Moving beyond Taylorism
by Roy B. Helfgott
International Journal of Technology Management (IJTM), Vol. 2, No. 3/4, 1987

Abstract: Scientific management, commonly called Taylorism, developed in the period of very rapid United States industrial growth, 1880-1910, which saw a tremendous demand for labour. Taylor restructured jobs through simplification and enhanced supervision in order to overcome workers' lack of education, skill and experience. The introduction of mass production also led to further division of labour, and the separation of ''planning'' from ''doing'' removed all intellectual content from production jobs. Time-and-motion study, moreover, prescribed how the simplified job was to be performed, and how long it should take. Taylorism fostered greater efficiency, and thus enormous rises in living standards, but it also resulted in many production jobs becoming routine and boring. A better-fixated labour force, however, has become increasingly reluctant to work at such jobs. New technology – programmable automation – changes the nature of jobs, with workers having to ''do'' less, but ''think'' more. Flexible manufacturing requires that jobs be more general purpose, and that shop-floor workers should be more broadly skilled. Companies are undertaking new ways of organizing work, expanding the scope of jobs and training workers to be more versatile, and involving employees in decision-making with respect to their jobs. A few have adopted socio-technical approaches, in which autonomous work groups share among themselves much of the decision-making about the planning and execution of work.

Online publication date: Wed, 27-May-2009

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