Taylor's Four Core Principles of Scientific Management

Jones and George observed that Taylor believed that the systematic study of the relationships between people and tasks using “scientific management” techniques, rather than intuition or informal rule-of-thumb knowledge, was the best way to determine the most efficient division of labor and capitalize on the advantages of using specialization in the production process.  In general, Taylor pushed for employers to take steps to reduce the amount of time and effort expended by workers in producing a unit of output and Jones and George summed up the four core principles of “scientific management” that Taylor developed from his experiments and observations as follows: 

  • Study the way workers perform their tasks, gather all the informal job knowledge possessed by workers, and experiment with ways of improving the way tasks are performed to increase efficiency.
  • Codify the new methods of performing tasks into written work rules and standard operating procedures
  • Carefully select workers to ensure that they possess the skills and abilities that match the needs of the task and train them to perform the tasks according to the established rules and procedures.
  • Establish a fair or acceptable level of performance for a task and then develop a pay system that provides a higher reward for performance above the acceptable level.

Jones and George noted that scientific management was widely known and practiced by 1910.  For example, executives at Ford Motor Company celebrated that scientific management had allowed them to achieve the right mix of worker-task specialization and align people and tasks with the desired speed of the production line.  Franklin Motor Company reported that it had redesigned its work process using scientific management principles and had seen daily production averages increase from 45 to 100 vehicles.  At the same time, however, scientific management was subject to widespread criticism from individual workers and the unions that represented them.  Among the problems reported by Jones and George were the failure of employers to shares gains in productivity and performance with workers in the form of bonuses; increased job dissatisfaction due to job redesign that resulted in specialized, simplified jobs that were monotonous and repetitive; unreasonable expectations from managers who believed that as performance improved workers should do even more work for the same pay; and concerns among workers that advances in productivity would reduce the number of workers required and eventually lead to employers pushing to reduce their workforces through layoffs.  While Jones and George concluded that selective application of scientific management principles often did more harm than good, Taylor’s theories had an enduring influence on management of production systems. 

Source: G. Jones and J. George, Essentials of Contemporary Management (6th Ed) (New York: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing, 2014), Appendix A (“History of Management Thought”) to Chapter 1.


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