Taylor's view of workers

Taylor's view of workers was complex, having both insightful and obtuse elements. Anyone who manages a large team of workers sees from experience that Taylor was correct that some workers could not be relied upon for talent or intelligence; today enterprises still find that talent is a scarce resource. But he failed to leave room in his system for the workers who did have talent or intelligence. Some of them would be duly utilized during the early phases (the studying and designing), but what about smart workers in years afterwards who would start out among the ranks of the drones? What opportunities would they have for career advancement or socioeconomic advancement? He also failed to properly consider the fate of the drone-ish workers themselves. Maybe they did lack the ability for higher-level jobs, but what about keeping them satisfied or placated in their existing roles? Taylorism took some steps toward addressing their needs (for example, Taylor advocated frequent breaks and good pay), but Taylor nevertheless had a condescending view of less intelligent workers, whom he sometimes compared to draft animals. And perhaps Taylor was so immersed in the vast work immediately in front of him (getting the world to understand and to implement scientific management's earliest phases) that he failed to strategize about the next steps (sustainability of the system after the early phases). Many other thinkers soon stepped forward to offer better ideas on the roles that humans would play in mature industrial systems. James Hartness, a fellow ASME member, published The Human Factor in Works Management in 1912. Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth offered alternatives to Taylorism. The human relations school of management evolved in the 1930s. Some scholars, such as Harry Braverman, insisted that human relations did not replace Taylorism but rather that both approaches were complementaryЧTaylorism determining the actual organisation of the work process, and human relations helping to adapt the workers to the new procedures. Today's efficiency-seeking methods, such as lean manufacturing, include respect for workers and fulfillment of their needs as inherent parts of the theory. (Workers slogging their way through workdays in the business world do encounter flawed implementations of these methods that make jobs unpl asant; but these implementations generally lack managerial competence in matching theory to execution.) Clearly a syncretism has occurred since Taylor's day, although its implementation has been uneven, as lean management in capable hands has produced good results for both managers and workers, but in incompetent hands has damaged enterprises. Implementations of scientific management usually failed to account for several inherent challenges: Individuals are different from each other: the most efficient way of working for one person may be inefficient for another. The economic interests of workers and management are rarely identical, so that both the measurement processes and the retraining required by Taylor's methods are frequently resented and sometimes sabotaged by the workforce. Taylor himself, in fact, recognized these challenges and had some good ideas for meeting them. Nevertheless, his own implementations of his system (e.g., Watertown Arsenal, Link-Belt corporation, Midvale, Bethlehem) were never really very successful. They plugged along rockily and eventually were overturned, usually after Taylor had left. And countless managers who later aped or worshiped Taylor did even worse jobs of implementation. Typically they were less analytically talented managers who had latched onto scientific management as the latest fad for cutting the unit cost of production. Like bad managers even today, these were the people who used the big words without any deep understanding of what they meant. Taylor knew that scientific management could not work (probably at all, certainly never enduringly) unless the workers benefited from the profit increases that it generated. Taylor had developed a method for generating the increases, for the dual purposes of owner/manager profit and worker profit, realizing that the methods relied on both of those results in order to work correctly. But many owners and managers seized upon the methods thinking (wrongly) that the profits could be reserved solely or mostly for themselves and the system could endure indefinitely merely through force of authority. Workers are necessarily human: they have personal needs and interpersonal friction, and they face very real difficulties introduced when jobs become so efficient that they have no time to relax, and so rigid that they have no permission to innovate.