Taylorism Search for Industrial Efficiency or Robotism?

Frederick Taylor - Taylorism
Frederick Taylor – Taylorism

Taylorism, like Fordism, originated as a critical concept in the early twentieth century’s search for industrial efficiency in the United States. It influenced the rest of the industrialised world for the next 50 years. Frederick Winslow Taylor invented it to achieve efficiency on the factory floor through his research of the organising and sequencing work tasks through a series of ‘time and motion studies.

His 1911 book Principles of Scientific Management outlined these concepts, and they have influenced various aspects of design, including labour-saving kitchens and more ergonomic household equipment. These included the writings of fellow American Christine Frederick, who published Household Engineering, Scientific Management in the Home in 1915, and Lillian Gilbreth’s assessments of domestic efficiency for the Brooklyn Gas Company in 1930, which looked at the kitchen as a location of industrial production. Grete SchütteLihotsky explored similar ideas in her 1924 designs for the Frankfurt kitchen, which was used in mass housing in Frankfurt, Germany.

Key Theories

According to Taylor’s ideas of scientific management, each component of a person’s work is analysed scientifically,’ and the best way to complete the task is developed. The person best suited for the task is chosen and instructed on how to carry out the duties precisely as intended. Managers must work with employees to ensure that the task is completed scientifically and that management and employees have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. To eliminate “soldiering” or “natural laziness,” Taylor’s management philosophy aimed to maximise prosperity for the company and each employee. He set out to scientifically analyse every task to eliminate uncertainty regarding the amount of work that could and should be accomplished in a day.

Taylor’s methodology made one of the first formal distinctions between those who perform the job and those who oversee and plan it. He established planning departments of clerks to ensure every labourer’s work was meticulously planned. The clerks would then transfer the workers from one location to another using intricate yard maps or diagrams. To accomplish this, a more “elaborate organisation and system” had to be put in place, which laid the groundwork for Max Weber’s bureaucratic organisational structure. (British Library, n.d.)

Digital Taylorism – Robotism

Taylorism came to be associated with the wrongs of handling employees like programmable machine parts while squeezing the most value possible from them. 100,000 Australian employees participated in a general strike in 1917 due to the implementation of time cards, which kept track of every minute spent at work and taking breaks. This degrading design was criticised as “robotism.” Modern Taylorism is more dehumanising than its early detractors could have predicted and more powerful than he could have ever envisaged. Managers can now swiftly and affordably gather process, evaluate, and act on enormous amounts of information thanks to technological advances.

Gig Economy

The gig economy is being managed algorithmically. The ability to use digital tools to generate continuous streams of data for employee appraisals has also made the performance management of employees much more sophisticated than it was during Taylor’s lifetime. Continuous monitoring and the addition of peer review to supervisor input may foster an environment where employees are overly competitive and even hostile. The most crucial information in this text is that surveillance is becoming increasingly covert and that Taylor’s reasoning has permeated our daily lives thanks to our always-on digital environment. We need to experiment with regulation and strengthen employees’ rights through organisations like unions to combat digital Taylorism.

The “right to disconnect”

The “right to disconnect” law in France, which forbids business communications during weekends and holidays, is a positive development, but it also calls for a change in attitude. Taylorism encourages poor morale and forces people to behave like resources that need to be micromanaged by starting from the premise that workers are inherently shirkers. In theory, treating people like machines might lead to greater efficiency, but contemporary Taylorism imperils something these market analyses miss: the value of being a person.(Frischmann & Selinger, 2017)

Sources

British Library. (n.d.). British Library. https://www.bl.uk/people/frederick-winslow-taylor

Frischmann, B., & Selinger, E. (2017, September 25). Robots have already taken over our work, but they’re made of flesh and bone | Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/25/robots-taken-over-work-jobs-economy

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

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