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CRITICISM ON SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT

LITERATURE REVIEW

Submitted To
Department of Management,
University of Dhaka

Submitted By
Md. Mizanur Rahman

ID# 18041, Section-A,


Batch-18
Course Code: MGT-401
Course Name: Development of Management Thought
Department of Management,
University of Dhaka

May, 2015

CAUTION: - No part of this article is allowed to plagiarize prior to the written


permission of Md. Mizanur Rahman (mizan2.rahman@yahoo.com). But it can be used
for academic and learning purpose. Using any part without proper citation is strictly
prohibited.

Criticism on Scientific Management 1

Abstract
It is a literature review based article; the purpose is to examine and analyze literatures published
on criticism of scientific management. This article begins with an introduction showing in
brief words about emergence of scientific management and its brief but main concept; next it
proceeds directly to criticism: this section depicts precise summary of different critics presented
by various literatures, the commonalities and contrasted views (if any). The later section portrays
findings; furthermore it proceeds towards another part: criticism, the present scenario and finally
it ends with concluding remarks. The limitation is that it doesnt cover all criticisms due to time
and words limit; but it covers the major and significant ones.

Keywords: F.W. Taylor, scientific management, rule of thumb, research, standardization.

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Introduction
After the end of the civil war, the American economy grew up, industry expanded and faced for
challenges to keep up with the demand from huge population. To handle such complex situation,
the following changes emerged:i) Separation between management & labor in big businesses
ii) Growth of management class

So, management was not confined in HIT OR MISS or TRIAL & ERROR based rule of thumb.
It was the call of time which required that management be based on scientific and systematic
methods. So, scientific management (management of science, of precision) emerged and
replaced the traditional and obsolete rule of thumb method (methods that supports decision
making based on personal experience and intuition rather than proven facts.)

Scientific management involves setting standards (for process, operation, tools, time & cost)
conducting extensive research and study, systematic planning, controlling whether standards are
met or not and ensuring labor-management cooperation directing towards achieving
organizational objectives.

Between 1880s & 1890s, observing inefficient management practice which was based on
arbitrary decision making, Frederick Winslow Taylor abolished such rule of thumb principle and
conducted extensive research and study and based on his findings, he established standard rules
and regulations the one best way to do ones task; which was popularly known as scientific
management. It got into maturity and influential in 1910. In 1911, in United States, F.W. Taylor
published his famous book, Principles of Scientific Management through which the concept
was brought to light in front of public. Taylors standard scientific techniques reshaped and
redefined factory system.
Scientific management is established on the base of these four principles:-

Scientifically designing tasks (replacing rule of thumb)

Scientific selection of personnel & scientifically developing personnel

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Management-worker cooperation

Equal division of work (among management & workers)

So, in the end of introduction part, here is presented more prcised definition of scientific
management:-

Scientific management= Science+ management: - shaping the management (planning, control,


cooperation) by use of scientific methods based on research and study.
Core concepts on which scientific management is based: - research, standards, planning,
control & cooperation.

Although, Taylors theory of scientific management played a significant role in shaping the
factory system, this theory has been criticized on different ground by different scholars.

Criticism on Scientific Management


F.W. Taylor was right in the sense that he could understand the fact that a true environment for
application of scientific management exists provided that both labor and management pursue for
same goal; as labor management harmonious relationship can avoid conflict. Criticism arises
here because of his mistake as he believed that there would be no conflict over how to divide
the pie as long as the pie was large enough (Taylor as cited in Locke, 1982).
Besides Locke, John Commons and Robert Hoxie also argued that scientific management would
incite conflict between employees and employers. Both commons and Hoxie nicely clarified the
reason of conflict. In the findings of Commons; intense standardization of process and system is
responsible for the conflict (Frey, 1913). Commons also questioned: Can scientific management
deal scientifically with organizations as well as individuals? (Commons, 1911: 464).
Robert Hoxie came by a fact organized labor opposes scientific management and pursued for
the reason behind such opposition (Hoxie, 1916a).

