Management

Relationship to Fordism

It is human nature to jump to a post hoc conclusion that Fordism borrowed ideas from Taylorism and expanded from there. In fact it appears that Taylor himself did that when he visited the Ford Motor Company's Michigan plants not too long before he died. But it seems that the methods at Ford were in fact independently reinvented based on logic, and that any influence from Taylorism either was nil or at least was far enough removed to be very indirect. Charles E. Sorensen disclaimed any connection at all. There was a climate at Ford at the time (which remained until Henry Ford II took over the company in 1945) that the world's "experts" were worthless, because if Ford had listened to them, its great successes would not exist. Henry Ford felt that he had succeeded in spite of, not because of, experts, who had tried to stop him in various ways (disagreeing about price points, production methods, car features, business financing, and other topics). Therefore Sorensen spoke very dismissively (and briefly) of Taylor, and the mention was only to lump him into the unneeded-so-called-expert category. Sorensen did speak very highly of Walter Flanders and credits him with being the first driving force behind the efficient floorplan layout at Ford. Sorensen says that Flanders knew absolutely nothing about Taylor. It is possible that Flanders (a New England machine tool whiz) had been exposed to the spirit of Taylorism elsewhere, although not to its name, and had been (at least subconsciously) influenced by it, but he did not cite it explicitly as he simply allowed logic to guide his production development. Regardless, the Ford team apparently did indep ndently invent modern mass production techniques in the period of 1905-1915, and they themselves were not aware of any borrowing from Taylorism. Perhaps it is only possible with hindsight to see the overall cultural zeitgeist that (indirectly) connected the budding Fordism to the rest of the efficiency movement during the decade of 1905-1915. This is not unlike other invention storylines, where it was more than just Watt who was working toward a practical steam engine (others were struggling with it contemporarily); more than just Fulton who was working on steam boats; more than just Edison who was working on electrical technology; and even regarding Henry Ford himself, more than just he who was working toward a truly practical automobile in the 1890s (people all over North America and Europe were trying during that era, which he freely admitted). The same can be said about the development of the engineering of processes between the 1890s and the 1920s, although the Ford team were not at all conscious of this at the time. They perceived themselves to be working in a vacuum in that respect, but historians can argue with them about the extent to which that was really true. Taylor was an early pioneer in the field of process analysis and synthesis (which is why many people, falling for the storytelling allure of the Great Man theory, tend to think that the whole field owes everything to him). But he did not have the field to himself for long. The world was ready for such development by the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And in fact many people started to work on it, sometimes independently, sometimes with direct or indirect influence on each other.