Organisation theory is the study of individuals and human behaviour within organisations. Organisations organise what we do and controls a lot of what happens in our everyday life thus for this reason it is important to continue research in this field, as it will help grapple what sort of world we have created and what alternatives we may desire in the future. In this essay, I will be describing a modernist organisation theory which is known as ‘Taylorism’. This is the scientific management approach which was founded by Fredrick Taylor.
Taylor’s Idea of Scientific management is relevant and applicable to our world today however, only to a certain extent, as throughout time Taylor’s theory has been in many ways altered to suit people’s needs today. So, although Taylor’s theory is present in organisations today it may not be in its purest form.
The manifestation of Fredrick Taylor’s theory, helped introduce advance and alternative ideas, which came from his experience at the Midvale steel company.
During the 1880’s, Taylor’s time at the Midvale Steel company, led to the development of his theory. The company at the time was functioned by ‘the rule of thumb’ which was primarily based on the manager’s past experience and was seen as ‘the dictatorship of the manager.’ The methods within the ‘rule of thumb’ were untested and unscientific. Taylor came to the recognition that the workforce was largely insufficient due to functioning on the ‘rule of thumb’ and therefore, Taylor started experimenting and applied ‘scientific knowledge’ to the workforce. Taylor wanted to replace the ‘hit and miss method’ and instead establish a cause and effect relationship which would allow the objective or cause to be met, leading to efficiency and increase in productivity.
There are ontological and epistemological foundations to Taylor’s theory. Ontology is the study and science of humans whereas epistemology is based on knowledge especially in regard to methods. In terms of organisation, even today, many organisations are designed to follow a hierarchal system which leads on to placing emphasis on order and control. Taylor’s theory has this foundation, as it includes the distinction between managers and employees as well as providing supervision. The epistemological foundation of the theory includes using scientific techniques to understand the ways in which we can make our organisations more strategic and systematic and to rely on empirical data to make rational decisions.
Taylor used ‘time and motion studies’ which consists of procedures which determine the amount of time that is required to complete certain tasks which involve human activity under certain standard conditions.
Taylor’s Scientific theory went by four important principles. The first was to replace the ‘rule of thumb’ and use a scientific approach to study and determine the most effective and efficient way to perform certain tasks.
Secondly, to assign workers to job positions that match their capability, motivation, and to train them to work at a maximum efficiency. (For example, in a recent undercover study of Amazon, an employer was employed as a ‘piker’ who had to collect orders from storage)
Thirdly, Taylor believed that monitoring worker’s performance, providing supervision and strict surveillance would ensure that workers were using the most effective and efficient way of working. (The Amazon undercover study provides evidence that the scientific management theory is still relevant today as the employers were constantly being supervised and monitored)
Lastly, to have a division between workers and managers however, to have co-operation between the two, so that managers would spend their time planning and workers would perform efficiently.
It can be seen that today scientific management theory is part of organisations in the 21st century. Nevertheless, it may not be as visible due to all the amends made throughout the years; for example, organisations today prioritise social factors of their employees alongside their efficiency whereas, Taylor was more concerned with just efficiency and believed that workers were in it solely for economic reward. People nowadays have realised their value and thus organisations have to work with employees and priorities social factors such as mental and physical wellbeing of workers, their loyalty, adaptability and efficiency as well. Taylor’s principles will be more visible in developing countries as oppose to western countries.