Frederick W. Taylor’s Management System

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Since the times of Frederick W. Taylor, organizations from all over the world have been seeking the best ways to plan their work to do it faster and cheaper. Management has since then adopted what is regarded as the new paradigm, which aims at encouraging workers to work smarter rather than work harder. With the organizational environment being an extremely dynamic one characterized by changes that if not well dealt with can have devastating effects, Taylor’s scientific management introduced a new way of viewing the management task.

If the global financial crisis is anything to go by, only those organizations that had planned forward and predicted it was less hit by its effects. This paper seeks to provide a detailed analysis of the task of managing with close regard to the management ideals put forward by Taylor showing how organizational change prompts a shift from this system. The paper will be divided into three sections with the first section giving a deep insight into the management practice, and how it has evolved since the times of Taylor. The second section will analyze Taylor’s system about its applicability in a contemporary setting and the third section offering an alternative to scientific, which limits the other workers’ thinking ability.

Scientific Management

During his lifetime, Taylor developed and actively campaigned for the adoption of the scientific management theory in organizational management (Rose 1975, p.12). The management system was adopted by most western industries such as Henry Ford’s auto company among others during a time of heavy mechanization and scientific innovations in the United States. The theory utilizes “scientific observation to analyze human movement and subsequently restructures the workplace in such a way that the minimum effort produces the maximum production” (Taylor 1911, p.43).

The scientific management theory introduced a system that increased production in factories and people entered a real of mechanized work where they worked in repetitive patterns as if they were machines. The managers and leaders conducted the thinking tasks in the organization while the workers conducted the actual working, which did not require any sort of thinking. According to Tsukamoto (2007, p.116), this practice which led to the dehumanization of the worker developed what is termed as the “machine metaphor”.

The five principles that Taylor advocated in scientific management include the following a system whereby all responsibility for the organization is shifted from the worker or laborer to the manager. It also includes the use of scientific methods in determining the easiest and efficient ways of doing work, as well as selecting the best-suited person for a particular position in the organization. Lastly, it monitors closely the performance of workers to ensure that the workers (Taylor 1911, p.57) keenly follow the appropriate work procedures.

According to the machine metaphor, wage earners were to labor in mechanistic fashions while all the thinking was done at the management level. According to Darmody (2007, p.3), Taylor was even fond of telling his workers that they were not supposed to think as other people have been paid to think. The philosophy that ensured that workers left their brains at the door and that which dehumanized them earned Taylor enmity with the wageworkers (Guillen 1994, p.29).

Considering that the United States’ labor force was monumental but unskilled during the early years of the twentieth century due to the effects of high rates of immigration, Taylor’s scientific management seemed to work. The multiple languages and the lack of the knowledge of a common language among most of the workers made them incapable of participating in the decision-making processes, which made it possible only for such decisions to be made at the management levels. Considering that the organizational environment has changed a lot and that it is still changing, the applicability of the Scientific method in modern organizations is exceedingly debated upon by several scholars in the management field (Blake, & Moseley 2011, p.349).

Some of them argue that the modern organization is remarkably different and that a system such as Taylor’s is outdated and not applicable anymore. Others contest that scientific management is applicable in modern organizations only that it should be modified to suit the current needs of the management tasks (Darmody 2007, p.3).

Scientific management and organizational change

As the existing literature reveals, Taylor by coming up with the scientific management theory thought of himself as an advocate between both the employer and the worker (Freeman 1996, p.41). The organizational environment is constantly taking a new look.

One of the major flaws of scientific management is that it did not put organizational change into keen consideration. New strategies and management practices had to be taken into consideration to cope with such change that alters the nature of operations in the workplace. The global financial crisis revealed that change management is a fundamental aspect in organizational management and rather than relying upon the long term thinking but on short horizons aimed at dealing with the constantly changing organizational environment.

The new management systems advocate for horizontal rather than the vertical organizational structure advocated for by Taylor in the event of organizational management (Tsukamoto 2007, p.115). The new management systems enhance worker autonomy as well as creativity, which results in higher levels of productivity than those advocated for by Taylor. Environmental change does not take place spontaneously. Therefore, it requires continuous learning, development, and utilization of new skills to overcome the obstacles that are brought about by such change. In cases where the workers were advised not to think while doing their work, thinking is now advocated.

As a result, they are taught much to do with how to make independent decisions and actively contribute to the expansion of the organization. The organizational environment has changed to ensure that both the individual worker and the organization as a whole strive towards continuous learning and the establishment of new knowledge to manage change in the organization.

The scientific management theory as put forward by Taylor has been seen by most of its critics as limiting to the individual workers (Nyland, & McLeod, 2007, p.679). Teamwork activities that enhance worker relations and integration between the management and the workforce are not supported by the scientific management theory. The thinking departments’ are separated from the ‘acting’ departments in the organization (Pugh 1993, p.41). The theory assumes that the worker has not parted in the policy and decision-making processes of the organization. As a result, he is deprived of the opportunity to save the organization when in the capacity to do so. The management oppresses the worker. This interferes with his motivation to carry out his duties, which subsequently influences negatively on productivity.

