Frederick Winslow Taylor Article
The Idea : Plain preserving men often go further than brilliant ones because as seen in my case, one good scheme carried out came to be worth much more than a million proposed.
On March 20th, 1856, a baby boy was born who would go on to develop an idea that would carry on well past his death, which occurred 21,550 days later on March 21st, 1915. The idea that this newborn went on to develop is known as scientific management. Scientific management is a theory of management that improves the efficiency of a workforce through an analysis of its entire work flow. It is the main idea behind the efficiency movement in the progressive era at the turn of the 20th century and still fuels countless enterprises today by compelling them to not only be the most profitable but to be the most efficient by eliminating waste in every aspect of the company along with helping every aspect to prosper. But who is the man behind this seemingly overly complex and idealistic idea? The "father" of scientific management is Frederick Winslow Taylor.
Naturally, the "grandparents" of scientific management are Fred's parents, Emily Winslow and Frank Taylor. His dad was a lawyer who graduated from Princeton but lived off of residual income he attained from mortgages. Emily was a strong abolitionist who boldly helped runaway slaves on their journey to freedom in her advent resistance against anything slavery related.
Together, they raised a motivated, creative, independent thinker using their liberal Quaker beliefs that consisted of not questioning authority, living simple yet effective lifestyles, and participating in the community for the greater good.
These restrictions helped Taylor use his natural childlike creativity in the most productive of ways becoming almost dangerously compulsive. After not being able to sleep due to nightmares, he frantically worked to develop a harness that would allow him to sleep comfortably on his stomach relieving him of his nightmares. He constantly performed tasks like these always measuring household items and figuring out ways of constructing better apparatuses for daily tasks.
Taylor's education was founded by his mother and his trips to Germany and France during his early teens; however, at age 16, his education became inspired by his math teacher at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire who formulated a ratio that would allow the teacher to allot a certain amount of time for each class that he taught. During testing, the teacher observed how long it took for half the students to do the problems, and then he made a ratio comparing this time to the time it would take himself to do the problems and depending on how close it was to the standard ratio, the classes leading up to the next test would be given the "appropriate" amount of time. This method would later form Taylor's time-study tests of company employees that used a standard time for each job to see how the worker performed compared in order to provide a pay incentive for workers who were above the standard.
As preparatory schooling was coming to a close, Taylor took and passed the Harvard entrance exam, but he felt for some reason that anyone with less than perfect vision could not attend Harvard. After this seemingly lurid but health conscious decision, he hit the workforce and started applying his mathematical talents and instinctual theories as a machinist and pattern maker in Philadelphia at the Ferrell & Jones, aka Enterprise Hydraulic Works. After his apprenticeship at the hydraulic works plant, he became a common laborer at the Midvale Steel Company while attending the Steven's Institute of Technology. It was here that he eventually earned a mechanical engineering degree at the age of 27.
The most amazing part of this chapter in his life was that he earned his degree while having a full time job, which no one in history had ever done before. The reason for this push was that he wanted to be considered part of the working community since he was born into the upper class and was probably "the only laborer in America to have a memebership to the local cricket club." This fallacy came through in his writings about his scientific management theory in the form of his main principle of keeping the management and the workers on the same level.
It was also during this period that he also somehow found time to win the first U.S. doubles tournament in the 1881 United States National Championships, which today is the U.S. Open, using a scoop racket design he later patented (seen below).
During this time, Taylor developed a strong relationship with the American Society of Mechanical engineers, which he fittingly became the president of in 1906. However, due to his Progressive Era spirit coupled with his new management theory, his presidency was met with much animosity and skepticism. The force against him was so strong that it pushed him down from presidency a year later, but he kept his cool and knew his theories were going to prevail.
A year after graduating from Stevens in 1883, he married Louise Spooner, who, sadly, he did not concentrate on until eight years later in 1901 when he was fired from Bethlehem Steel due to, once again, disputes over his management theories.
It was at this point that he began to focus more on his three orphaned children and their future and less about physically revolutionizing the American workforce. His new found purpose led him to focus on writing about his theories and examples of how their implementation would prove to be extremely cost effective.
Besides his personal morals and every engineers' obligation to use their skills for the greater good of society, his motivation to improve businesses was also fueled by Teddy Roosevelt's call to the nation in his address to Governors at the White House in 1901. In this speech, Roosevelt preached about a topic that is all too familiar in today's news, conservation of resources. Taylor quotes him in one of his most famous publications, Principles of Scientific Management (shown below) as saying "the conversation of our national resources is only preliminary to the larger question of national efficiency." Through publications such as these, he positively influenced the efficiency movement after the Civil War by attempting to solve that "larger question of national efficiency." Taylor's answer was an examination of people's day to day tasks that created an abundant amount of waste.
Waste was in the form of everyone not working together from top level management to the night shift laborers along with the fallacy that improving efficiency means a decrease in the amount of jobs. If "maximum prosperity," which is permanent prosperity through the development of every branch of the business, is the main goal of the company, then on average the output would be doubled by both the men and the machines because instead of fearing for their job security, workers would push themselves to the max knowing that management would compensate them accordingly. Taylor states that it would seem like this is unnecessary to explain but a large portion of companies are treating employees more like tools and less like people. There should be more of a sympathy for those who are underpaid then those who are overworked because the overworked people are earning their money but the people who are underpaid are not being compensated for their work.
