Fredrick Taylor was one of the earliest thinkers in the field of business process management and also one of the most controversial figures. Some regard him as the guru who gave the world a new paradigm called scientific management while others (especially labor unions) regard him as the mastermind who created conditions suitable for the exploitation of labor. However these are views on how gains which result from increased productivity be shared between the capitalist owner and the laborers. Regardless of who gets the benefit, Fredrick Taylor can be credited with showing the world a pathway to increase productivity i.e. obtain more and more outputs from the same inputs.
Here are some of the salient features of his theory known as â€œTheory of Scientific Managementâ€
Knowledge Transfer: Taylor looked at businesses from the process point of view. He soon realized that various inputs required by the process were held by different people and conflicts amongst those people were creating inefficiencies. He therefore looked at the contribution of laborers to the business and analyzed that they were contributing two things to the processes viz. energy (physical labor) and specialized knowledge that they had acquired while working. He realized that physical labor was available in the factor markets and was not expensive to hire.
However at the same time knowledge was both rare and expensive. His theory therefore advocated that knowledge from various workers be captured into a system. Thus the organization would become knowledgeable and not individual workers. This skill set should be managed in such a way that it can be transferred to another employee when required thereby reducing the bargaining power of laborers and reducing disruption of effective functioning of business. In his own words he wanted to transform craft production into mass production.
Reducing Complexity of Tasks: Taylor advocated time and motion studies to ensure that each hour of labor be spent in the best possible manner. His method advocated observation and documentation of each activity performed. The next step was to break the activities amongst different set of people capitalizing on the principles of division of labor proposed by Adam Smith.
Applying Best Practices: Taylor believed that processes adhere the principles of equifinality. This means that there are multiple ways of transforming the inputs into outputs. For instance if you wanted to go from point A to point B you could use a boat, an airplane, a car, a train etc. However given certain constraints one way will be better than the others. For instance, if you want to go fastest the airplane is the best choice. Similarly he believed that it was the managementâ€™s task to find out the best procedure to be followed and create a best practice. The worker was then supposed to diligently follow it to obtain the best possible results.
Increase in Labor Productivity: Taylors methods were known to bring about a revolution in the field of labor productivity. This is because time and motion studies ensured optimization of labor as an input. Also the loafing time was reduced.
Protests against Taylorâ€™s method call it the â€œmachine modelâ€. They think that this model reduces labor to a mindless task and stalls the mental development of human beings. Laborers are like the parts in a machine that perform the same task repetitively without thinking. Slightest deviation from adopted best practices are discouraged by negative incentives that have been imposed on them.