Sly-entific Management 7

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth.

Following the general strike at an arsenal following an attempt to install the Taylor System, the government funded an investigation of this method in practice. Visiting thirty five plants identified by the primary proponents of Scientific Management, the investigators produced a fascinating snapshot of a revolution in the making, one unresolved today, the patterns repeated with every emerging innovation. Ergo:

..."in practice there is no general adherence [to] the order of installation as laid down by Mr. Taylor, and, in many cases, there is a notable neglect of the process of organic and material improvement. The better class of experts do indeed insist on beginning the installation of scientific management with the study and standardization of the material and organic factors. But, generally speaking, they are not able to carry this work forward to a reasonable degree before being forced to enter upon definite task setting or efficiency rating based on time study and the introduction of so-called "efficiency systems" of payment. The management usually wants to see quicker returns than can be secured by the slow process of systematic and thoroughgoing reorganization and the expert is usually forced to yield to the demand for immediate results that can be measured in cash terms. But it must not be supposed that all the experts even resist such demands. The better class in this respect are decidedly in the minority. It is safe to say that most of those who offer their services to employers have not themselves the ability or the willingness to install scientific management in accordance with the Taylor formula and ideals. They, too, are prevailingly after quick returns with small regard for the long-time outcome and little real knowledge or consideration for the real effects upon the workers so long as the latter can be kept reasonably contented and a good showing be made.

"The result is that among the shops systematized there is no general uniformity in the process or completeness of installation. Thoroughgoing material and organic improvement and standardization are very often delayed and very often neglected. Some particular aspect or feature of the system is not infrequently stressed out of all proportion and this is very apt to be task setting or some particular system of payment. Sometimes, even, these labor features are the only ones seriously dealt with, and there are cases where they are the only important results of the work of the experts and where they become in the minds of both expert and management the essence and almost the only corporeal reality of scientific management.

"In short, in this most general and important aspect of the order and thoroughness of installation, scientific management may mean anything or almost nothing, viewed from the standpoint of the ideals and principles of the leaders. In character and operation, the systematized shops range from a few which fairly closely approach the elaborate scheme advocated by Mr. Taylor through all possible variations down to that in which some single feature of his system is applied unaccompanied by other methods and policies necessary to make it a reasonable and effective agency of efficiency. Between these extremes, the forms of the Taylor system are often installed with more or less completeness at the same time that the spirit and principles are violated and discarded."
Excerpted from Scientific Management and Labor by Robert Franklin Hoxie, D. Appleton and Company, New York and London, 1915 - T58H63

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