Taylor gives the example of a sporting event where if you do not give everything you have on the field to be a winner, then you are considered a quitter. He goes on to say that this is rarely applied to the workplace because the management has not set up a system that is capable of motivating every individual within that system to not simply do the least amount of work possible(hanging it out - England, ca canae - Scotland) to achieve the same salary but to do as much work possible to earn the most money he can.
Ca canae was the greatest evil that American and English workers were and still are facing. The remedy was in Taylor's "principles of Scientific Management along with his other books explaining the same basic principles:
The management is true science, resting upon clearly defined laws, rules, and principles, as a foundation...the fundamental principles of scientific management are applicable to all kinds of human activities...which call for the most elaborate cooperation...whenever these principles(of scientific management) are correctly applied, the results must follow which are truly astounding.
The main sources of negative criticism regarding Frederick Taylor are a misinterpretation of the man behind the theory and the principles that hold the theory to be self-evident. Many say that his theory prescribes management to be too harsh and cut as many jobs as possible keeping the profit margins at the forefront of all decisions.
One man proclaimed Taylor as ""a soulless slave driver, out to destroy the workingman's health and rob him of his manhood. To the bosses, he was an eccentric and a radical, raising the wages of common laborers by a third, paying college boys to click stopwatches."
Taylor was vehemently against unions because as he reiterates in the "Principles of Scientific Management" that maximum efficiency equals maximum prosperity for all aspects of the company. In addition, scientific management's foundation is the "firm conviction that the true interests of the two are one and the same." It is becoming further from that every step forward in today's economy where more and more information technology and manufacturing jobs are being outsourced to reduce costs in the short term. Many CEO's do not see the long term damage it will cause eliminating our middle class, which will eventually consist of foreign laborers. It is a great idea to make products as cheaply as possible but as Taylor warned the cheaper you make something the lower the demand will be and the greater the waste. He gave the example of where people used to buy shoes once every five years and only use shoes as a necessity. But now they are a luxury that is taken for granted with some people having hundreds of shoes at a time.
Frederick Winslow Taylor finally retired at age 45 but still continued to work on his principles until the day after his birthday on March 21st, 1915. He died of pneumonia at the age of 59 and after spending those 21,550 days on earth he will proudly rest knowing that he is considered by millions as the "father" of scientific management and main motivator of the efficiency movement during the progressive era. "If you read Frederick Winslow Taylor from the beginning of the century, there are three fundamental things he taught:
3. Get rid of things that don't add value. Work out, we call it now.
Allen, JoBeth. "Taylor-made Education: The Influence of Efficiency Movement on the Testing
of Reading Skills." U.S. Department of Education: Education Resources Information Center (1979).
This document talks about the effect Taylor had on education indicating that it is not coincidence that standardized tests came out around the same time that his theory was being finalized. It is attempting to prove that the ways of testing reading skills and comprehension have become to heavily based on time and efficiency rather than actual comprehension and being able to fully understand the material being read. It is a bold attack on the Taylor, or efficiency, movement and brings up some keys points about how these efficiency tests do not account for the learning and reading styles that differ from student to student.
Nelson, Daniel. "Scientific Management in Transition: Frederick W. Taylor at Johnstown, 1896." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Oct. 1975: 460-75.
This article gave an interesting look into the little known town where Taylor first implemented his scientific management before generalizing it. It was here that he began his systematic approach to management and was his first success in helping a company greatly reduce its costs while extremely improving its production. The reason it did not get the same attention as the other two he is most noted for is that due to the depression at the time the company closed down and was sold. This experience however, was a huge stepping stone in the development of scientific management for Taylor because it allowed him to perfect his techniques and add new ones including systematic storekeeping. The article was a great find and will make a great addition to the information about his work at the major companies he is most known for improving.
Nelson, Daniel. "The Making of a Progressive Engineer: Frederick W. Taylor." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Oct. 1979: 446-66.
In the same magazine, Nelson wrote another article about Taylor proclaiming that he was a revolutionist for engineers. This helped me to completely understand where the idea of industrial engineering came from since it is basically applying engineering principles to business models to scientifically and mathematically make them better. Taylor did this exact thing hoping to rid businesses of inefficiencies and basically led a revolution through his theories and publications that echo through the businesses of today.
Taylor, Frederick W. Shop Managment. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912.
Shop management is the second book about Taylor's theory of scientific management and was written as almost a second edition of the Principles of Scientific Management due to its growing popularity at the time. It continues along the lines streamlining production to keep the total cost as low as possible but it differs from the Principles of Scientific Management by describing the organization and mechanisms that allow for implementation of the theory into the workplace. As Henry R. Towne describes in the introduction, Taylor wrote this book in such a way that anyone with a highschool education would be able to fully understand the material. Also, it can serve as a handbook for inudstrial managers or anyone interested in the production of goods and is a great book that should be read by every industrial engineer.
Taylor, Federick W. The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1919.
The goal of this book, which was actually a monograph, was to describe how to improve the productivity of labor in a scientific way. It is one of the two main documents describing Taylorism, or scientific management, which is Taylor's theory of management. This book goes into great detail describing the specifics of his theory including a scientific approach to business that standardizes each job performed and each position in the company along with creating wage incentives based on performance. The drawback to his theory and the book is that takes away way too much power from the employees simplifying each worker far too much not accounting for variation. Also it does not allow for feedback from the employees and basically forces them to be robots.
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