July 4, 2009

A Research Proposal on Taylorism


A Pragmatic Analysis of Scientific Management Theory

To Managers in Contemporary Business Organizations


The world today is wrapped-up with consciousness of materialism and relativism. Undoubtedly, one's political, social and cultural structures become disputable and weak due to the prominence and influence of these isms. Hence, globalization became an old Suez Canalwhich opens the gate to all trades and commerce not only of material goods and new technology but knowledge. Due to this phenomenon, people seem unaware of the gradual evolution of civilizations. As what Charles Darwin proved, human beings evolved in its own course following certain patterns and processes. Aren't this post-modern situations are signs of Darwinian evolution? He even articulated that man has an innate psychological frame which tends to control his behavior, an instinct that dictates him to survive. This is what Darwin called: the survival of the fettist.

This construct proves to be unrestricted. It applied to various aspects of human life. The case of point points to the abolition of Jews during the time of Hitler which leads to a radical assault of Jewish race in Germany. The inspiration came in Hitler's political portfolio, he believed that Arian race is superior to the other races, hence, the eradication of other races will bring superiority to the Arians. This condemnation simplified our understanding of the "survival of the fettist" and how Hitler concretized such Darwinian construct, eventually managed to make the Jews suffered.

This paper would like to present an issue not new to everybody. As our civilization moves from simplistic-primeval to sophisticated-modern society, we are led to realize that in evolution of society certain people were destined to rule and lead the world towards progress. Notable individuals like Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Mao Zedong, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Vladimir Lenin, Nelson Mandela, and others were persons endowed with great ability to lead and manage to bring change to our society. They became "managers" of their respective nations. The spatio-temporal climate did not deter their determination to incessantly contribute better alternatives to their own nations.

In this manner, the analogies I used previously were all related to what I wanted to discuss in this paper. The issue about management is not all new to our understanding. Going back to our first ancestors, although, they did not coin the term or even uttered such, they already demonstrated such managerial abilities and values familiar to us today. Such the time of Adam and Eve, when they were brought out from the paradise, they both manage to care for their children: Cain and Esau. When our ancestors inhabited the caves, they managed to look for food despite the danger they will encounter with wolves and beasts.

This idea is so much related to management. This concept is not only restricted to any matters regarding business, finance, economics, or commerce. This term is universal that can be borrowed by other disciplines and endeavors.

Management Defined

Since our understanding of management is not restricted in one subject matter or discipline, its definition becomes vast based upon on one's perspective or discipline he is involved with. Due to the overwhelming definitions of such term, let us take a look at the etymological meaning of management:

In the old French language ("menagement"), it refers to an "act of conducting or directing". However, the Latin origin is much clear and particular, from two separate words: manu means "hand", and agere, means "to lead". Hence, manu agere literally means to "lead by the hand."

This interesting definition both from French and old Latin language gives us a concrete, simple but profound in meaning of management. If we look at the Latin meaning of the term "leading by the hand" it suggests a romantic behavior. "Leading by the hand" connotes giving direction which is stronger than passing suggestion, yet still gentle in approach. Leading by the hand also suggests that a person doing the leading is the one who go first and persons he lead are but are lead in no other direction that his.

Moreover, management, in this context, implies something important in management. When one is leading a flock of sheep or people, telling them the direction where to go and what to take, this means an ability to "guide". Guidance, ergo, becomes constant in management. However, in order that a leader can guide his or her group there must be a "program" to follow. Again, significant in guiding the flock or a group is a "defined program", a tool for guiding people into a right direction.

Furthermore, in order that a management aside from established guide and program, for it to be effective, there must be a concrete and established system or approach in place. Like for example, if a business runs by a manager with several employees under his jurisdiction failed to establish or define an approach or system in place, probably, a manager may not be effective in that sense, because the fact that no desired or concrete approach and system laid down as a framework to lead the employees would eventually brought a disaster to such a business.

This attempt to identify the essential meaning of management lead economists, psychologists, businessmen, and other scholars to study more this concept and identify better alternatives and solutions to the problem.

In this matter, since, management is mostly used in the business world, scholars who are more inclined to this discipline tried to simplify the vast explanation of the term. Moreover, the problem does not solely lies on the problem about its meaning but on its applicability. How, a certain business be run with a best management with a proficient managers.

Management and managers are too different constructs; while the former is a theoretical while the latter is practical. This means that management is a principle which a person chosen freely execute guidelines, programs or system. One is called a manager simply because he manages certain structure with a set of program and system. This set of system or program is the byproduct of theories studies and experimented in order to form better managerial principles.

Theory of Scientific Management: Revisited

Since time immemorial, people are gathered together in market places to exchange trade and supplies of goods. In the ancient Greece, people were gathered in an Areopagus, or Agora not only to bring their trade and supplies of goods for exchange but also to bring their intellectual ingenuity in exchange for conversion and belief. St. Paul the Apostle, was one of those traders who traded his wisdom and knowledge about God in exchange for conversion while Socrates became a paragon of Greeks intellectuals who sold his ideas to interested Greeks like Plato and Aristotle.

