This discussion will attempt to address whether or not Taylorism can be considered an outmoded form of technical control. I will give a brief introduction to Taylorism, its objectives and methods, together with examples of it in action both today and historically. Having then presented the arguments for and against, I shall conclude by discussing the implications of Taylorism with regard scientific management today.
Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) came from a well-to-do Philadelphia family and was a foreman in a Pittsburgh steel mill. He pioneered a means of detailing a division of labour through use of time-and-motion studies and a wage system based on performance.
[...] I would contend that these are the side effects of implementing an outdated form of technical control. To add weight to this argument, research conducted by Turner and Lawrence offers evidence indicating that such problems are inevitably a result of Taylorist job design. This is further supported by Herzberg, who argued that improved intrinsic job factors (such as recognition or achievement) enhance motivation and satisfaction, whereas improved extrinsic factors (e.g. pay, company practises) merely reduce dissatisfaction. Secondly, the costs of controlling and coordinating a rapidly spirals under a Taylorist administration. [...]
[...] The key point here is a wealth of economic and sociological changes have taken place since Taylor penned his influential book and hence I would argue that rigidly implementing such practices is evidently less advantageous in today's modern economic context. Furthermore, the balance of power between employer and employee was far more one-sided than it is today. In a time before trade unions were established and before any sort of human relations movement, Taylor's methods came up against non-existent or at best futile resistance. [...]
[...] Adam Smith the founder of modern economics, studied industrial division of labour during the period and detailed the eighteen distinct operations involved in the manufacture of a single pin. Slightly more recent, is the case of Broken Hill Proprietary Steelworks, an Australian mining and processing company. Due to their location being in remote and desolate areas of The Outback, in largely uninhabited areas, there was no entrenched pattern of management to adhere to and the company was free to investigate an array of management strategies in order to enhance production levels. [...]
[...] Is the concept of ‘optimal' valid when taken in context with an arbitrary task? By posing this, it is the validity of Taylor's methods in question and not just their current day applicability. That which is prescribed as optimal by management may not be at all optimal for a given individual. In my opinion, Taylor makes the rash assumption that such an optimal solution exists and fails to take into account or, critically, harness individual requirements, skills and abilities. Until this point we have considered Taylorism as a means of technical control and have not taken into consideration the fact that Taylor sought also to influence cultural aspects of workers' lives. [...]
[...] Perhaps one can equate this to Taylor's idea of fair day's work.” Alienation to experience an estrangement from one's efforts both physical and mental. In the context of the employee, this could lead to Durkheims's ‘anomie' - where, isolation and individualism is experienced to such an extreme, that community values and social order become meaningless. In 1999, following the BSE controversy in the U.K., McDonalds pre-tax annual profit slipped to just under £128 million before continuing to rise to £137 million in 2000. Source: The Company (2001). Turner and Lawrence - Jobs that provide job characteristics such as variety, autonomy, identity and [...]
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