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What Is Scientific Management?

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  • Written By: Justin Riche
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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Scientific management, also referred to as Taylorism, is a theory of management pioneered by Frederick W. Taylor toward the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. Curtailing waste, increasing effective production, standardizing work flows, and improving economic efficiency are some of the main aims of scientific management. Employing the key precepts of the management science, practitioners attempt to find the "one best way" to perform specific tasks. Although the theory, in its distinct form, fell out favor circa the 1920s to 1930s, most of its principles remained important.

Adherents of the scientific management theory emphasize the practice of cutting down waste and reducing inefficiencies in production. The field's theorists and practitioners believe that there is absolutely one best way of doing a specific task, which is the most efficient. In their belief they go to lengths until they uncover that efficient way. For example, a manager may time a worker and closely gauge features, such as motions and body posture, while the worker performs certain tasks. This process may be repeated as many times as necessary, while altering the motions and body postures, until the most efficient way is achieved, which then becomes the standard.

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Essentially, the theory of scientific management has several principles that seek to boost efficiency. The first principle states that managers must understand the workers' job knowledge, study how workers perform tasks, and seek to improve performance. Principle number two states that managers must write work rules and standardize work procedures into codes. The third principle says that the established procedures should be the basis of hiring and training workers; moreover, hiring workers with necessary skills and abilities should be prioritized. Finally, the fourth principle states that managers must set a minimum acceptable level for performing tasks, which should also be the basis for paying bonuses.

Furthermore, Frederick W. Taylor was the chief proponent of scientific management. Other notable figures include Frank Gilbreth, Lillian Gilbreth and Henry Gantt. From its birth, the principles laid out by Taylor influenced many other areas thereafter. These areas include human resource management and industrial engineering. Moreover, the principles of the science of management helped pave the way for mass production as well as other advancements in technology and production.

Although Taylorism has many benefits, it has some flaws too. For example, employees working in a scientifically managed environment work like parts in a machine. That is, they have strict procedures and standardized tasks that are inherently repetitive, which remove the human element and become boring in time.

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