Like St. Paul, the Apostle, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, their marketing strategies and managerial virtues believed to be a magnate who produces great followers, Socrates has Plato and Plato has Aristotle, St. Paul has Galaticians, Corinthians, and some other Greek converts. This simply signifies their skill in management and strategies to attract people in their footsteps.

In the contemporary setting, business becomes the 'apple of an eye'; merely because it helps you build an empire-state building. Due to the materialistic and consumerist attitude of the post-modern time, those who saved plenty of resources immediately ventured into business. However, what becomes the constant struggle and problems of a business owner is simply on the issue of management. A mismanage business is doomed to destruction.

Following such thought, a mismanage business absolutely means lack of management skills and abilities, no set of system and approach are determined and applied. The loss of millions of dollars is a mistake of the one who leads.

One of the great scholars in the field of business, engineering, and economics was Frederick Winslow Taylor (156-1915), an American mechanical engineer who sought to improve the industrial efficiency. His scientific management crowned him to be its father. One of the intellectual leaders of Efficiency Movement and being highly influential in the Progressive Era, Taylor tailored a new theory in response to the business sectors' dilemma in dealing with managerial problems.

According to Taylor's theory of scientific management, since the prevailing industries of his time were factories, which produces volumes of different products for mass production, Taylor, suggested under his management system that factories should be managed through scientific methods rather than by using the empirical "rule of thumb" prevalent in the late nineteenth century. This theory formulated by Taylor brought an impact not only in the industry/business sector but to other fields of interests. Furthermore, Taylor (1917 p.5), taught that there was one and only one method of work that maximized efficiency, "and this one best method and best implementation can only be discovered or developed through scientific study and analysis…this involves the gradual substitution of science for 'rule of thumb' through the mechanical arts."

In Stepehn Waring's analysis:

At the beginning of the twentieth century, members of America's progressive business community were pursuing a parallel strategy. Inside firms, they began rationalizing their organizations by adopting bureaucratic governance. On the outside, they began developing and disseminating scientific knowledge about management by establishing professional societies, journals, and schools. As time passed, they guided their strategies using Frederick W. Taylor' scientific management. Although managers repudiated parts of Taylor's prescriptions, his fundamental premises met their philosophical and technical needs and by mid-century had come to dominate managerial theory and practice. Even in the second half of the century, moreover, many in the management community have continued to believe that successful management and Taylor's scientific management were one and the same. One recent management writer has gone so far as to claim that Taylors ideas were as influential as those of Marx and Freud but were more "objectively valid ( Taylorism Transformed: Scientific Management Theory, 1991, p 9).

This phenomenon indicates a new wave in treating and analyzing ways of how to make a business management effective and profit-oriented. This theory serves as a framework for managers of any organizations on how to handle managerial task and employees in particular.

An important barrier to use of scientific management was the limited education of the lower level of supervision and of the work force. A large part of the factory population was composed of recent immigrants who lacked literacy in English. In Taylor's view, supervisors and workers with such low levels of education were not qualified to plan how work should be done. Taylor's solution was to separate planning from execution. Taylor (1917 p. 7) reiterate, "In almost all the mechanic arts the science which underlies each act of each workman is so great and amounts to so much that the workman who is best suited to actually doing the work is capable of fully understanding this science.

In applying this solution, Taylor made planning departments, staffed them with engineers and gave them the responsibility of researching and developing scientific methods, establishing goals for more productivity, systems of rewards for meeting the goals in order to meet the productivity target.

What basically the assumption raised by Taylor in this theory is that managers should understand that they are the one more responsible over the industry or business; his followers are merely subordinates who follow his instructions. The managers are authorized to form regulations or policies alone and the employees below his rank are but to follow such promulgations.

Building bureaucracy transferred the reins of power from subordinates to superiors. Mechanizing and specializing jobs restricted the discretion of those on the bottom of the organization and expanded the power of those on top. Both changes also reduced the costs of wages and training, since using semiskilled workers minimized the costs of turnover even without lowering its rate. Homogenization in skill was accompanied by stratification in status and income, a system that rewarded workers for their seniority and subservience, not to mention their sex, race, and ethnicity. Homogenized and standardized jobs helped to simplify the functions of management to the point that some managers came to believe they were scientists applying general principles to specific cases.

This issue arises in the implementation of the theory advocated by F.W. Taylor. Taylor's attitude towards the workers was laden with negative bias. His adopted methods were directed solely towards the uneducated. "When he tells you to pick a pig and walk, you pick it up and walk, and when he tells you to sit down and rest, you sit down. You do not right through the day and what's more, no back talk (1917 p.15)."

However, even if this attitude seems to flourish in the thoughts of Taylor, this result stands with a valid basis and reasoning. For Taylor, this became the consciousness of the workers towards there superiors, simply because they see their selves as inferior, and nothing but like a mechanical worker that moves according to the desire of the one moving them. But this should not be wronged because what Taylor exposed in his theory was all based on facts, experiment and observation the reason it becomes scientific.