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Hoxie found that time and motion study resulted in origination of standard time within which
workers had had to complete their task otherwise they were negatively reviewed. Here they
could not take it easy and could not find scope for soldiering, so workers coldly accepted
scientific management and they collectively opposed it. So it is clear that scientific management
has failed to escape labor-management conflict which is the mother of all criticisms that are
being proved throughout this article.
While Locke, John Commons and Robert Hoxie accused standardization for labor-management
conflict; English economist John Hobson in Work and Wealth: A Human Valuation (1914)
critically stated that improved tools and techniques and improved working methods presents
conflict between goal of business and interest of workers; workers had to work hard to achieve
organizational objective (Hobson, 1914: 207).
Although scientific management leads to high productivity by increased output, such output is
gained at the expense of the labor. Scientific management is highly criticized here. Scientific
management is viewed widespread as exploiting employees as much as possible to gain
maximum benefits for employers (Maqbool, Zakariya & Naveed Paracha, 2011:846).
. a method of squeezing the last ounce of blood from men
(Trade Union Congress Report, 1910: 28)

.The new system is unfair and inhuman

(The Engineer, 1911)


Workers have to work for hours and hours, weeks and weeks to meet standards; they are greatly
affected both physically and mentally for rushing towards meeting standard output within
standard time (Managementstudyguide.com, 2015). Very often, many industries face workplace
accidents due to such dehumanization. In 2010 a major producer of Apple products; Foxconn,
had an outbreak in factory worker suicides due to the exhausting working conditions and an
average of 120 overtime hours per month (Moore, 2010).
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Criticism on Scientific Management

An economist named Philip Sargant Florence questioned the scientific nature of scientific
management. He claimed that although scientific management had had proved its worth as a
science by resulting in material efficiency, but it had failed on the track of human science as it
had neglected human factor (Florence 1924: 95).
So, it is truly treats workers as tools or machines rather than as human being; it focuses on
physical efficiency rather than on social efficiency (S. J. Ralston, 2012).
It is clear from the literatures and citations that is, scientific management may be claimed as
efficient from the viewpoint of increased output; but it is unscientific in the field of sociology
and study of human aspects because scientific management aims at achieving as many outputs as
possible by forcefully compelling workers to do as they are told.
As scientific management emerged with the demand of the highly subordination by the labor
towards the management; workers could not put their claims over management against inhuman
orders, sub-standard working condition and gradually such alienation created a resentment
among labor class towards management. So, very often strike broke out as for example of a real
case: a notable strike that broke out by workers against U.S. Steel in 1909 whereby more than
3500 workers protested against inhuman working condition (Backer, 1998).
Scientific management defines motivation very narrowly; it states that productivity of workers
can be insured by only monetary incentives. But in reality workers care about not only money
but also about social well-being, their development opportunity (Priestley, 2005).
Maslow in his hierarchy of need theory mentioned that people move towards achieving higher
order needs after fulfillment of lower order needs. But in the case of scientific management,
workers have to work for the same position (standard position) at standard rate following
standard instructions prescribed by management; here although the workers can fill up their
financial or monetary needs, they fail to achieve esteem and self-actualization needs
(hubpages.com, 2013).
So, it is clear that the view of scientific management is not sufficient to define human need.

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Another criticism is scientific management creates platform for discrimination. Although the
output was the result of toil of workers, they had very little or almost no scope for using their
judgement and voice; they had to do as they were told by management. (Hobson, 1914: 209). It
was regarded as a loss or injury to the workers (Hobson 1914: 212). The separation of
planning from implementation had clearly created a platform for discrimination as it restricted
workers from voicing suggestion or opinion to improve planning process and the result was very
dangerous: resentment (Robertson 1923: 97).
Scientific management is also criticized for authoritarianism. Alfred Marshall pointed out that
although planning department was established for efficiency, actually this department was
proved cumbersome; planning department took all the decisions and foremen and workmen had
to implement them without any saying. Scientific management exists if mental revolution that is
labor-management harmonious relationship exists. But in reality, management opts for
dictatorship; they instruct foremen and workers and they are bound to implement the
instructions. (Marshal, 1919)
So, scientific management clearly supports autocracy; workers are bound to do as their bosses
order to do, they have no scope to voice against wage policy, working environment and nature of
work (Reich, 2007).
In traditionally organized large business firms, one foreman had to handle large no of workmen
and had to communicate with them; in the modern scientific management system, there were
some foremen each had a narrow area (they could handle particular narrow issue). Here, no
opportunity for direct or personal control/supervision. Personal relationship was replaced by
written form of order (Marshall 1919:366). But personal relationship bestows with good assets
that are trust and esteem of staff and workers that even a machine cannot provide (Marshall
1919: 351).
Standardization is one of the major bases of scientific management. But standardization of
complex structure or organization structure is not always a sign of good mark. Such
standardization of structure defines large firms and most probably thats the reason why small
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firms can respond and adapt to changed economy and environment and large businesses collapse.
Moreover in industries where there requires high involvement of innovation, standardization of
structure proves to be ineffective (Marshall 1919: 243).
Standardization has another pitfall that is to be a prominent industrial leader, creativeness is
necessary (Marshal). Managers are created leaders rather than inborn leaders; so we can call
managers as leaders. A managers efficiency cant be judged through merely prcising
standards, rather by how managers can react to situational changes; how their decision making
impacts on the planning and operation on the face of changed situation. So in this case
standardization is a bad yardstick.
Although it is claimed that replacing need of human handicraft by automatic and semi-automatic
machines is a advanced system; from human point of view, it actually make the work of
human easy at the expense/price of killing labor skill (Marshall 1919: 683).
Besides Marshall, other scholars also criticized scientific management on the ground of
deskilling of labor. According to him, as works are broken down into smaller tasks and
workers find tasks are made easier to them by proper instruction and division of labor, workers
get little scope for developing themselves (Priestley, 2005).

