Old book recommended and reviewed: The Principles of Scientific Management

Here’s another book to download from my Old Books Recommended list. As I mentioned in my last post on the subject, this time I’m giving you a brief review.

One of the difficulties in studying management is that we often are told about the classic writers and thinkers in the field, but we do not read them directly. We’ve read (or heard) about them. But we haven’t read them. So, we get our teachers’ and other writers’ interpretations of their contributions. And, often, we get misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

One of the often-misrepresented classic authors in business is Frederick Taylor, who, among other things, wrote The Principles of Scientific Management.

In The Principles of Scientific Management, Taylor detailed the how and why of the ways industry was run in his day and his ideas on how to improve it. He’s thought to have been the first management consultant of modern industry. His stories are vivid and interesting. His ideas are plain, logical and easy to understand. He sometimes gets a bit dry or repetitive, but you can skip over those parts and still get plenty out of his work.

(Let me warn you, though: he states plainly his own personal biases about people. Biases that — thankfully — wouldn’t be published today. Take him in the context of his own time and realize that some of the ways he describes people were perfectly acceptable in his day. I’m sorry they were. But I’m not going to edit his work. I’m just going to give you a free copy. You can x-out anything offensive.)

He is best known for the four principles he outlined for scientific management. He suggested (and I summarize from the entire text, rather than copying the short introductory list from the book):

1. Observe, measure and analyze the process a worker goes through to do his work. Break the process down into task elements. Find the most efficient method to accomplish each element of the task.

2. Hire the employees most suited for the tasks you want them to do and train them thoroughly in your methods for doing the tasks.

3. Supervise the employees closely. Be patient and work with them in a cooperative manner. Correct their mistakes and retrain as necessary.

4. Recognize that half of the work process is the responsibility of management. Training, supervision and cooperation in getting the job done is as important as the actual tasks themselves. That is why the supervisor is held as accountable as the workers if the job is not done right or well.

Taylor’s time/task studies were meticulous and revealing. They did show how establishing work methods and standards, systematizing and considerate, cooperative supervising could add both better speed and quality to the work processes. His ideas work well for businesses both large and small.

Download your copy:
The Principles of Scientific Management.