(Sample Material) Public Administration Study Kit: Chapter II - Administrative Thought: Scientific Management and Scientific Management movement

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Chapter II - Administrative Thought: Scientific Management and Scientific Management movement

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Scientific Management:

Meaning Although the origin of the terms ‘scientific management’ is contributed to L. D. Brandies (who is believed to have used in the U.S.A. in 1910), the philosophy as such owes its origin to F. W. Taylor. He has defined scientific management as “the art of knowing exactly what you want to do and the seeing that they do it in the best and cheapest way.”

The term ‘scientific management’ implies the application of science to the management of a business concern. It aims at replacement of traditional techniques by scientific techniques. According to Harlow Person, “The term ‘scientific management’ characterizes that form organisation and procedure in purposive collective efforts which rest on principles or laws derived by the process of scientific investigation and analysis, instead of any tradition or a policy determined imperially and casually by the process of trial and error.” According to Frederic Taylor, “Scientific management is the substitution of exact scientific investigations and knowledge for the old individual judgement or opinion, and either of the workmen or the boss, in all matters relating to the work done in the shop.”

Scientific management is a thoughtful and systematic approach to the job of management as contrasted with hit or miss rule of thumb. It stressed rationality, predictability, specialization and technical competence. It concentrated on the design an operation on production processes on the ‘shop’ level of the organisation. “Scientific management”, according to Taylor, included finding the most efficient methods of production, scientific selection and training of workers, proper allotment of duties and work and achieving cooperation between workers and management.” AIMS of Scientific Management

The aims of Scientific management may be summarised under:

  1. Increased production: Increase in the rate of production by use of standardized tools, equipment and methods.
  2. Quality control: Improvement in the quality of the output by research, quality control and inspection devices.
  3. Cost reduction: Reduction in the cost of production b rational planning and regulation and cost control techniques.
  4. Elimination of wastes: Elimination of wastes in the use of resources, and methods of manufacturing.
  5. Right men for right wastes: Elimination of wastes in the use of resources, and methods of manufacturing.
  6. Right men for right work: Placement of the right person on the right job through scientific selection to the efficiency of the workers.

Philosophical Base of Scientific Management

The Scientific Management school is primary attributed to the ideas of Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915), who is known as ‘the father of scientific management’. Some of the other notable contributors to this school are Frank and Lillian Gilberth, Henry L. Grantt, and Harrington Emerson.

In the formulation and development of the scientific approach to management, the name of Charles Babbage (1792-1871) of England cannot be ignored. He had a highly developed and remarkable capacity for intellectual analysis which enabled him to suggest solutions to industrial  problems, and help evolve the science of business management. He should justify be styled as one of pioneers of scientific management.

Principle of Scientific Management

Taylor’s contribution to the development of scientific management was recorded in his papers. They are: A Piece Rate System (1985); Shop Management (1903); The Art of Cutting Metals (1895); The Principle of Scientific Management (1911). In these papers his main thesis was that all work processes are separable into unit; the efficiency of each unit can be tested and improved; the technique can be extended upwards in a management so that at last whole business establishment and governments, even whole societies, may be made more rational and efficient. Taylor had little doubt that once the best working procedure was taught to a worker and his pay was tied to his output, he could be induced to produce the maximum physically possible as calculated by the time and motion engineers. Taylor laid down that the main objective of management “should be the secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity of each employed.” He hoped that rational explanations could ensure wholehearted co-operation between management and workers. He was well aware of systematic restriction of output by the workers, but believed it was simply due to lack of understanding which could be removed by a rational scheme founded on four basic principles. First, a true science of work, based on observation and measurement, as regards the fair quantum of day’s work by the worker must be developed. Second, the methods of scientific selection, proper training and placement of the worker to the task to which he is best suited must be adopted. Third, the bringing together of the science of work and the scientifically selected and trained men so that the employee could have the opportunity of earning a high rate of pay, while the employer could obtain a lost cost of production. An d finally, the constant and willing co-operation between the employer and employees to achieve the benefits of scientific management should be retained.

The philosophy of these principles may be summarised as under:

  1. Science, not rule of thumb;
  2. Harmony, not discord;
  3. Co-operation, not individualism;
  4. Working for maximum output, rather than restricted output; and
  5. Developing all workers to the fullest extent possible for their own and their company’s highest prosperity.

The basic idea behind the principles of scientific management is to change the mental attitudes of the workers and the management towards each-other. Taylor called it ‘mental revolution’.

Functional Foremanship

Taylor rejected the idea of traditional type of authority of military style of management based on unitary control, where the worker received orders from one of man, the foreman. Instead of the conventional type of organisation, he preferred the adoption of the principle of functional management (authority). He believed that the greatest efficiency should be achieved only by dividing work into its component parts and training men to a very high performance level. He proposed that under the system of functional management, every production worker would have eight bosses, each o whom would give order in his functional specially. The worker would get separate order from gang boss, speed boss, inspector, repair boss, work and route clerk, instruction and clerk, time and cost clerk and shop disciplinarian. Thus, Taylor argued that “the work of each man in the management should be confined to the performance of a single leading function”, and pleaded that the principle of specialization was no less appropriate at higher levels than it was at the lowest level. This was Taylor ’s functional management, his best known contribution to management theory.

