Frederick Winslow Taylor (March 20, 1856, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania- March 21, 1915) was an American engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. A management consultant in his later years, he is sometimes called "The Father of Scientific Management." He was one of the intellectual leaders of the Efficiency Movement and his ideas, broadly conceived, were highly influential in the Progressive Era.
Taylor was born to a wealthy Quaker family. He wanted to attend Harvard University, but poor eyesight forced him to consider an alternative career. In 1874, he became an apprentice patternmaker, gaining shop-floor experience that would inform the rest of his career. He obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering through a highly unusual (for the time) series of correspondence courses at Stevens Institute of Technology, graduating in 1883 (Kanigel 1997:182-183,199). Along with Maunsel White and a team of assistants, he developed high speed steel. He eventually became a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
Taylor thought that by analyzing work, the "One Best Way" to do it would be found. He is most remembered for developing the time and motion study. He would break a job into its component parts and measure each to the second. One of his most famous studies involved shovels. He noticed that workers used the same shovel for all materials. He determined that the most effective load was 21˝ lb, and found or designed shovels that for each material would scoop up that amount. He was generally unsuccessful in getting his concepts applied and was dismissed from Bethlehem Steel. It was largely through the efforts of his disciples (most notably H.L. Gantt) that industry came to implement his ideas. Neverthless, the book he wrote after parting company with Bethlehem Steel, Shop Management, sold well.
Taylor believed that the industrial management of his day was amateurish, that management could be formulated as an academic discipline, and that the best results would come from the partnership between a trained and qualified management and a cooperative and innovative workforce. Each side needed the other, and there was no need for trade unions.
Louis Brandeis, who was influenced by Taylor's writing, coined the term scientific management in the course of his argument for the Eastern Rate Case, which Taylor used in the title of his monograph The Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911. His approach is also often referred to, as Taylor's Principles, or frequently disparagingly, as Taylorism. Taylor's scientific management consisted of four principles:
Taylor was president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) from 1906-1907. While president, he tried to implement his system into the management of the ASME but was met with much resistance. He was only able to reorganize the publications department and then only partially. He also forced out the ASME's long-time secretary, Morris L. Cooke, and replaced him with Calvin W. Rice. His tenure as president was trouble-ridden and marked the beginning of a period of internal dissension within the ASME during the Progressive Era (Jaffe 1957:34).
In 1912, Taylor collected a number of his articles into a book-length manuscript which he submitted to the ASME for publication. The ASME formed an ad hoc committee to review the text. The committee included Taylor allies such as James Mapes Dodge and Henry R. Towne. The committee delegated the report to the editor of the American Machinist, Leon P. Alford. Alford was a critic of the Taylor system and the report was negative. The committee modified the report slightly, but accepted Alford's recommendation not to publish Taylor's book. Taylor angrily withdrew the book and published Principles without ASME approval (Jaffe 1957:36-40; Nelson 1980:181-184).
Le Chatelier translated Taylor's work and introduced scientific management throughout government owned plants during World War I. This influenced the French theorist Henri Fayol, whose 1916 Administration Industrielle et Générale emphasized organizational structure in management.
The American Edward Albert Filene established the International Management Institute to spread information about management techniques.
Lenin was very impressed by Taylorism, which he and Stalin sought to incorporate into Soviet manufacturing. Taylorism and the mass production methods of Henry Ford thus became highly influential during the early years of the Soviet Union.
Taylor's life and work was discussed in Cynthia Crossen's "Deja Vu" column in the Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2006.