Scientific Management in Retrospect Essay

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Injanuary 1912, Frederick W. Taylor, the center of a highly publicized controversy over the effects of “scientific manage­ ment, ” testified before a House of Representatives committee investigating his handiwork. His first objective, he explained, was to “sweep away a good deal of rubbish.” Scientific management was “not any efficiency device. It is not a new system of figuring costs; it is not a new system of paying men . it is not holding a stop watch on a man . it is not time study; it is not motion study. ” I n fact, it was “not any of the devices which the average man calls to mind when scientific management is spoken of.” On the contrary, it was “a complete mental revolution on the part of the workingman” and an “equally complete mental revolution on the part of those on management’s side. And without this complete mental revolution on both sides scientific management does not exist. “* Taylor’s identification of scientific management with a “mental revolution” had several purposes.

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The reports of Amer­ ican engineers who visited the Soviet Union provide one measure of his impact. Royal R. Keely, a peripheral member of Taylor’s coterie who made an extended survey in 1920, was contemptuous of Soviet industry.73 Walter Polakov, a prominent consultant of leftist sympathies who spent a year and half in the Soviet Union a decade later, reported only modest progress. “All of the vital details of scheduling, dispatching, production control, progress records, etc. are left mainly to chance.” Time and motion study, he added, “is a thing little known in the U.S.S.R.” 74 While Polakov probably missed subtle changes of approach and attitude as well as applications outside manufacturing, his judgment was a commentary on the corrosive effects of political infighting and the intensity of grassroots opposition. Despite official support for nearly a decade, scientific management had few friends in mines or factories. The management expert was “the most hated man in industry.” As Gastev himself acknowledged in 1927, “he is op­ posed by the director; he is opposed by the chief engineer; to a large degree he is opposed by the foreman; he clashes with the opposition of the workers. ” 75 Donald Filtzer’s recent examination of Soviet time study data attests to the enormity of the challenge.76 As Gastev and his allies fell out of favor, the resistance grew increas­ ingly violent.

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38-80; Duccio Bigazzi, “Management and Labour in Italy, 1906-45,” in Tolliday and Zeitlin, The Automobile Industry and Its Workers, pp. Daito, “Memorandum”; Andrew Gordon, “Araki Toichiro and the Shaping of Labor Management,” and Kenji Okuda, “comment,” in Tsunehiko Yui and Keiichiro Nakagawa, Japanese Management in Historical Perspective (Tokyo, 1989), pp. See also Satoshi Sasaki, “On Materials of Scientific Management in Japan in Meiji-Taisho Era, “Japan Business History Review 21 (April 1986), pp. 28-47; Sasaki, “The Introduction of Time Study Method into Mitsubishi Electric Co. at Kobe Works, “Japan Business History Review 21 (January 1987), pp. Both articles are in Japanese. I am indebted to Hitoshi Imai for these references. See Daniel Nelson, “Scientific Management and the Workplace, 1920­ 1935,” in Sanford Jacoby, ed., Masters and Managers (New York, 1990), pp. Schachter, Frederick Taylor and the Public Administration Community, pp.

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