The failure of Taylor’s scientific management theory to address the issues brought about by organizational change has threatened the existence of the organizations that adopted it and practiced it blindly. During the recent global financial crisis, organizations such as Ford in the United States faced near bankruptcy due to the stiffness in addressing organizational change in their operations. For instance, Ford motors due to its loyal adoption of scientific management nearly faced bankruptcy only to be redeemed by a government bailout, while other companies survived the financial crisis and came out unscathed.

New management strategies that cope with organizational change

The new management strategies that aim at empowering the worker and encouraging an integrated system that enables the worker to participate in the organizational decision-making have utterly changed the structure of the workplace. As a result, the workplace is transformed from the traditional bureaucratic entity, and the machine metaphor is replaced by the learning organization metaphor (Freeman 1996, p.40).

According to Tsukamoto (2007, p.112), the learning organization grows because of drawing from the common intellect of both the workers and managers. The learning organization, therefore, advocates for learning through encouraging teamwork, and the formation of integrative groups that enhance the sharing of knowledge and the culture of cooperation towards the ultimate growth of the organization.

As it is espoused by Rose (1975, p.34), effective organizational management cannot take place without the individual participation of the worker in the learning process. This is in complete contrast with scientific management in that the worker is given the chance to gain mutually beneficial knowledge. The individual workers should then act as learning agents for the organization, responding positively to the changes that occur in the internal and the external environment of the organization.

This is accomplished when the individuals detect and correct errors as well as to adapt to the requirements of the organization by incorporating the outcomes of their inquiry in the private images and maps of the organization (Tsukamoto 2007, p. 56). The learning organizations, therefore, involve the participation of the individual workers through teamwork and the active sharing of knowledge and creativity rather than the solitary performance advocated for by the scientific management theory.

It is only in cases where the management system offers an opportunity to the individual workers even those at the lowest levels to participate in the growth of the organization that the organization is capable of attaining high levels of productivity (Nyland, & McLeod 2007, p.663). The hermeneutic investigation of available literature on management reveals that there is a dramatic structural change in the organizations from the bureaucratic and autocratic structure advocated for by the scientific management philosophy of Taylor (Pugh 1993, p.23).

Humanist motivational models have been adopted by organizations to improve their efficiency. Organizations have realized that it is only through the motivation of their workers rather than devising management models that demoralize them that they can attain efficiency and be able to cope with organizational change. This type of change is such as that which resulted in the global economic crisis whereby all organizations that relied on the fixed and inflexible system such as that of scientific management.

The organizational changes in the workplace are evident and a reality. Organizational diversity and the growing emphasis on developing the workforce requires that organizations that are aimed at making it in the future and at the same time be in a capacity to embrace the global information economy to disregard the limiting management systems (Nyland, & McLeod 2007, p.673).


Conclusively, based on the expositions made in the paper, it suffices to declare the fixed and inflexible thinking of the scientific management theory advocated by Taylor as one that is unsuitable for coping with organizational change (Darmody 2007, p.4). Some dangers even threaten the sheer existence of the organization when organizational change is not dealt with effectively. The near-bankruptcy experienced by the Ford automobile company in the United States that prompted the government to intervene is an example of the repercussions that organizations face when they fail to address the problem of organizational change by employing short-termed plans aimed at at at doing so.

The scientific management proved to work during the days of its inception. However, considering that the organizational environment is constantly changing, the theory is not anymore applicable in modern organizations due to its negligence of the concepts of organizational change and humanist motivation. Because of this, other models and practices have replaced it in organizations, and the organizational structures of most companies have been altered to allow the participation of even the lowest level workers in addressing such change.

The task of managing cannot be defined by the inflexible careful and preplanned thinking but rather by the short-termed interventions that organizations employed to survive the recent global financial crisis (Blake, & Moseley 2011, p.354).


Blake, A & Moseley, J 2011, ‘Frederick Winslow Taylor: One Hundred years of Managerial Insight’, International Journal of Management, vol. 28 no.4, pp. 346-355.

Darmody, P 2007, Henry L. Gantt and Frederick Taylor: The Pioneers of Scientific Management, ACCE International Transactions, vol. 1 no. 1, pp. 1-4.

Freeman, M 1996, ‘Scientific Management: 100 Years Old; Poised for the Next Century’, Sam Advanced Management Journal, vol. 1 no. 1, pp. 35-42.

Guillen, M 1994, Models of Management, Work, Authority and Organization in Comparative Perspective, Chicago University Press, Chicago.

Nyland, C & Mcleod, A 2007, ‘The Scientific Management of the Consumer Interest. Business History’, vol. 49 no. 5, pp. 663-681.

Pugh, D 1993, Organization Theory, Penguin, New York.

Rose, M 1975, Industrial Behavior: Theoretical Development since Taylor. Allen Lane Press, New York.

Taylor, F 1911, The principles of scientific management. In: F. Taylor Ed. 1964. Scientific management. Harper & Row, London.

Tsukamoto, S 2007, ‘An Institutional Economic Reconstruction of Scientific Management: On the Lost Theoretical Logic of Taylorism’, Academy of Management Review, vol. 32 no. 1, pp.105-117.

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