor discovered that much resource was wasted and a one-best way in performing the task should be found in a scientific analysis. After years of experiments, Taylor proposed four principles to determine optimal production methods.

Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.

Cooperate with the workers to ensure that the scientifically developed methods are being followed.

Scientifically select, train, and develop each worker rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.

An acceptable level of performance and a reward system for a task should be established to motivate people.

These principles were first implemented in Henry Ford’s car factory, he pioneered mass production with the aid of division of labour, standardization and assembly lines. His approach was so successful that he increased car sales by 2 million, reduced costs by two-thirds and pushed Ford into the leading car factory. From then onwards, the principles of Taylorism have been widely applied in other sectors and have a profound impact on today’s management. The following essay will examine how Taylor’s four principles influences the management of modern organizations.

To begin with, within the central focus on efficiency improvement, the first principle — “scientific study of tasks” is still largely deployed in modern organizations. By gathering knowledge from the production, they conduct scientific analysis and find the one-best way. They discovered that division of labour was the key. It breaks working procedures into simple and routine tasks, which reduces labour cost, eliminates unnecessary tasks and speeds up the work. Hence, “Taylorism is a method for the efficient production” (Sabel). Although finding a modern organization that is purely ran in the one-best way (division of labour) is nearly impossible, it should be highlighted that the spirit of finding the one-best way still exists, especially with the aid of information technology. Modern managers use IT in capturing vast knowledge to redesign business processes in order to improve productivity and quality. In particular, manufacturing companies will be influenced by Taylorism extensively. Toyota applies division of labour, breaking down the assembly lines into steps, conducts research to find the one-best way, such as minimizing the waiting period. These findings maximize the efficiency, address the overburdening of aspects of production and relationships, and prevent inconsistencies in work. However, critics believe that non-manufacturing companies, such as the service sector, will be less affected by Taylorism as it based on the quality of services provided instead of the production method. This is false to some extent as scientific anaylsis is still employed in marketing, such as predicting the number of customers. Therefore, Taylorism is still the basis of control and efficiency in modern organizations.

Despite the fact that the one-best way—division of labour could streamline work process theoretically, Braverman argues that division of work could cause degradation of work and deskilling, as production process was broken into simple tasks. It greatly diminishes the knowledge of workers, which results in unskilled labour. These unskilled labour are disadvantageous to modern organizations as they are not be functionally flexible (The ability of managers to redeploy workers between different tasks) and lead to business failures. Flexibility is vital for modern businesses to adapt in the competitive market. Therefore, it is crucial for effective modern organizations to strike a balance between efficiency and flexibility according to their nature of business, as suggested by contingency theory. Organizations should adopt a mechanistic form if their task is simple and their goal is efficiency, whereas organization should adopt a organic form if their task is complex and flexibility is vital to adapt the changing market.

— “integrate new workers in production processes and dismiss workers without losing knowledge form the organization”. Firstly, those specialized, simplified jobs are often monotonous and repetitive, causing Secondly, Worse still, Therefore, Taylorism is now combined with teamworking as suggested in the Human Relations movement to offset its disadvantages.


Another influential principle where modern managers follow is to “cooperate with the workers to ensure that the scientifically developed methods are being followed”. In this sense, direct control is the key idea of Taylorism to maintain high efficiency. Managers should be authoritarians that set all objectives and all directions to workers through top-down communication to ensure coordinated workforce and consistent tasks. This is because Taylor argued that workers were lazy and had little ambition in work. (Harrizon 2004 p15) They are simply motivated by money and had a rationale for restricting output (the fear of redundancy). Thus, these subordinates should not be trusted and managers should have direct control over them— banning brainwork in the production. Although it seems to be unjustifiable for direct control to stand in this dynamic world where decentralized organizations dominate, it is crucial to have some of its characteristics to ensure its standards and quality. Therefore, contemporary organizations, such as aviation and manufacturing industry, will usually codify the new methods of performing tasks into written rules and standard operating procedures, specifying exactly what workers should do. This is matched with McGregor’s Theory X, “employees need to be controlled and coerced.”(Marcouse 2008 p244). McDonalds is the archetypical example of employing scientific management, they achieve efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. By reducing standard procedures to ”rules, laws and formulae”, enables McDonald to gain control over the production and fulfillment of orders through clearly communicated guidelines and standards. The work is also very predictable as employees do the same task continuously, such as cleaning floor and preparing food. (Ritzer) Apart from that, the time for each task is recorded to encourage workers to finish it in the shortest time. It is this ability to efficiently supply standard food and services throughout the globe that has allowed McDonald to become the biggest restaurant chain in the world.

Moreover, standardized work encourages organizational learning and continuous improvement as NUMMI ‘s managers argued that understanding the process provide a specific base for workers to improve it. In this case, standardization is the essential precondition for learning

Effective though it may seem, workers under authoritarian leadership and hierarchical control systems cannot receive any feedback about what they have done, and lack responsibilities and achievement (motivators) as suggested by Herzberg. Thus, job satisfaction cannot be created and it will be the biggest killer of motivation at work in the short term. (Hagemann 1992 p57) This will result in alienation — people are unable to find motivation, satisfaction and fulfillment in their work or in the products, and a high level of labour turnover and absenteeism in the long term. For instance, more than four in ten UK employees are considering quitting their job next year because of unreasonable workloads at work and a lack of motivation. (BBC 2008) Hence, the direct control suggested by Taylor is not that influential in current environment. Worse still, banning brainwork from the workplace—not allowing workers to make decisions, is irrational nowadays since rivals are converting themselves into learning organizations to exploit new knowledge, such as encouraging employees to work across departments. This is crucial for managers to improve their management skills and be innovative. Therefore, modern management with flatter hierarchy, decentralized structure, two-way communication, looks beyond merely obeying the rules. They design the systems and organization structures that can allow individuals to feel they can control their own destinies, such as redesigning the job by job enrichment (giving the opportunity to use their ability) and job rotation, is implemented to remedy alienation.


