Thursday, February 01, 2018

Was Fredrick Taylor a bad man ?

Many times we demonize Taylorism to such an extent that people start believing Taylor was a bad man. 
If we look back into the history, Taylor did introduce the separation of thinking vs. doing, introduced the concept of labor productivity through constant monitoring and efficiency improvement practices. However, these practices worked well in the 1900s due to the prevailing context at that time. 
  • Back in the 1900s, the world literacy rate was barely 25% 
  • Those days, only 6% Americans graduated, but today it is close to 90% 
  • The major tech that was invented was a toggle switch
We need to consider the situation during Taylor's period; he had a big responsibility at hand. I don't think he was in a position to hand over the job of planning and designing bridges (so called Thinking job) to the less literate people. As the less literate people were migrating to the city in search of the job, he wanted to keep them productive by assigning them the "doing jobs." 
Fast forward to 2017; the context is entirely different. 
  • The world literacy rate is more than 85%
  • More than 80% of Americans graduated last year
  • Every day a new invention is transforming lives of people
Bottomline is, the context has changed drastically since the last 100 years, and it is foolishness to apply the best practices of the 1900s in 2017. Some of the Taylorstic ideas that we are still following include:
  • Managers are responsible for planning and making high-level decisions. The developers and rest of the crew are responsible for executing the plan.
  • Encourage specialization in only one area as though the individual had learning disability (for ex: BAs are supposed to only Analysis and not testing) 
  • Individual productivity measurements. 
With so much of progress in science and technology, why are we still following the age old management practices? Could we have done better if we abandoned Scientific management 30 years ago? 
Before I conclude, the question is, Is Fredrick Taylor, a bad man? Or should we hold ourselves accountable for borrowing the best practices from the 1900s in managing 2017 work?

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