Apart from innovation and creativity a worker may have some other potential that would have
been a source of competitive advantage for the business, but such latent potential becomes
overlooked by the management as the management measures the workers efficiency by merely
his or her operation that is how many output he or she can produce. But a workers productivity
of output is not the only measure of efficiency (Marshall 1919: 662).
Another evidence of rigidness is that restraints flexibility and change is that instructions are final
and not subject to change.
Workers or operatives each are provided with instructions card in which instructions are written
stating which have to be done by each worker; such instructions are provided by the planning
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department and are fixed. Once provided, it cannot be changed by the worker or operative unless
the planning department further announces any decision regarding this. Marshall criticizes this
inflexibility or non-adaptability (Marshal 1919: 51)
Again, Marshall stated that an inflexible firm structure is proved to be efficient in the short run,
but the long run effect ends in inefficiency.
Rigid standardization not only restricts innovation and change but also makes turns workers less
committed; as the goals and purpose are not shared with them by management, workers cant
understand why they are carrying out one best way to do type orders from management.
Therefore they are not self-motivated (S. J. Ralston, 2012).
Another notable criticism of scientific management is that it focuses on individual performance
rather than group performance; but todays business world is more complex whereby team work
is needed to be succeeded.
Marshall criticized another drawback of scientific management that is fixation of absolute wage
rate by planning department; because wage rate is needed to be modified in response to changes
in economic circumstances (Marshall 1919: 384).
Under scientific management system workers are treated as low ranked and are maltreated with
disrespect. Taylor stated that unless flow of instruction from experts of planning department
towards the workers, no worker can perform any task (1998). The experts consider workers as
very poorly educated and too dull to work without any instructions.
In the words of Taylors, workers have to obey instructions from their bosses and it is
unnecessary to explain to workers why they have to follow, that is do as you are told. But in
modern world, companies precisely explain employees about its vision and mission and goals,
that is, they are aware of what they do and why they do (Peters & Waterman).

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It is difficult and unwise to apply scientific management in the entire organization. It may be
useful in some departments but may be proved ineffective for others.
One system might be applied advantageously to some departments while in others an attempt to apply
the same system would prove disastrous

(Case studies in business, 2009:108).

Based on presenting criticism in the words of different authors the major


findings are: Scientific management incites conflict among management and workers as it
characterized by autocracy, dehumanization of labor, discrimination and oppression.
Scientific management fails to value human resource; it fails to depict the fact that
internally motivated workforce are automatically involved with the organization and
works for organizational value creation.

Due to labor-management conflict, strike breaks out.


Scientific management poorly defines motivation and it cant fully understand human
need.
Severe autocracy; workers are bound to abide by what they are told by management and
planners.
Functional foremanship a concept brought about by scientific management, restricts
opportunity of direct personal relationship; 8 bosses (foremen) had different roles; they
were busy in performing their roles, so direct personal relationship with each and workers
were not possible.
Scientific management is a tool for maximizing interests of management and owners at
the expense of labor.