For Taylor, this reality should be eliminated and re-defined. It should be noted that Taylor has devoted much of his book in observing the workers during the time of work. His terms like "soldiering", "loafing", and "systematic soldiering" were being described much in his books. He described that the workers were not performing their work in their optimum level. Taylor validated this observation by putting into account the efficiencies within the management control system such as poorly designed incentives schemes and hourly pay rates not linked to productivity.

This analysis would lead us to realize the indifference of relationship between the workers and management. Due to some ineffective management and sustaining schemes of incentives for workers to be more productive, the working condition and the status of generating more income are less available.

Hence, Taylor proposed that managers should become scientific, study the organization of work, and invent apolitical methods for overcoming industrial waste and conflict. He thought they especially needed to overcome disputes between foremen and workers about work organization and compensation. The disputes, he claimed, could be escaped only if business and labor underwent "a complete revolution in mental attitude" and realized their shared interest in maximizing income through maximizing output.

Pragmatic Analysis: Identifying the role of Taylorism

One of the ways in which we can use the theory formulated by F. W. Taylor is to look at it in the perspective of pragmatism. The usefulness and utility of something is what defines the modern way of life. If one is useful and beneficial, he is considered to be an asset, likewise, this pragmatic attitude sometimes misinterpreted as utilitarian.

It may have fibers of utilitarian notions; pragmatism in philosophical eyes is something that advocates usefulness of things tangible or intangible. This means, when an idea is useful and can be better use to transform a value that is degenerating, that would be a pragmatic solution. Rorty, a self-acclaimed American pragmatist believed that what philosophers should do is not only to think and formulate ideas, principle or theories, but help these ideas and theories applicable for the betterment of the society.

In this level of analysis, we now look at the scientific management at the level of its applicability and usefulness in the workplace.

In the previous discussions, Taylor suggested that managers should use scientific findings and methods in dealing with the workmen or workforce. In this manner, the gap that abridged between the workforce and the management will be minimized and productivity will be increased.

One of the great impacts of the theory was in the development and progress of Japan. William Tsutsui (1998) in his book entitle: Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth Century Japan, relates how the theory became useful in Japan economic and social growth was:

Over what has been tagged the "era of proselytization," the "germination period of scientific Management," and, perhaps most aptly, the "age of efficiency," 2 Taylorism was elaborated, debated, and in many cases championed by Japanese businessmen, academics, and bureaucrats. Furthermore, although the process of Taylorism's diffusion and integration in Japanese industry was distinctive, by the time of the Great Depression, the impact of Scientific Management in Japan was comparable in extent and in form to its influence in the United States and Europe (p.15).

This description relayed by Tsutsui gave us an idea how useful the theories became not only in the West but more so cultivated and "germinized" in the East. For Tsutsui, the oyakata system found its weakness when the scientific management became popular in Japan. The indirect interrelation of the skilled-men and the workers below their level brought wastage with the production and materials involved. The management therefore was inefficient, not until the Taylorism came.

The attraction of the theory in the economic realm of Japan brought considerable privileges. Hoshino Yukinori (cited by Tsutsui,1998), an official of Kajima Trust Bank, secured the permission of Taylor to published the theory in Japanese translation. The spread of this instruction in Japanese universities and technical schools have one indication of the deepening of interest in the American techniques.

The ingenuity of each generation has developed quicker and better methods for doing every element of the work in every trade. Thus the methods which are now in use may in a broad sense be said to be an evolution representing the survival of the fittest and best of the ideas which have been developed since the starting of each trade. However, while this is true in a broad sense, only those who are intimately acquainted with each of these trades are fully aware of the fact that in hardly any element of any trade is there uniformity in the methods which are used. Instead of having only one way which is generally accepted as a standard, there are in daily use, say, fifty or a hundred different ways of doing each element of the work. And a little thought will make it clear that this must inevitably be the case, since our methods have been handed down from man to man by word of mouth, or have, in most cases, been almost unconsciously learned through personal observations.


Though the civilization moves faster than we imagine, this becomes a way of life, no more worries and fears. The ever-changing climate of the world, though, observable, is quite been disregarded due to the preoccupation of man's needs and desire for material possessions. Materialism, relativism, and consumerism become the subject which unconsciously being disregarded by most of the people.

The fast-pacing influence of globalization which lead to global culture is very explicit, however, people undermined its effect, what people busied about is how to acquire much of the highly-sophisticated gadgets.

In this modern business, scientific management proves to be an effective remedy to satisfy the desires and needs of individuals in exchange for power and maximum output. The suitability of scientific management in today's preoccupations is but useful.


Taylor, F. W. (1917). The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Harper & Brothers. Retrieved June 3, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=7293838

Taylor, F. W. (2003). Scientific Management (K. Thompson, Ed.). New York: Routledge. Retrieved June 3, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=108432249

Tsutsui, W. M. (1998). Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Retrieved June 3, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=102946784

Waring, S. P. (1991). Taylorism Transformed : Scientific Management Theory Since 1945 /. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Retrieved June 3, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=102073350

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