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Principles of Scientific Management

Last Updated : 01 Feb, 2024
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What is Scientific Management?

The use of scientific, systematic, objective and logical principles and techniques in various managerial functions is known as scientific management. It means the use of scientific methods to solve the problems of management. It is the art of knowing exactly what you want your employees to do and seeing that they do it in the best and cheapest ways. It involves the study of each activity in detail and doing the work in such a manner so that work can be completed effectively and efficiently.

In the words of Lawrence A. Appley, ”Scientific management is a conscious orderly human approach to the performance of management responsibilities as contrasted with the day-in and day-out rule of thumb, hit or miss approach”. 

In the words of F.W. Taylor, “Scientific management is the art of knowing exactly what you want your men to do and then seeing that they do it in the best and cheapest way.”                                  


Frederick Winslow Taylor(1856-1915)

F.W Taylor was an American mechanical engineer who started his career as a mechanic and rose to the position of chief engineer in Bethlehem Steel Company, USA. He found that the main cause of inefficiency and wastage in factories was ignorance on the part of both workers and management. Traditional, unscientific and rule of thumb methods were used without finding facts and without conducting experiments. Taylor defined management as ”the art of knowing exactly what you want men to do and seeing that they do it in the best and cheapest way.” He stated that the best management was a true science based upon certain defined laws, rules, and principles. He was the first who laid emphasis on the importance of a scientific approach to managing an enterprise instead of the hit and trial method. His philosophy and ideas are given in his book,’ Principles of Scientific Management’. For his contribution, he is also known as the Father of Scientific Management.

Principles of Scientific Management

Taylor’s  scientific management is based on the following four principles:

1. Science, not Rule of Thumb

Taylor focused on the scientific study and analysis of each and every element of a work to replace the old rule of thumb method or hit and trial method. Rule of thumb is not based on science or exact measurement.  Scientific method is based on cause and effect, whereas rule of thumb was based solely on the discretion of managerial decisions. Taylor focused that managers should scientifically analyze each and every component of work. According to him, even a small work, like loading of iron pigs into boxcars can be scientifically done. Doing a work scientifically reduces wastage of time and resources and helps to achieve the target effectively and efficiently. 

2. Harmony, Not Discord

Taylor recognized the class conflict that existed between the workers and managers. He emphasized that there should be no conflict between the workers and managers. Both of them should realize the importance of each other and should work together for organizational goals. In order to achieve this harmonious relation, he focused on ‘Mental Revolution’, which means that workers and managers should transform their thinking. In such a situation, management aims at providing better working environment for the employees, and sharing the gains of the company, etc., and workers should avoid going on strikes and work hard to the best of their ability. This principle is clearly visible in the case of Japanese work culture. There is complete openness between the workers and management. If workers are not satisfied with the management, they wear a black badge and work for more than the normal working hours. 

3. Cooperation, Not Individualism

According to this, there should be cooperation between management and workers instead of individualism. This principle is an extension of Principle ‘Harmony, Not Discord’. Both management and workers should realize that they need each other. There should be cooperation between them, and competition should be replaced by cooperation. For achieving this principle, management should welcome the constructive ideas and suggestions of the workers. The workers should be praised and rewarded for the suggestions given if their suggestions were helpful. Workers should be taken into consideration while taking important decisions. On the other hand, workers should avoid unreasonable demands and strikes and should work effectively and efficiently to achieve organizational goals. 

4. Development of Workers to their Greatest Efficiency and Prosperity

Taylor focused on the efficiency of workers. According to him, every organization should follow the scientific method of selection of workers, and each worker should be scientifically selected. Then they should be assigned work according to their mental, physical and intellectual capabilities. To increase efficiency, training should be provided. This increase in efficiency will be beneficial for both workers and management.

Techniques of Scientific Management

Taylor suggested the following techniques,

1. Functional Foremanship: According to this technique, the work of supervision is divided into several specialized foremen. Taylor believes that one foreman is not an expert in all aspects of work. Therefore, each worker should be supervised by several foremen. Taylor suggested that 8 specialists out of these 4 will be responsible for looking after the planning work, and the other four will be responsible to supervise and executing of work.

2. Standardization and Simplification of Work: Standardization means fixing standards for everything. To attain standard production, the standard of performance is established for the workers. Standardization of work means standard set for material, machine method, and condition of work. Simplification refers to eliminating unnecessary varieties, sizes, and grades of the product. It aims at eliminating unnecessary varieties, sizes and dimensions. 

3. Work-Study: Work-study means systematic and critical assessment of all the operational functions in the organization. The main objective of the work-study is to improve efficiency by making optimum utilization of resources. 

  • Method Study: It is a concern with finding ‘one best way’ of doing a job. The main aim of this technique is to improve work methods to minimize the cost of products and maximize the satisfaction of customers.
  • Motion Study: This study refers to making a thorough analysis of various motions being performed by a worker while he is doing a particular job. The main purpose of motion study is to detect and eliminate unnecessary movement, and to find out the best method of doing a particular job. 
  • Time Study: It is the technique that is used to determine the standard time taken by a worker. It helps in determining how much work an employee should be able to do in a given period. 
  • Fatigue Study: It refers to determining the amount and frequency of rest intervals required in completing a work. Taylor suggested that a person gets tired when he works continuously without a break. So, he must be provided with a rest interval to regain his lost stamina.

4. Differential Price Wage System: This is a system in which efficient and inefficient workers are paid at different rates. According to Taylor, financial incentives act as a motivator. So, Taylor developed the concept of a differential piece wage system. In this technique, incentives are directly linked with productivity.

5. Mental Resolution: It means a total change in the attitude of workers and management towards one another from competition to cooperation. It requires that management should create suitable working conditions, and they should do their work with full devotion.

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