7 Frederick Taylor’s Scientific Management

Sam Enyart, Warren Womack


  • Discuss Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management in terms of management in the 21st century
  • Explain  the role of scientific management in increasing  productivity
  • Explain the drawbacks of scientific management

In 1911, Frederick Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management, in which he explains how productivity can be greatly improved by applying the scientific method. The scientific method used in management is designed to train workers in the best way possible to get the most production out of your employees. Scientific management took away most of the autonomy from the working man and simplified jobs down to specific tasks.

Taylor felt that even the simplest tasks could be managed in a way to greatly improve productivity and he felt that the scientific method greatly out produced the initiative incentive method, because the initiative incentive method increased productivity but placed responsibility on the worker to figure out how to do it. Taylor, then began to implement the time studies, where he used a stop watch to time a workers sequence of motions to determine the best method for optimal performance.

“After many years of studies and experiments, Taylor came down to four principles of scientific management.

  1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.
  2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each worker rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.
  3. Cooperate with the workers to ensure that the scientifically developed methods are being followed.
  4. Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks. “ (Net MBA, 2010)

The Scientific management method did increase productivity, but also had its drawbacks. The core job dimensions of skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback were all missing from the picture of scientific management. Later theorists also argued that the method left out the “human equation,” and failed to treat the workers as thinking, feeling, human beings.

The use of stopwatches was often protested and some factories even went on strike against “Taylorism”. Despite its controversy, scientific management changed the way the work was done, and forms of it continue to be used today.

More on Taylor and scientific management

Chapter questions:

  1. If you were starting  a new organization, would you use Taylor’s principles of scientific management? Why or why not?
  2. Why would a union vote to strike against “Taylorism”?
  3. Is it true that there is “one  best way” to do  a task, as Taylor suggested? Make your arguement for or against, using examples from recreation or sport management.
  4. Explain how Taylorism has been used across different settings and different time periods.



Derksen, M. (2014). Turning Men into Machines? Scientific Management, Industrial         Psychology, and the “Human Factor”. Journal of the History of the Behavioral   Sciences, 50(2), 148-165. doi:10.1002/jhbs.21650

Net MBA. (2010). Frederick Taylor & Scientific Management. Retrieved March 29,          2017, from http://www.netmba.com/mgmt/scientific/

Who Made America? (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2017, from             http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/taylor_hi.html