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The Principles of Scientific Management

2010/07/23

I was intrigued to read “The Principles of Scientific Management” after reading Gene Woolsey’s “Real World Operations Research” and Bob Emiliani‘s “Lean behaviors” [in PDF]. I read the eBook version from eBooks.com (only to find out later that it is also available online at least here and here).

The book is old and it shows. The first part of the book, which focuses on the basic principles of scientific management, is highly interesting and sometimes makes one wonder why are we not taught such stuff:

  • Develop methods based on scientific study for each element of a man’s work, which will replace the old rule-of-thumb methods.
  • Scientifically select and then train, teach, and develop the workmen, whereas in the past they chose their own work and trained themselves as best they could.
  • Cooperate with the men so as to insure all of the work being done in accordance with the principles of the methods which have been developed.
  • There is an almost equal division of the work and the responsibility between the management and the workmen so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.

The second part though (examples of applications of scientific management by the author and his colleagues) is a little bit boring since its domain (handling pig iron) is way out of my interests. The Wikipedia page on Scientific Management includes heavy criticism on its application (which is not unfair). However, the author warns that it [scientific management] is a process that takes a long time to install and one should not try to implement it faster. Both Woolsey in his papers collection and Emiliani note that a lot of people have not totally understood the methods and this results in the criticism. Emiliani in particular notes that the managers’ need for short-term results undermines the whole set of ideas and leads to their misapplication.

All in all, it was not a waste of (bus) time, but if anyone is interested in such stuff, I would recommend they spend their time reading “Lean Behaviors“. More current, easier to read and to the point with regard’s to Taylor’s ideas (I always carry a printed copy of it in my bag).

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