What is scientific management and why it was important in the Fordist Era?
Scientific management was a practical application of scientific management theory, which was concerned with workflow analyses, synthesis, and specialization of work to stimulate workforce productivity. Scientific methods emphasized mechanization, specialization, and simplified repetitive tasks (Vallas, Finlay, and Wharton 56-67). These ideas were born by Fredrick Taylor in the late 19th century. The Fordist era was characterized by the massive production of goods in the manufacturing sector through scientific innovation and the application of scientific management principles. The technical and economic efficiency that was afforded during the Fordist era was an open demonstration of the successes of scientific management principles inspired by Fredrick Taylor.
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The basic postulate of Fordism asserts that optimal production coupled with efficient production methods can be achieved through scientific methods. Fordism attempted to apply scientific management principles to overcome the challenges of constrained production in manufacturing plants. Affected by the devastating effects, the industrial sector was experiencing low production, high employee intervention, and manual systems that obscured optimal production.
Proponents of scientific management asserted that while Fordism reacted to the slow growth of production firms, its approaches were parallel to traditional principles of management (Vallas, Finlay, and Wharton 97).
During this era, companies believed that scientific methods had the capacity to eliminate uncertainty and enhance control in the production sections. Therefore, in the era of Fordism, it was believed that the elimination of human factors through the mechanization of work reduces the effects of human factors. High routinization defining the Fordist era is a strategic focus that aims at mass production of standardized products. The role of scientific methods of production defines Fordism’s high degree of institutionalization (Vallas, Finlay, and Wharton 76-115).
Why have some observers argued scientific management has had a negative impact on modern society?
There is extensive debate on the implications of scientific applications to modern society production. While many people acknowledge the role of scientific management in shaping modern production, opponents of scientific management principles have argued that its contributions have been overridden by the devastating effects of non-inclusion of human factors in the production processes (Vallas, Finlay, and Wharton 76-115).
Recent studies have shown that although scientific methods devalued the role of groups and teams, organizations have continued to reap from the practice of teams and groups. According to Vallas, Finlay, and Wharton (2009), groups welcome the social aspects of employees, which is compatible with motivation. The objection to the scientific method’s rejection of group theory yielded human relations management approach.
According to a human relations approach, group work adds social aspects to the workplace (Vallas, Finlay, and Wharton 76-115). Many scholars in the field of sociology have argued that neglect of social and psychological aspects of employees is a major drawback of scientific methods. Scientific management is acknowledged as the work of Fredrick Taylor, who suggested the holistic role of money in stimulating employee motivation. However, this claim has been rendered unreasonable based on Herzberg’s motivational theories, which have demonstrated the significance of social status and sense of achievement as some of the fundamental factors responsible for a motivated employee and increased production.
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A personal view on the negative sides of scientific methods
In my view, I agree that although the positive effects of scientific management principles and methods are evident, the application by production firms has had negative effects on modern society. Clearly, the application of scientific methods emphasized mechanization of production processes, an approach that treated humans as machines. Arguably, this revelation asserts that the human factor was eliminated in the production process.
Cognizant of the positives of scientific management methods, it is increasingly important to incorporate the human factor, which is the bottom line of motivation and production. With all the successes of scientific methods, the application of these principles produces employees with limited skills.
According to opponents of scientific methods, the culture of specialized work structures is disadvantageous since it detracts from the embrace of change among employees in the 21st century. Resistance to change has been seen as the direct effects of scientific methods initiated in production lines. It can be said that while managers push for productivity based on scientific methods, they encounter employees’ resistance to change, which hinders optimal production. People want to feel appreciated and valued in organizations as they render their service. In addition, people are naturally motivated by the hope of accessing opportunities that guarantee upward mobility.
These elements are important since they lack sufficient stimuli from the predominant scientific methods. In scientific management principles, the question of employee values and admission of career progression is nonexistent since human skills are blatantly ignored. Scientific methods emphasize simplified and repetitive tasks, whose effects devalue the possibility of growth of skills. Ordinarily, people appreciate challenges and new ideas to stimulate their skills. However, scientific management principles do not offer challenges to employees since they overemphasize automation, concentrated skills, and repletion of tasks, which are elements that fail to unlock the optimal potential of employees.
Vallas, Stephen P., William Finlay, and Amy Wharton S. The Sociology of Work: Structures and Inequalities. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.