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Introduction to Management

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Describe and evaluate the key elements of Frederick Taylor's approach to 'scientific management' and comment on its applicability in contemporary organisations. (You might select a particular industry or occupational area for this analysis).

Scientific management is represented as the priority of task efficiency over the minimal socio-interaction between labourers through the segregation via skill elements (Littler, 1978). Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) describes the role of a worker to instinctively follow orders and execute them with minuscule aspects, without excessive wastage of resources (Bratton, et al., 2010). The contemporary organizations in our society are that which has abolished the traditional configuration and orientates information throughout the entire organisation, thus minimizing reaction time to various stimuli (L, 2012). As technology improves, ease of communication and transport has significantly reduced lag time between processes and so creates the importance of the service industry. The key elements of Taylor’s approach still applies in such organisations despite the many changes in the workplace, however, these have been modified and consequently evolved to suit the different needs and environments these organisations face.

The core context of Taylor’s view on scientific management is the segregation of job responsibilities. Given the many processes it takes for a complete product to be transferred from being raw materials to the hands of the consumer, division of labour seems to be the answer. Job fragmentation is still apparent in various industries due to the differences in states of development and also objectives of organisations. It is the right economic movement during the industrialisation age as using lowly paid and abundant labour is the profit maximising choice in labour heavy industries (Telegraph, 2007). However the level of fragmentation has differed since times of industrialization and would also varies in the different industries. As compared to when a stage of manufacturing was the crux of many organisational goals, the service industry is more prominent with regards to mainstream labour force today. At this age where globalisation makes working timeless, it seems there is a need for Taylor’s form of job fragmentation to change. Some major corporations have developed job segmentation instead of fragmentation to cope with the global issues in specialisation (Guy, 2002). On the other hand, it does not mean that job fragmentation has completely disappeared in contemporary organisations. KPMG has suggested that a balance is to be found for the right amount of work fragmentation in the modern workplace (KPMG, 2011).
Profit maximisation is the focal objective of enterprises, and to do so, cost-cutting becomes the most frequently used policy to achieve that (Smith, 2012). One of the ways in doing so was to de-skill workers, by allowing a minimal set of skills needed to operate machinery and work. Taylor’s approach flourished in the age of Industrial Revolution where capitalism was the main development in exploiting the worker. Nonetheless, society has moved on towards ‘Information Revolution’, therefore this practice is not as feasible, unlike the factories of mass production where manual labour is the main driving force (More, 1980). Managers require the skilled workers to be able to handle a larger range of job scope, without the need for re-training (Lebihan & Bryan, 2003). Though the purpose of cutting costs still remains, employers are taking a different approach from deskilling of workers. It might seem that skill minimisation has been aborted in developed countries where a worker is expected to know more than one set of skills, but through capitalism’s practice of using cheap labour, Taylor’s approach is still kept alive in developing countries. The different state of economies faced by contemporary organisations is the deciding factor in utilising the extent of scientific management. Taylor’s pessimistic view of the human intelligence at that time is without doubt not unfounded. At that age where education was not the main priority in many countries and financial survival is, it can be presumed that most of the workers do not have the knowledge of technicalities of work as working is preferred over school. As a result, Taylor’s approach was to isolate out the ‘planning’ process for managerial positions and keep the ‘doing’ to unskilled labour force. This also coincides with another principle of Taylorism, which is the separation of ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ labour. Modern forms of Taylor’s approach can be found in the many assembly plants Multinational Corporations (MNCs) have engaged in developing countries to decrease costs. In order to maximise profits, MNCs such as Apple have split up the process of production and assembly to large external manufacturers such as Foxconn Technology. This practice follows the teachings of capitalism whereby cheap, abundant labour is being taken advantaged of at the cost of the labourers (Barboza & Duhigg, 2012).

Modern organisations have new issues that organisations did not face during the 1800s. We are at an age where ‘Knowledge is power’ (Sir Francis Bacon, 1597), information technology advancement is the focus of global economy, resulting in a knowledge-based economy. Education is made much accessible for many and thus the idea of ‘planning’ is viewed more important than ‘doing’. Developed countries such as USA and UK, aims to be an ‘idea hub’ where people generate and contribute proposals of new products and services, producing what is call ‘knowledge work’ (Bratton, et al., 2010). The process of mass manufacturing the end product will be delegated to developing countries where labour costs are considerably low. This further demonstrates Taylor’s approach of scientific management of removing the ‘thinking’ from ‘working’. In such workspace, workers require little skills that can be acquired easily by following instructions from managers. Even in healthcare industries, where work has to be done firsthand, can be further divided to consumers for the part of ‘indirect’ labour (Baldoz, et al., 2001). Specialized professionals in these fields will give advice and allow the manual work to be done by those of lesser skill. On the other hand, there is also a realisation that ‘planning’ and ‘doing’ are interlinked closely for new corporations that thrive on creativity and innovations. Silicon Valley arise due to the fact that ideas and improvisation of current technology were derived from understanding the process of work, thus allowing the ‘planning’ to ensue, reaching greater heights (Kenny, 2000).
It was also mentioned by Nanda that the planning process cannot be alienated from the work as they are more closely related than before (Nanda, 2006). Recent idea generation conventions such as TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) have also encouraged ideas from all walks of life that will contribute to society and also provided a platform for the idea to turn into action. It is without a doubt that the brains and brawn of the working environment has to work hand in hand in order for improvements to be made. With the current emergence on entrepreneurship, direct involvement in the work is necessary for the idea to be put into action. Only when the ‘planning’ process is up to a stage where mass production and cost effectiveness goals of the organisation becomes the next priority will the ‘working’ be extracted out for lower skilled labour. Despite that, it should be stressed upon that the delegation of the manual works not to be too distant and alleviated from the initial process, in the long run to allow acclimatization of products for the ever-changing economy. Thus Taylor’s approach of separating the work process is not entirely exhausted but to be adjusted towards a sufficient level. Along with the global shift into a ‘knowledge economy’ Taylor’s original approach of scientific management has lesser influence in contemporary organisations. There is lesser manual work required and thus the type of managerial practice to be used have to adapt accordingly (Walker, 1993). In the view of technological advances and ease of transportation, the service industry cannot adopt Taylor’s approach of minimising handling of components and materials where human movement is to be neglected (Boyd, 2011). There are different levels of applications of Taylorism due to the different issues and environment organisations face. Scientific management is still widespread in developing countries where the cheap labour are exploited by major corporations, however in developed countries where the preponderance of labour deals with services, Taylor’s approach does not seem to be suitable. Nevertheless, it is certain to say that Taylor’s approach is still applicable in modern organisation management, the limit to be determined by how acceptable and appropriate the practices are. As contemporary organisational behaviour tends towards ‘postmodernism’, scientific management has definitely developed to accustom to changes in social system (Bratton, et al., 2010). The essence of today’s management practice is the flexibility of change management. Only where companies are able to evolve with time, will they survive economically, thus the management practice cannot stay with traditional stereotypes such as Taylorism (Irwin, 2012). In due course, we must acknowledge that Taylorism is the foundation of the modernised form of management corporations have adopted in this never-ending rat race.
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