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Scientific management creates discrimination in the society by creating division in the


workplace as management class and labor class.
There is no opportunity for career development as workers have to follow same
instructions all the time; those who can go beyond performing same rigid duties all the
time can develop their career and scientific management restricts such opportunity.
Scientific management is inflexible to changes that may happen due to sudden
environmental breakthrough or change; moreover innovation and creativity is not
possible here. Businesses operating based on mass customization cant apply scientific
management due to variation in demand. Moreover, inflexible and fixed wage rate is not
effective for all situations as during downturn or economic recession wage rate is needed
to be adjusted.
Scientific management fails to create a sense of respect in the workplace; management
treats all workers as less educated and too dull to decide what to do.
Workers dont know why they are following orders by management; they simply do as
they are told.
Scientific management focuses on individual performance; but now-a-days most
organizations focus on working in teams and groups.
An organization should decide to apply scientific management only in those sections or
department that it fits with; total organization cant comply with scientific management.

Notable criticism considering present scenario of business world and


workplace:
Labor-management conflict is largely seen in organizations now-a-days. Scientific

management is the base of present industrial breakthrough.


In present world, team work is necessary for completing complex projects and tasks; so
individualistic scientific management approach is not effective.
Motivation and human needs are not confined in merely money. Moreover, workplaces
are more and more competitive and offering high incentives (extending beyond
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monetary) to attract talented workforce; if workers dont get incentives beyond merely
money they leave their current organization and switch to a better one.
Many organizations today train employees beyond their routined job through job
enrichment and job rotation; that would not be possible if workers have little chance of
diversification.
Now in most organizations, goals are set up and shared by both management and lower
levels; such goals sharing helps to formulate realistic goals. If only managers could
involve in planning and lower levels couldnt know the purpose and couldnt participate,
many established successful business of todays would have fallen.
Now customers are more sophisticated and fast changing; so demand of customized
products are more than standardized products.

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Conclusion
Scientific management is the father of modern business and industry. It is a science that contains
knowledge based on research and study and an art as its application shaped the industry.
Basically the criticisms are related with its careful application, not the theory itself; the
explanation is that if the theory is applied prudently in the right place in a right way then the
result can be distinguishable. But the theory is applied in the wrong area and in a wrong way
then it will backfire.

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References: - (Harvard Format)


Backer, Patricia, Ryaby (1998). Scientific MGT. Available at:
http://www.engr.sjsu.edu/pabacker/scientific_mgt.htm [Accessed on 17 May, 2015].
Caldari, Katia (2007), Alfred Marshalls critical analysis of scientific management. [Accessed
on: May 4, 2015]
Case studies in business. (2009). Harvard Business Review, 4(1), p-108.
George Jr., Claude S. The History of Management Thought. 2nd ed. Prentice-Hall of India
Private Ltd, New Delhi. p-81-82, 90, 93
HubPages.com, 2013. Scientific Management: Application of Frederick Winslow Taylor's theory
in Contemporary Management. Available at: wowguidemaster.hubpages.com/.../ScientificManagement-Application-of-Frederick Winslow-Taylor's-theory-in-ContemporaryManagement. [Accessed on May 15, 2015.]
Locke, A. (1982) The ideas of Frederick W. Taylor: An evaluation. Academy of Management
Review, 7(1), 14-24.
Managementstudyguide.com, (2015). Criticism of Scientific Management. Available at:
http://www.managementstudyguide.com/criticism_scientificmanagement.htm [Accessed
on: 06 May, 2015].
Maqbool, M., Zakariya, A, & Paracha, A. N. (2011). A critique on scientific management,
Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research In Business, 3(4), 844-851

Mindtools.com, (2015). Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management: Understanding Taylorism


and Early Management Theory. Available at:
http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_Taylor.htm [Accessed on May 06, 2015]
Peters, Tom & Waterman, Robert (1988). In Search of Excellence. Harper & Row Publications.
Ralston, Shane. Doing versus Thinking: John Deweys Forgotten Critique of Scientific
Management. Academia.edu. Available at:
http://www.academia.edu/.../Doing_versus_Thinking_John_Deweys_Forgotten_
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Critique_of_Scientific_Management. [Accessed on May 16, 2015]


Reich, J. (2007). Criticism of Infant Swimming Practice Is Political, Not Scientific.
PEDIATRICS.
Taylor, Frederic. (1998), The Principles of Scientific Management. Re-published. Originally
published in 1911. Dover Publications.

Thank You

Md. Mizanur Rahman

Md. Mizanur Rahman

Md. Mizanur Rahman

Md. Mizanur Rahman