Taylorism

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Taylorism is the process of reducing waste by looking for inefficient worker activity and improving workshop organization based upon scientific studies of human efficiency and incentive systems, as developed by American engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915).

Taylor, at Bethlehem Steel, became famous for developing the concepts of scientific management and "one best way" to do any physical job, with each motion efficient. He argued that most work routines were full of waste and inefficiencies that could be spotted and removed by trained engineers. Workers should work smarter, not harder, and they would produce more with the same effort. At its simplest Taylor would closely watch workers do their job then analyze what they did into the smallest component tasks, experiment to determine the best way to accomplish each task, and then train the workers to operate the new way. The workers had to be amenable to change, and have the aptitude for retraining. High turnover among workers was a negative, for it was wasteful to keep training the replacements.

Taylor saw his methods as a means to benefit both workers and management, with cost savings shared between the two, but use of his methods became controversial. Union advocates argued that the methods treated workers like machines and ignored psychological factors, and resulted in deskilling and systematic disempowering of workers. In practice the system increased the number of unskilled workers, and also the number of skilled workers and engineers, squeezing out old-time craftsmen set in their traditions. Taylor's legacy was enormous in the U.S. influencing many engineers and such management theorists as Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and Henry Gantt. His influence was nearly as great around the world, as business admired American productivity and tried to emulate it.

See Fordism