This paper is an overview of four important areas of management theory: Frederick Taylor's Scientific Management, Elton Mayo's Hawthorne Works experiments and the human relations movement, Max Weber's idealized bureaucracy, and Henri Fayol's views on administration. It will provide a general description of each of these management theories together with observations on the environment in which these theories were applied and the successes that they achieved.
Frederick Taylor - Scientific Management
Frederick Taylor, with his theories of Scientific Management, started the era of modern management. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Frederick Taylor was decrying the " awkward, inefficient, or ill-directed movements of men" as a national loss. He advocated a change from the old system of personal management to a new system of scientific management. Under personal management, a captain of industry was expected to be personally brilliant. Taylor claimed that a group of ordinary men, following a scientific method would out perform the older "personally brilliant" captains of industry.
Taylor consistently sought to overthrow management "by rule of thumb" and replace it with actual timed observations leading to "the one best" practice. Following this philosophy he also advocated the systematic training of workers in "the one best practice" rather than allowing them personal discretion in their tasks. He believed that " a spirit of hearty cooperation" would develop between workers and management and that cooperation would ensure that the workers would follow the "one best practice." Under these philosophies Taylor further believed that the workload would be evenly shared between the workers and management with management performing the science and instruction and the workers performing the labor, each group doing "the work for which it was best suited."
Taylor's strongest positive legacy was the concept of breaking a complex task down in to a number of small subtasks, and optimizing the performance of the subtasks. This positive legacy leads to the stop-watch measured time trials which in turn lead to Taylor's strongest negative legacy. Many critics, both historical and contemporary have pointed out that Taylor's theories tend to "dehumanize" the workers. To modern readers, he stands convicted by his own words:
" Ö in almost all of the mechanic arts, the science which underlies each act of each workman is so great and amounts to so much that the workman who is best suited to actually doing the work is incapable of fully understanding this science, without the guidance and help of those who are working with him or over him, either through lack of education or through insufficient mental capacity."
"to work according to scientific laws, the management must takeover and perform much of the work which is now left to the men; almost every act of the workman should be preceded by one or more preparatory acts of the management which enable him to do his work better and quicker than he otherwise could."
The Principles of Scientific Management
Taylor's work was strongly influenced by his social/historical period. His lifetime (1856-1915) was during the Industrial Revolution. The overall industrial environment of this period is well documented by the Dicken's classic Hard Times or Sinclar's The Jungle. Autocratic management was the norm. The manufacturing community had the idea of interchangeable parts for almost a century. The sciences of physics and chemistry were bringing forth new miracles on a monthly basis.
One can see Taylor turning to "science" as a solution to the inefficiencies and injustices of the period. His idea of breaking a complex task into a sequence of simple subtasks closely mirrors the interchangeable parts ideas pioneered by Eli Whitney earlier in the century. Furthermore, the concepts of training the workers and developing "a hearty cooperation" represented a significant improvement over the feudal human relations of the time.
Scientific management met with significant success. Taylor's personal work included papers on the science of cutting metal, coal shovel design, worker incentive schemes and a piece rate system for shop management. Scientific management's organizational influences can be seen in the development of the fields of industrial engineering, personnel, and quality control.
From an economic standpoint, Taylorism was an extreme success. Application of his methods yielded significant improvements in productivity. Improvements such as Taylor's shovel work at Bethlehem Steel Works (reducing the workers needed to shovel from 500 to 140) were typical.
Human Relations Movement - Hawthorne Works Experiments
If Taylor believed that science dictated that the highest productivity was found in "the one best way" and that way could be obtained by controlled experiment, Elton Mayo's experiences in the Hawthorne Works Experiments disproved those beliefs to the same extent that Michelson's experiments in 1926 disproved the existence of "ether." (And with results as startling as Rutherford's.)
The Hawthorne Studies started in the early 1920's as an attempt to determine the effects of lighting on worker productivity. When those experiments showed no clear correlation between light level and productivity the experiments then started looking at other factors. Working with a group of women, the experimenters made a number of changes, rest breaks, no rest breaks, free meals, no free meals, more hours in the work-day / work-week, fewer hours in the work-day / work-week. Their productivity went up at each change. Finally the women were put back to their original hours and conditions, and they set a productivity record.
This strongly disproved Taylor's beliefs in three ways. First, the experimenters determined that the women had become a team and that the social dynamics of the team were a stronger force on productivity than doing things "the one best way." Second, the women would vary their work methods to avoid boredom without harming overall productivity. Finally the group was not strongly supervised by management, but instead had a great deal of freedom.
These results made it clear that the group dynamics and social makeup of an organization were an extremely important force either for or against higher productivity. This caused the call for greater participation for the workers, greater trust and openness in the working environment and a greater attention to teams and groups in the work place.
