Scientific Management

Frederick Taylor was born in 1856 to a prominent Quaker family. He could trace his family to pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower. He had an elite education growing up with plans of going to Harvard to become a lawyer. However, failing eyesight changed his future, as well as the structure of American industry.

Unable to pursue his education, Frederick obtained blue-collar work experience, which was instrumental in his understanding of why business practices need to improve.

While working, Frederick pursued a Mechanical Engineering degree through the Stevens Institute of Technology.  After earning his degree, he began a career as a consultant.  Over time, he created a new way of doing business which was called scientific management.  The four core principles seem so commonsense today that it’s hard to believe that they were controversial when first introduced.  They are:

  • There should be an analysis of the best way to do a job
  • Employees should be carefully selected and trained for their jobs
  • There should be a spirit of cooperation between management and labor
  • There should be a sharing of work between management and labor

Frederick’s work received a boost when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the railroads did not need to increase rates to provide for increased pay if they were to use scientific management principles to become more efficient.

Frederick wrote The Principles of Scientific Management to describe his principles.  The book has often been called the most important book on management in the 20th Century.  In addition to his development of a new way of managing, he also was awarded several patents which made him quite wealthy.

Frederick’s work led to a new engineering discipline: Industrial Engineering.  And his work became the way manufacturing companies worked.  Eventually, many of these ideas were also adapted by service industries as well.

Frederick Taylor was also an accomplished athlete, winning the inaugural National Doubles Championship in tennis and finishing fourth in golf at the 1900 Olympics.  He died from pneumonia one day after turning 59.

Fate has a way of creating beginnings.  If Frederick Taylor’s eyesight had not failed, he would probably never have had the blue-collar experiences which led to his life’s work.  Rarely do new ways ever result from predictable pathways.

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            “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed” – Peter Drucker (Management Professor)

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