OUR INDUSTRIAL LEGACY
In 1911, only three years before his death of pneumonia at the age of 59, Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915), the son of a Quaker lawyer from Philadelphia, was questioned at length before a Special Committee of the House of Representatives in the USA. He had been summoned to give account of his views on management, because widespread hatred had developed against them. One of his most often quoted sayings is this:
‘Under our system, a worker is told just what he is to do and how he is to do it. Any improvement he makes upon the orders given him is fatal to his success. Hardly a competent workman can be found who does not devote a considerable amount of time to studying just how slowly he can work and still convince his employer that he is going at a good pace.’
Taylor was, and is known still, as ‘The Father of Scientific Management’, a system that relies heavily on work study and measurement, particularly the measurement of time, and it is significant that, in 1912, following the recommendations of the House Special Committee, the American Government passed laws banning the use of stopwatches for work study in the US Civil Service. It took until 1949 for those laws to be repealed.
Taylor was an engineer steeped in the paradigm of the Industrial Age. He had cut his management teeth in the iron and steelmaking industry and was convinced that productivity was far lower than it could be. He attributed this to ‘systematic soldiering’, a combination of deliberate ...