Organization management is a necessary process to maintain its operations and viability. The emergence of scientific management theory marked a qualitative transition to a rationalized approach to production management. Frederick Taylor, its founder, has developed a number of methods for the scientific organization of labor based on the standardization of production processes (Kearney, 2018). Despite the colossal contribution of this theory to the development of production processes worldwide, today, it is criticized (Trist, 2016). Since motivation has a decisive influence on the production activity of personnel, this paper will focus on this angle of the theory.
Taylor’s doctrine is based on a mechanistic understanding of an individual, their place in the organization, and the essence of their activities. Taylor was interested not in the effectiveness of a person but that of the organization (Holmes, 2016). Thus, it will be argued that this theory of motivation, as a rule, works in extreme situations. However, it is not acceptable for long-term projects. First, the paper outlines the essence of Taylor’s management theory. Second, it analyzes the ways of staff motivation developed by Taylor and logically following from his theory. Finally, it concludes with the argument against the use of Taylorism in modern conditions of production since its drawbacks overcome the benefits.
Taylorism and Its Principles
The foundations of the scientific organization of labor were laid thanks to the works of the American engineer Frederick Taylor (1856-1915), among which one of the most significant is “The Principles of Scientific Management” (Taylor, 2004). His first report appeared in 1895, and it was devoted to piecework wages. Its fundamental principles of management are as follows: if a manager can scientifically select people, train them, provide them with some incentive, and connect work and people together, then they can achieve aggregate productivity that exceeds the contribution made by the individual labor force (Trist, 2016). The main merit of Taylor is that he, as the founder of the “school of scientific management,” developed the methodological foundations of labor rationing, standardized work operations and introduced scientific approaches to the selection, placement, and stimulation of workers’ labor into practice (Holmes, 2016). Taylor’s most outstanding contribution is that he started a revolution in the field of management.
Like any personnel management system, scientific management includes several fundamental principles. The first principle is the separation of control from execution. The use of this principle leads to the emergence of a clear hierarchy. On the other hand, an essential principle of Taylorism is maximum specialization and simplification of labor operations (Holmes, 2016). The fact is that large-scale production based on highly specialized equipment appears, and the development of management begins. The original meaning of the word management is not management, but the ability to own a tool (scientific management – “virtuosity of the worker”) (Kearney, 2018). The starting point of the scientific organization of labor is the individual. In the scientific organization of work, timing and a complete study of movement are used.
As examples, Taylor (2004), in his book Principles of Scientific Management, cites experiments conducted by him and his collaborators in various areas of production. A classic example is the transport of pig iron. Taylor and his students measured time spent on work, recruited tough workers, and allocated time to work and breaks. This led to the fact that the daily output rate increased threefold, the workers became less tired, and their daily wages increased by 60% (Holmes, 2016). There are other examples as well, such as working with a shovel of different sizes, sorting bicycle bearing balls, cutting metal, and many more.
The main question that needs to be resolved when introducing scientific management is how to teach workers modern methods of work. For Taylor, defining scientific methods of work is a task too difficult for ordinary workers. This should be done by exceptional people. First of all, an efficient movement structure is developed for each operation (Taylor, 2004). After that, the standards for the performance of each process are determined in terms of how long it is advisable to perform this operation (Trist, 2016). Then the workers are trained, and then the control over the implementation of each procedure is fixed.
Taylor believed that coercive methods should do the introduction of scientific principles of the organization of work since workers resist any change in the entrenched order (Waring, 2016). In the book “Principles of Scientific Management,” he proposes the following methods for the implementation of the scientific organization of labor (Taylor, 2004). First, select 10 to 15 workers who are exceptionally skilled in the job. Second, to subject the entire series of elementary operations or movements to an accurate study. Third, record with a stopwatch the exact length of time required to perform each of the elementary functions, and choose the fastest way to produce each individual work item. Fourth, completely eliminate all wrong movements, slow and unnecessary movements. Finally, having thus done away with all extreme actions, combine all the selected best and fastest activities together with the best types of instruments. Taylor also recommended the use of the psychological basis in the labor process in various forms. He was the first to introduce the concept of “human factor” in psychological terms into scientific circulation (Sohn-Rethel, 2020).
The main advantage of this approach to management is the fact that, for the first time, science was introduced not only by creating new machines but also by applying a new organization of labor (Holmes, 2016). On the one hand, the advantages of scientific management in organizing production show the undoubted success of this approach. The countries of the Pacific region, led by Japan, applied knowledge to the production, adopted Western technologies, labor organization, and vocational training. Japan, since the 1970s, began to pursue a policy of informatization of the country and raising the educational level of the population (Hong & Park, 2020). South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore also owe their rise to the Taylorist-Fordist vocational training system (Hong & Park, 2020). It allowed countries to quickly train workers to work at the level of world productivity standards. The national innovation programs of these countries have played an essential role in their rapid economic and technological breakthrough.