Equally important is the “scientific selection and development of workers” (Boone & Bowden, 1987, p. 126). Taylor argued that “having the right person with the right skills in the right job will allow a business to improve it competitiveness”. Although the means of selecting workers is different compared with today’s, Taylor’s idea has been extended and is relevant today as much effort is placed on hiring the right people for a position. The use of psychologists during interviews to determine an applicant’s suitability is one common use of “science” for selection. Once a suitable employee is found, many firms make use of training programmes to develop employees’ skills and make viable new production strategies, such as “real-life” role plays and simulations. Only scientific selection of workers is not adequate, workers should be imparted to training from time to time, such as mentoring and coaching, to increase efficiency and flexibility within a business, allowing it to respond quickly to changes in technology or demand. Therefore, modern organizations often hold talks to add value to their workers. However, opponents claimed that training is expensive and many organizations choose to cut training budgets when under pressure. Although it sounds reasonable, it is unjustified as this may fail to weigh out the possible long term impact on the quality, productivity, competitiveness and motivation of the workforce. Therefore, the effectiveness of training should be evaluated.


In terms of motivation, Taylor pointed out that people were motivated only by the economic motive of self interest. Thus, better pay was the best incentive for people to work hard. Though critics such as Maslow, proposed that money was just the basic need in the hierarchy and other factors were required to successfully motivate a person, such as self actualization, Rynes conducted psychology tests and insisted that people understated the importance of pay and “money is still the crucial incentive”. That is because social norms view money as a less noble source of motivation. Hence, due to the importance of pay, Taylor’s incentive pay scheme is still been running in half of all British companies, especially in services sector, such as McDonald and insurance agencies.

Instead of using piece rate in hierarchy systems, performance-related pay scheme (a financial reward to staff whose work is considered above average) is popular in today’s flatter organizations than the multi-layered organizations century ago. This is typically helpful in retaining employees who are at the top end of the pay scale for their job ranking, but whose performance is still outstanding. For example, bankers pay much effort in finding clients because they could receive huge bonuses. Moreover, high wages are advocated not only because it gives a better selection of workers, but also enables managers to retain his most efficient and loyal workers, thus reducing labour turnover.

piece rate system and performance-related pay (PRP) should be established as

Moreover, using pay as a motivator could align employees’ effort more closely with the aims of the organizations. These employees are more numerous.

Although pay can motivate workers to some extent, it is argued that “an over-reliance on targets and performance-related pay can create poor quality products and a dishonest culture”. For example, in 2007 a BBC investigation suggested that staff at a high-street bank were encouraged by their supervisors to lie to the bank’s customers in order to hit their personal sales target. Although it may be argued that implementing monitoring scheme could ensure the quality, it cannot ensure the best possible quality. Therefore, it is important for manager to strike a balance between performance -related pay and the rivalry between managers.

To conclude, Taylorism is still one of the classic theories being applied in modern organizations. It proposes the one-best way, separation between conception from thinking, scientific training and incentive-pay scheme. Although these ideas have its drawbacks, Taylorism still sets the norm for how organizations are managed. Hence, Taylorism has no single application as companies will encounter benefits and drawbacks when applying it. It is usually combined with other management methods to offset its disadvantages.

is still the core of modern management.

Even contemporary models often retain elements derived from 21st century. For instance, ISO 9000 are largely prescriptive models based on outmoded ideas about statistical process control, erroneous translation of the Japanese idea of Kaizen as continuous improvement, quite disconnected from the main body of organizational theory. Other influential models include the Balance Scorecard, which focuses on performance of financial, customer, internal and knowledge and learning perspectives.

Centralized structures

Those at the top can coordinate the whole organization more effectively; decision making tends to be faster because of the smaller number of people involved;

Decentralized structures

Decisions are made at a point closer to operational levels and special circumstances can be taken into account, which adds a degree of flexibility to the organization.

By engendering a feeling of participation it can contribute positively to the development of an organization culture

There is however very little hard evidence to support either point of view and the degree of decentralization probably reflects top management philosophies more than anything else. At the current time, while decentralization is probably slightly more in vogue, they are still many influential writers who continue to praise a relatively high degree of centralization.

Mintzberg also points out the size and the complexity of an organization normally governs how strongly standardization and formalization go together. In small firms, where employees adjust to each other using informal communication methods, standardization is seldom needed to achieve coordination and control, but as firms get larger, it becomes more difficult to rely on these methods standardized procedures are ised to reduce coordination burden on supervisors.

Mechanistic organization.

This has a more rigid structure, is typically found where the environment is stable and predictable and is an appropriate response to these conditions. Its characteristics are tasks are broken down into specialized, functionally differentiated duties and individual tasks are pursed in an abstract way. Employees are likely to be procedure orientated

Organic organizations

Much more fluid set of arrangements and is better suited to variable and dynamic environments.

Its characteristics are special knowledge and experience is valued for its contributive nature to the common task of the concern and the nature of individual tasks is seen to be set by the total situation faced by the organization.

A continual redefinition of individual tasks through interaction with others, with little shedding of individual responsibility upwards, downwards or sideways

ROLLINSON . D (1998) Organisational behavior and analysis. Essex; Addison Wesley Longman.

CLEGG.S, PITSIS.T (2008) Managing&Organizations (an introduction to theory &practice) London;SAGE Publications Ltd

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