The Exception Principle

Taylor also advocated the exception principle. According to this concept, decisions which recur frequently should be reduced to a routine and delegated to subordinates, leaving more important issue and exceptional matters to superiors. The reports going up to higher managers should be streamlined so that they need only look at the exceptions, cases better or worse than the average. The relieving of higher executives from details allows them more time to devote to top policy and to crisis that arise.

The essence of Taylorism remained the search for efficient operations in the individual mechanical process or in the single industrial plant, thereby making time and motion study “the chief corner-stone of scientific management”. Under names like work study, O & M, and production engineering, his techniques have provided a foundation for modern mass production methods in the factory in the office. He believed that every job, no matter how simple, could be improved by study and the application of scientific techniques. It is true that Taylor’s work centred on the shop. However, for him the principles of workshop were the principles of management for all types of organisation.

According to him, “The same principles can be applied with force to all social activities; to the management of our homes, the management of our farms; the management of business of our tradesmen—large and small; of our churches, of our philanthropic institutors; our universities and our government departments.”

Advantages of Scientific Management

Taylor’s contribution has two dimensions: Mechanical and Philosophical. On the mechanical side Taylor introduced time and motion studies, standardization of tools, methods and working condition, differential piece rate system for the payment of wages etc. On the philosophical side, he tried to develop the science of management based on systematic investigation and experiment.

  1. Replacement of traditional rule of thumb method by scientific techniques for each element of man’s work.
  2. Proper selection and training of the workers.
  3. Establishment of harmonious relationship workers and the management.
  4. Achievement of equal division of responsibilities between the workers and the management.
  5. Standaridisation of tools, equipments, materials and work methods.
  6. Detailed instruction and constant guiding for the workers.
  7. Incentive wages to the workers for higher production.
  8. Elimination of wastes and rationalization of system of control.
  9. Satisfaction of needs of the customers by providing high quality products and lower prices.
  10. Better utilization of various products and lower prices.

Criticism of Scientific Management Worker’s Viewpoints

  1. Speeding up of workers: Workers feels that scientific management has the purpose to force them to work their maximum and its does not bother about the adverse effect of such speeding up on the physical mental well-being of the workers.

  2. Boredom: Scientific management introduced specialization in the enterprise. The workers are supposed to do the routine work just like automatic machine. This creates the problem of monotony among the workers who start looking for jobs in other organisation.

  3. No scope for initiative: Science there is divorce between the function of planning and doing, the workers get no opportunity to innovating work.
  4. Unemployment: Science the output per worker in increased, there will be a reduction in the employment opportunities.
  5. Explanation of workers: Workers feel that their wages do not rise in the same proportion in which their productivity rises.
  6. Destroying collecting bargaining: The trade unions were again the modern methods of increasing output by the introduction of the premium bonus system. The labour leaders considered Taylorism as not only destroying trade unionism but also destroying the principle of collective bargaining.

Employer's Viewpoint

1.Expensive: The introduction of scientific management is quite expensive because it is necessary to incur high amounts of money on standardizing methods of money of standardizing method of work, working conditions and tools and equipment. Moreover, a separate planning department has to be created which does not make any direct contribution to the production activity.

2.Re-organisation: Scientific management involves reorganization of he whole industrial unit. During the transitional phase, the work is to be stopped and management has to suffer great loss due to reorganization.

Psychologist’s Viewpoints

1. Mechanical approach: It is said that scientific management adopts the mechanical approach towards the workers. The workers have to follow the way of doing the job as directed by the management.

2. Lack of proper motivation: Under scientific management, wages are paid to the workers according to the piece wage system. There is no minimum wage assured to the workers. This mean that Taylor assumed that money is the greatest motivating force. There are other factors also which motivate the people. Some security, recognition, etc.

3. Speeding up of workers: Scientific management has the impact of increasing the speed of work. It does not take into consideration the harmful effects of such speeding up on the physical and mental health of the workers.

Trade union’s opposition to Taylorism led to an investigation conduced by Robert Hoxie for the United State Commission on Industrial Relations. Professor Hoxie in his report critised Taylor’s scientific management and Taylor’s approach as they are concerned only with mechanical aspects and not with the human aspects of production. Among other who criticized scientific management include Oliver Sheldon, Mary Parker Follet, Elton Mayo and Peter Drucker. They charged that scientific management was impersonal and under emphasized the human factor. Behaviourists charged that Taylor’s methods of scientific management scarifies the initiative of the worker, his individual freedom and the use of his intelligence and responsibility. Herbert Simon and March have described the scientific management as the ‘physiological organisation theory.’

The Impact of Scientific Management

Reforms such as the centralization of administrative/executive authority and accountability, the establishment of merit systems and the elimination of partisan politics from the day-to-day conduct of Public Administration blended easily with scientific management’s guiding values.

Between 1920-1930 scientific management concepts were accepted throughout the community of professional administrators and scholars of Public Administration. Even as late as 1948 Dwight Waldo observed: “Perhaps the most important of the theoretical movements now influencing American study is scientific management. At the level of technique or procedure, borrowing from and liaison with scientific management. At the level of technique or procedure, borrowing from and liaison with scientific management will undoubtedly continue.”


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