Scientific Management

Here we understand the concept and elements of scientific management
 & the benefits and the criticisms of scientific management.

The operating a business enterprise the management has two possible approaches the first is referred to as the traditional management, involving either a subjective or an intuitive evaluation of the problem and making of a decision. This is also called hit-or-miss and rule-of-thumb method. The second is referred to as the scientific management, involving orderly, methodical programme for exploration, analysis and solving the problem. It is predicted upon two beliefs: a) that there is aone best way of doing work and b) that organized systematic analysis is superior to intuitive judgment in finding that one best way. It was F.W. Taylor (1911) who popularized the concept of Scientific Management. His ideas made a tremendous impact on the factory managers of his generation and since then they have continued to influence the ideas and practices of the successive generations of managers till to-day. That is why Taylor has been universally regarded as the “Father of Scientific Management”.

To F.W. Taylor, the traditional systems of management were systems of “initiative and incentive”. The initiative to do a work was always taken by the workers and the management merely provided the necessary incentives to the works to get the best from them. Whenever the expected results did not follow, the management threw the whole blame upon the workers. The management did not take any responsibility to improve the skills of the workers. The management followed the rule-of-thumb or a trial and error method in running the affairs of the business. This made Taylor to devise ‘Scientific Management’. Under his scheme of scientific management, Taylor wanted the management to take initiative in determining the best way of doing the work by research and analysis, and then, to train and teach the workmen the best method of doing a work before he is actually given the work. His basic trust was summarized by himself as: “Science, not rule of thumb, harmony, not discord, co-operation, not individualism, maximum output in place of restricted effort and the development of each man to his greatest efficiency and prosperity”.


                 Scientific management may be referred to as a way of thinking and attitude which discards the traditional hit-and-miss and rule-of-thumb methods of doing work and replaces them the scientific methods and practices for the solution of the problems of industrial management.
Taylor defines scientific management as “knowing exactly what you want men to do and seeing that they do it in the best and the cheapest way”.


1.    Scientific management calls for the collection of all factual information, statistical data affecting the operation of the business.

2.    It demands the screening the strategic facts and situations from the data collected and the formulation of law of managerial performance based upon such facts.

3.    It requires the establishment of various standards of work performance in regard to time, quantity, quality and cost for exercising effective control over the enterprise.

4.    It makes out a case for undertaking planning before doing.

5.    It involves the establishment of rules for regulating the conduct of human beings, developing team-work and securing harmonious operations.


The various elements of scientific management

1.    Determination of task
2.    Planning the task
3.    Scientific selection, training and remuneration of workers
4.    Standardization of materials and equipments
5.    Specialization
6.    Mental revolution


Under scientific management, the management is responsible for determining the task for every worker through careful scientific investigation. The standard task that is set by the management is the amount of work which an average worker working under ideal standardized conditions in an atmosphere of mutual trust and co-operation will be able to do in a day. This was called a ‘proper days’ work by Taylor. In setting a task, a great deal of care has to be exercised. If the task is much higher than the capacity of the ordinary worker, it will defeat the very purpose of scientific management. Hence, the Taylor advocated the use of scientific techniques in task setting. Those techniques include a) methods of study b) motion study c) time study d) fatigue study and e) rate setting.
a)    Method Study:
“Method study is a systematic recording, analysis and critical examination of existing and proposed ways of doing work and the development and application of easier and more effective methods”. The first step is preparation of process chart setting various operations that are to be performed. The management should them make efforts to reduce the distance travelled by materials and effect improvements in material handling, transportation, inspection and storage etc. The possibilities of eliminating or combining certain operations may be studied. The management should thus try to ensure that the operations are laid out in the best manner.

b)    Motion study:
Motion study is the study of movements whether of a machine or an operator, in performing an operation for the purpose of eliminating useless motion and of arranging the sequence of useful motions in the most efficient order. the purpose of such a study is to find out the one best method a of job performance which every worker will be expected to follow.

c)    Time Study:
Time study may be defined primarily as the art of observing and recording the time required to do each detailed element of an industrial operation. It involves the careful measurement of the time required to do the several detailed parts of a given operation. The basic purpose of time study is to determine the proper time for performing the operation. Such study is conducted after the motion study.

Time and motion studies help in determining the best method of doing a job and the standard time allowed for it.

d)    Fatigue study:
Fatigue is the diminution of the capacity for work due to long hours of work or lack of rest. Fatigue of all kinds-physical mental and nervous affects efficiency, productivity and health. It is therefore, necessary to regulate the working hours and provide for rest pauses at scientifically determined intervals. The fatigue study, helps to decide this.

A modern term used to refer both methods of work and work measurement (time and motion studies) is work study. Work study may be defined as the systematic, objective and critical examination of all the factors governing the operational efficiency of any specified activity in order to effect improvement.

e)    Rate Setting:
Rate setting is the process of fixing wage rates in such a manner that the average worker is induced to attain the standards. For the purpose, Taylor recommended the differential piece-wage system, under which workers performing the standard task within prescribed time are paid a much higher rate per unit than those inefficient workers who are not able to come up to the standard set.


