In The Principles of Scientific Management, Frederick Winslow Taylor provides a systematic approach toward improving the nation’s industrial efficiency. This book was written in 1911, two years before Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line to his automobile factories; the need for more effective methods of production was at its height during the time of Taylor’s writing. In an effort to eliminate soldering (laborers working at a purposefully inefficient rate) Taylor recommends replacing the traditional rule-of-thumb style of management with one based upon science.
He explains that with the rule-of-thumb approach, success is dependent upon the laborers’ initiative to achieve some sort of reward or incentive. In contrast, scientific management relies on managers taking an increased role in the development of individual work plans, the training of employees, etc. It’s easy to see why this method would be effective. Today, I think the highest valued managers are those who are knowledgeable about the day-to-day activities of their business; those who actually go out and interact with their employees while they work rather than sit in an office all day.
I think Taylor makes a convincing argument for his scientific approach. Not only is his argument sound, but also the manner in which he presents his case is especially effective: he provides real world examples of scientific management’s positive impact in different industries (steel, bricklaying, etc.). That being said, his disparaging marks toward unskilled laborers, in which he consistently questions their intelligence, takes away from the credibility of his argument.