Employee Motivation, the Organizational Environment and Productivity
Historical perspective on productivity improvement
Scientific Management and Frederick Winslow Taylor
By far the most influential person of the time and someone who has had an impact on management service practice as well as on management thought up to the present day, was F. W. Taylor. Taylor formalized the principles of scientific management, and the fact-finding approach put forward and largely adopted was a replacement for what had been the old rule of thumb.
He also developed a theory of organizations which altered the personalized autocracy which had only been tempered by varying degrees of benevolence, such as in the Quaker family businesses of Cadbury's and Clark's.
Taylor was not the originator of many of his ideas, but was a pragmatist with the ability to synthesize the work of others and promote them effectively to a ready and eager audience of industrial managers who were striving to find new or improved ways to increase performance.
At the time of Taylor's work, a typical manager would have very little contact with the activities of the factory. Generally, a foreman would be given the total responsibility for producing goods demanded by the salesman. Under these conditions, workmen used what tools they had or could get and adopted methods that suited their own style of work.
F.W. Taylor's contributions to scientific management
By 1881 Taylor had published a paper that turned the cutting of metal into a science. Later he turned his attention to shoveling coal. By experimenting with different designs of shovel for use with different material, (from 'rice' coal to ore,) he was able to design shovels that would permit the worker to shovel for the whole day.
In so doing, he reduced the number of people shoveling at the Bethlehem Steel Works from 500 to 140. This work, and his studies on the handling of pig iron, greatly contributed to the analysis of work design and gave rise to method study.
To follow, in 1895, were papers on incentive schemes. A piece rate system on production management in shop management, and later, in 1909, he published the book for which he is best known, Principles of Scientific Management.
A feature of Taylor's work was stop-watch timing as the basis of observations. However, unlike the early activities of Perronet and others, he started to break the timings down into elements and it was he who coined the term 'time study'.
Taylor's uncompromising attitude in developing and installing his ideas caused him much criticism. Scientific method, he advocated, could be applied to all problems and applied just as much to managers as workers. In his own words he explained:
"The old fashioned dictator does not exist under Scientific Management. The man at the head of the business under Scientific Management is governed by rules and laws which have been developed through hundreds of experiments just as much as the workman is, and the standards developed are equitable."
Objectives of Scientific Management
The four objectives of management under scientific management were as follows:
- The development of a science for each element of a man's work to replace the old rule-of-thumb methods.
- The scientific selection, training and development of workers instead of allowing them to choose their own tasks and train themselves as best they could.
- The development of a spirit of hearty cooperation between workers and management to ensure that work would be carried out in accordance with scientifically devised procedures.
- The division of work between workers and the management in almost equal shares, each group taking over the work for which it is best fitted instead of the former condition in which responsibility largely rested with the workers. Self-evident in this philosophy are organizations arranged in a hierarchy, systems of abstract rules and impersonal relationships between staff.
F.W. Taylor's contribution to organizational theory
This required an organization theory similar for all practical purposes to that advocated by those organizational theorists who followed. These theorists developed principles of management, which included much of Taylor's philosophy
His framework for organization was:
- clear delineation of authority
- separation of planning from operations
- incentive schemes for workers
- management by exception
- task specialization
However, there were problems-Taylor's papers were not always well received, as many of his ideas were associated with bad practice, such as rate-cutting by unscrupulous managers.
In 1911 and 1912 Taylor was questioned at length by a special committee of the US House of Representatives. As a result laws were passed banning the use of stop-watches by civil servants and it was only in 1949 that this restriction was lifted.
Taylor's view of the motivations of workers has had a profound influence throughout the century until the present day. His belief that man was rational and would make economic choices based on the degree of monetary reward led him to devise payment systems that closely related the kind of effort he sought with the level of reward offered.
Not surprisingly, there was strong criticism of this theory that treats human beings like machines and assumes that workers are satisfied by money alone.
His views on motivation, management and organization all presupposed certain conditions to be constant, which we now know, they are not.
The assumptions underlying his work were:
- the presence of a capitalist system and a money economy, where companies in a free market have as their main objective the improvement of efficiency and the maximization of profit;
- the Protestant work ethic, that assumes people will work hard and behave rationally to maximize their own income, putting the perceived requirements of their organization before their own personal objectives and goals;
- that an increased size is desirable in order to obtain the advantages of the division of labor and specialization of tasks.
Taylor's impact has been so great because he developed a concept of work design, work-measurement, production control and other functions, that completely changed the nature of industry. Before scientific management, such departments as work study, personnel, maintenance and quality control did not exist. What was more his methods proved to be very successful.
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