Frederick Winslow Taylor developed the scientific management theory now referred to as Taylorism in the 1880s and 1890s to improve productivity in the manufacturing sector. Also called the classic management theory, Taylor’s principles focused on how to get maximum efficiency from workers.
The school of thought was among the first one to apply science to economic processes. Although businesses stopped using the theory a while ago, some of the fundamentals that it taught remain relevant for enterprises today.
In order to use the theory to boost employee productivity, entrepreneurs must learn more than just the basics.
Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) was an American mechanical engineer who had a special interest in industrial efficiency. He was a visionary whose ideas had significant contributions to the Progressive Era.
Taylor’s efforts to enhance the productivity of workers led him to consider the application of engineering principles. His realisation came early when he was working as a machinist at Midvale Steel. Taylor noticed that the labourers were not putting as much effort as they should in their tasks nor taking advantage of the available tools.
The result of this is that the company was spending a lot of money and Taylor figured that something should be done to fix the situation. Taylor authored the book, The Principles of Scientific Management, which is a collection of his ideas on efficiency. The book was voted the 20th century’s most influential management literature.
Taylor’s theory is rooted in the analysis and optimisation of workflow to improve productivity. Frederick Winslow Taylor came up with this theory of management by watching workers in a steel manufacturing environment.
The main objective of the theory is to improve efficiency, particularly productivity. Taylor invested time in studying the different jobs that labourers were engaged in.
One thing that he established when developing this theory was that workers required breaks during their shifts if they were to be more productive.
The argument was that employees could get the chance to rest and recharge, allowing them to work better when they returned. Taylor found that this strategy worked well in promoting efficiency.
Taylor’s theory saw businesses enjoy increased productivity with a smaller workforce or reduced hours accomplishing the same number of products.
After Taylor, several of his disciples and colleagues in the industry such as Benjamin S. Graham, Henry Gantt and Max Weber articulated different forms of the classic management theory.
After spending time studying labourers at a steel manufacturer, Taylor drew several conclusions that were the basis of his theory. Four principles characterise Taylorism;
The classical management theory sought to streamline workflow processes, allowing employees to work with increased efficiency. In developing this theory, Taylor employed the Time and Motion study where he watched and recorded various movements and their duration.
For example, he watched the shovelling of ore during the unloading of a railroad car. He then came up with a shovel design that allowed workers to shovel for longer before breaking.
The classical management theory is based on this tenet – analysing a process and finding the most efficient method to accomplish it.
Another fundamental of this theory is control over employee practices. It is a detailed-oriented management system that requires a company to have supervisors monitoring workers and recommending more efficient techniques.
Taylor wasn’t without his critics, but even so, his theory played a significant role in shaping various management models. Some of the fundamentals and principles help in scientific management theory still have a place in today’s environment.
Departmentalisation is one element that companies can attribute to this school of thought. Taylor believed that workers would be more efficient if they served in areas in which they were skilled. Enterprises do the same thing today. Sales professionals will be in the sales department, accountants and other finance specialists, in the finance department and so on.
Commission-based salaries also borrow from Taylor’s theories. The mechanical engineer argued that workers should be paid according to how much work they put in and that is what the commission structure is all about.
Now that you know that Taylorism has a place in modern business, how can you leverage it to grow yours? Firstly, get the right workers for specific jobs. When recruiting your workforce, ensure that every person has a role to play in the organisation. Learn the jobs, competencies, expertise and motivation of employees so that you can assign them the correct tasks. The better workers are at their job, the higher the productivity.
During his studies, Taylor realised that it was more efficient for a company if the planning and decisions came from one part and then carried out by another. You can structure your enterprise in a way that a workforce has an executive team that is responsible for the hard choices.
According to the theory, breaking down tasks into smaller jobs contributes to efficiency. By creating smaller steps, managers can easily assign each one to the most skilled and qualified worker. Different people tackling separate issues of the same problem will reduce the amount of time it takes to deal with the task as a whole.
Taylor’s theory for economic efficiency developed principles that focused on streamlining processes in a bid to fuel productivity, and some of them still have their place in the modern world.