 The planning is said to be soul of scientific management. The planning of task usually involves decisions as to what work shall be done, how the work shall be done, where the work shall be done and when the work shall be done. The question ‘what work shall be done is generally decided by the management and the engineering department whose information is passed on to the planning department. The planning department will then the required to perform the other functions of production planning and control such as issuing orders to suppliers, routing the sequence of machines, processes and operations, assigning the time for each operation / process, ensure that the necessary materials and tools are readily available and collect all returns and records of performance and maintain them for future reference and for use in the administrative departments.


The fulfillment of task requires that competent workers are selected, trained and remunerated. The scientific approach to the performance of selection requires determination of manpower requirements, job analysis, determining sources of recruitment, conduct tests and interview and placement.
The management must take steps to train the workers systematically and scientifically before assigning them the job. A large number of on-the-job and off-the-job training methods have come into practice to train the workers.
A logical system of remunerations has to be devised. Taylor recommended the ‘differential piece-rate plan’ to induce workers to achieve standard task.

4.  Standardization

Standardization means bringing about uniformity with the object of facilitation smooth and efficient performance of tasks by workers.
Standardization may be introduced in materials, tools and equipment, working conditions (ventilation, humidity, safety precautions etc.) and speed for every machine.

5.  Specialization

Taylor advocated introduction of specialization in the administrative and organizational set up of the plant. It includes functional foremanship (Rote clerk, Instruction clerk, Time clerk etc.) management by exception and cost accounting.

6.    Mental revolution

Taylor said, scientific management, in essence, involves a complete mental revolution on the part of the worker and the management including the foreman and superintendent. In other words, both sides must aim for co-operation for maximizing output and give up hostility and suspicion. Workers should change their traditional outlook and must learn to perform the task given to them with efficiency and speed without resolving to go-slow tactics. Likewise the management should deem its duty to treat its workers with dignity, arrange for scientific training, provide for congenial working environment and should not hesitate to share the gains on a reasonable basis.

It must be remembered that scientific management is an organic whole and cannot be introduced in piece meal. Further it cannot be introduced all of a sudden and the results will not be immediate. It can take place only slowly and the benefits reaped after a period of time. As H.S. Person has rightly said, “it must be planted and cultivated like a tree. It is not something to be bought and installed like a boiler or a machine”. Merits of Scientific Management.

1.    Scientific management seeks to bring about a mental revolution, - a change in the attitudes of workers and management.
2.    It encourages experimentation investigation and scientific study and analysis in every phase of industrial activity.
3.    It promotes revolution in planning.
4.    By introducing scientific methods of selection, training and compensation and by standardizing materials and equipments it brings benefits to workers by reducing physical mental and nervous strain.
5.    It helps increase production, profits and employment.
6.    It fosters co-operation between workers and management.


      The concept of scientific management has been criticized by employers, employees and others.


The employees criticize the introduction of scientific management on the following grounds:
1.    Employees consider that the scientific management is a device to extract maximum output by speeding up the work. But this is not true. The worker’s productivity is improved not by speeding up the work, but through scientific methods of carrying it out.
2.    Employees fear that it reduce them to mere machines. This is also not true since particular method of doing a work is determined in advance scientifically.
3.    Employees feel that excessive job simplification and standardization kills skill, initiative and creativeness in the worker and makes the work dull, mechanical and monotonous. Though it is partly true an effort is made to lesson the monotony by placing the right men for the right job.
4.    It is common complaint of works that the wage rise is not proportionate to rise in productivity. It cannot be denied that both workers and management should get their due share in increased profits.
5.    Employee’s union show resentment against scientific management that it divides the workers (through differential piece rate) and weakness trade unions. This is not true. In fact under scientific management efficient workers are paid more and they are not divided. Taylor feel trade unionism is unnecessary as everything is taken care of by scientific management.
6.    Employees and their unions feel that it causes unemployment of persons who could not rise up to the expected standards. It is partly true. There is always scope for increasing efficiency by training.


1.    The employer’s criticism is that
the scientific management implies mainly centres around the introduction of the planning department and the additional cost involved.
2.    Employees argue that adoption of scientific management involves a complete reorganization of production pattern which will render the existing plant obsolete and thereby involve the organisation into a great loss. It is partly true.
3.    Owners of small business feel that this is not suitable for them as it is too expensive.


1.    Scholars criticized that  the use of the term scientific management is misnomer. They argue it is only scientific approach to management and not scientific management.
2.    It is also criticized that it is primarily concerned with ‘task management’ but did not deal with the problems of marketing, personnel, finance etc.
3.    Scientific management separates ‘planning’ from doing. But it is said that they are not separate jobs but separate parts of the same job.
4.    Psychologists criticize that by emphasizing one best way of doing things’ the scientific management kills creative abilities of workers.
5.    Psychologists criticize that it makes use of financial incentives alone and non-financial incentives which are also equally powerful in motivating the workers are not used.

It can be said that many of the criticisms raised against scientific management are exaggerated. A large part of the criticism must be attributed to the faulty methods of adopting it and not to the approach made by the system. The principles suggested by Taylor are as much valid to-day. Not only that, Taylor’s contributions were used as the basis for introducing refinement, modification and expansion of many techniques, and philosophies of management.