Motivation and Pay and Reward Systems in Taylorism
According to Taylor, motivation is a set of strategies for a person’s labor behavior, which is most financially beneficial to them. The main labor motive remains high earnings, justified by a higher work result (Holmes, 2016). He considered the stimulation of individual labor to be the basis for increasing production efficiency, attaching great importance to the personal interest of the employee in economic benefits. When developing a labor incentive system, measures to strengthen labor discipline, and the selection of workers for each type of work, he paid much attention to the individual characteristics of the employee’s personality (McShane & Glinow, 2017)). Taylor’s system of scientific organization of labor provided for a detailed study of labor processes, the establishment of strict regulations for their implementation, the selection and special training of workers to perform various jobs at high rates of work. Workers who could not withstand high labor rates were either transferred to other jobs or fired (Holmes, 2016).
The famous system of differential pay, with which the whole of Taylorism is often identified, was based on simple and very effective principles that good work should be encouraged, and flawed work should be punished economically. When there are no delimitations, equalization becomes defining, and it was this, according to Taylor, that characterized the previous management system and its shortcomings (as cited in Kearney, 2018). Scientific management of labor organization was at the same time the basis for the implementation of the principles of capitalist labor incentives (McShane & Glinow, 2017). It involved the capitalist approach to the usage of the principle of distribution according to the quantity and quality of labor.
The downside of Taylorism with regards to paying and reward was that Taylor and his followers absolutized purely material incentives. They believed that the interest of an employee to follow the recommendations of scientific management could only be done with a “long dollar,” thus, proceeding from the model of a purely “economic” or even a “mechanical” person (Sinnicks, 2018). Taylorism did not have a holistic concept of a man. For example, a worker could be told that if they wanted to earn more, they must strictly follow all the instructions of the manager. In this case, the employee was hardly explained what he was doing and why.
As numerous studies show, the workers who know best how to reduce certain costs work directly in production every day and understand how long it takes to make a product and how this process can be accelerated (Trist, 2016). The staff should participate in the improvement of working methods because those proposed by the employees themselves are assimilated by them much faster (McShane & Glinow, 2017). However, Taylorism does not imply the idea of making all workers active participants in the continuous improvement process. On the contrary, workers become only part of a top-regulated production mechanism.
Taylor substantiated the idea of an employee as an appendage to a machine; it can only be managed by the method of material incentives and careful control. The author based on the fact that biological needs dominate a person’s motives, and it is possible to force them to perform a given work only by coercion. To get the maximum result, Taylor proposed creating a conveyor belt, rationing labor, and exercising strict control (Holmes, 2016). The incentives to work for employees in this category are material and moral encouragement, self-affirmation, and still compulsion. Over time, Taylorism entered a crisis state, and at enterprises where the theory of Taylorism was applied, such manifestations as apathy, depression, loss of interest in work, and increased conflicts began to be noted (Hesketh & Cooper, 2020). Thus, later other theories of motivation were created with the understanding that a person is the principal value of an organization, and they are the ones who ensure its prosperity.
Rigid, narrow specialization of the labor force, excessive fragmentation, and standardization of the production process, as the constitutive principles of the Taylorist organization of labor, make it practically unacceptable in current conditions because it leads to the emasculation of the creative content of labor, innovative thinking, to ignoring the mental abilities and creative potential of the workers. In addition, in the theory of Taylorism, the disadvantages are the principles that provide for high rates of work and the dismissal of a worker if they do not correspond to the tasks and volumes of production. In this theory, with the specified criterion, the physical and physiological state of the worker was not taken into account when performing the volume of production, that is, it was envisaged to work with the aim of developing the most considerable amount of work (products) to the detriment of the health of employees of the enterprise. Taylor’s contribution to the theory of enterprise management influenced the idea of production optimization. First of all, this concerns the standardization of all elements. On the one hand, standardization reduces the variation in labor outcomes, forcing each employee to do the same job in the same way. On the other hand, this leads to an overly mechanistic view of the employees of the organization and the erasure of the creativity and agency of the employees. Any changes are more effective if employees carry them out on their own initiative, without the coercion of management. Thus, today, Taylorism is giving way to more flexible management theories since its disadvantages are more significant than the benefits.
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