The human relations movement that stemmed from Mayo's Hawthorne Works Experiments was borne in a time of significant change. The Newtonian science that supported "the one best way" of doing things was being strongly challenged by the "new physics" results of Michalson, Rutherford and Einstein. Suddenly, even in the realm of "hard science" uncertainty and variation had found a place. In the work place there were strong pressures for shorter hours and employee stock ownership. As the effects of the 1929 stock market crash and following depression were felt, employee unions started to form.
While Taylor's impacts were the establishment of the industrial engineering, quality control and personnel departments, the human relations movement's greatest impact came in what the organization's leadership and personnel department were doing. The seemingly new concepts of "group dynamics", "teamwork" and organizational "social systems" all stem from Mayo's work in the mid-1920's.
Max Weber - Bureaucracy
At roughly the same time, Max Weber was attempting to do for sociology what Taylor had done for industrial operations. Weber postulated that western civilization was shifting from "wertrational" (or value oriented) thinking, affective action (action derived from emotions), and traditional action (action derived from past precedent to "zweckational" (or technocratic) thinking. He believed that civilization was changing to seek technically optimal results at the expense of emotional or humanistic content.
Viewing the growth of large-scale organizations of all types during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Weber developed a set of principles for an "ideal" bureaucracy. These principles included: fixed and official jurisdictional areas, a firmly ordered hierarchy of super and subordination, management based on written records, thorough and expert training, official activity taking priority over other activities and that management of a given organization follows stable, knowable rules. The bureaucracy was envisioned as a large machine for attaining its goals in the most efficient manner possible.
Weber did not advocate bureaucracy, indeed, his writings show a strong caution for its excesses:
"Öthe more fully realized, the more bureaucracy "depersonalizes" itself, i.e., the more completely it succeeds in achieving the exclusion of love, hatred, and every purely personal, especially irrational and incalculable, feeling from the execution of official tasks"
"By it the performance of each individual worker is mathematically measured, each man becomes a little cog in the machine and aware of this, his one preoccupation is whether he can become a bigger cog."
Weber, as an economist and social historian, saw his environment transitioning from older emotion and tradition driven values to technological ones. It is unclear if he saw the tremendous growth in government, military and industrial size and complexity as a result of the efficiencies of bureaucracy, or their growth driving those organizations to bureaucracy.
While Weber was fundamentally an observer rather than a designer, it is clear that his predictions have come true. His principles of an ideal bureaucracy still ring true today and many of the evils of today's bureaucracies come from their deviating from those ideal principles. Unfortunately, Weber was also successful in predicting that bureaucracies would have extreme difficulties dealing with individual cases.
It would have been fascinating to see how Weber would have integrated Mayo's results into his theories. It is probable that he would have seen the "group dynamics" as "noise" in the system, limiting the bureaucracy's potential for both efficiency and inhumanity.
Henri Fayol - Administration
With two exceptions, Henri Fayolís theories of administration dovetail nicely into the bureaucratic superstructure described by Weber. Henri Fayol focuses on the personal duties of management at a much more granular level than Weber did. While Weber laid out principles for an ideal bureaucratic organization Fayolís work is more directed at the management layer.
Fayol believed that management had five principle roles: to forecast and plan, to organize, to command, to co-ordinate and to control. Forecasting and planning was the act of anticipating the future and acting accordingly. Organization was the development of the institution's resources, both material and human. Commanding was keeping the institutionís actions and processes running. Co-ordination was the alignment and harmonization of the groupsí efforts. Finally, control meant that the above activities were performed in accordance with appropriate rules and procedures.
Fayol developed fourteen principles of administration to go along with managementís five primary roles. These principles are enumerated below:
The final two principles, initiative and esprit de corps, show a difference between Fayolís concept of an ideal organization and Weberís. Weber predicted a completely impersonal organization with little human level interaction between its members. Fayol clearly believed personal effort and team dynamics were part of a "ideal" organization.
Fayol was a successful mining engineer and senior executive prior to publishing his principles of "administrative science." It is not clear from the literature reviewed if Fayolís work was precipitated or influenced by Taylorís. From the timing, 1911 publication of Taylorís "The Principles of Scientific Management" to Fayolís work in 1916, it is possible. Fayol was not primarily a theorist, but rather a successful senior manager who sought to bring order to his personal experiences.
Fayolís five principle roles of management are still actively practiced today. The author has found "Plan, Organize, Command, Co-ordinate and Control" written on one than one managerís whiteboard during his career. The concept of giving appropriate authority with responsibility is also widely commented on (if not well practiced.) Unfortunately his principles of "unity of command" and "unity of direction" are consistently violated in "matrix management" the structure of choice for many of todayís companies.
It is clear that modern organizations are strongly influenced by the theories of Taylor, Mayo, Weber and Fayol. Their precepts have become such a strong part of modern management that it is difficult to believe that these concepts were original and new at some point in history. The modern idea that these concepts are "common sense" is strong tribute to these founders.
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