Frederick Taylor: Theories, Principles & Contributions to Management

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Instructor
Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Expert Contributor
Joseph Shinn

Joe has a PhD in Economics from Temple University and has been teaching college-level courses for 10 years.

Frederick Taylor was an inventor, an engineer, and the father of scientific management theory. You will learn about Frederick Taylor, scientific management, and its effects on industrial management in this lesson.

Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management

Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) was an American inventor and engineer that applied his engineering and scientific knowledge to management and developed a theory called scientific management theory. His two most important books on his theory are Shop Management (1903) and The Principles of Scientific Management (1911).

Frederick Taylor's scientific management theory can be seen in nearly all modern manufacturing firms and many other types of businesses. His imprint can be found in production planning, production control, process design, quality control, cost accounting, and even ergonomics. If you understand the principles of scientific management, you will be able to understand how manufacturers produce their goods and manage their employees. You will also understand the importance of quantitative analysis, or the analysis of data and numbers to improve production effectiveness and efficiency.

Principles of Scientific Management Theory

In broad terms, scientific management theory is the application of industrial engineering principles to create a system where waste is avoided, the process and method of production is improved, and goods are fairly distributed. These improvements serve the interests of employers, employees, and society in general. Taylor's theory can be broken down into four general principles for management:

  1. Actively gathering, analyzing, and converting information to laws, rules, or even mathematical formulas for completing tasks.
  2. Utilizing a scientific approach in the selection and training of workers.
  3. Bringing together the science and the worker so that the workers apply the scientifically developed techniques for the task.
  4. Applying the work equally between workers and managers where management applies scientific techniques to planning and the workers perform the tasks pursuant to the plans.

Frederick Taylor approached the study of management quantitatively through the collection and analysis of data. For example, he and his followers performed motion studies to improve efficiency. He analyzed the motions required to complete a task, devised a way to break the task down into component motions, and found the most efficient and effective manner to do the work.

An example of a motion study is observing the number of distinct motions required to shovel coal into a furnace. The task is then broken down into its distinct components, such as picking up the shovel, walking to the coal, bending over, manipulating the shovel to scoop the coal, bending back up, walking to the furnace, and manipulating the shovel to deposit the coal. The most efficient way to perform the task was developed and workers were instructed on how to apply the method.

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Additional Activities

Frederick Taylor: Theories, Principles & Contributions to Management - Case Study:


Consider the following situation and answer the questions below as they relate to Frederick Taylor's four general principles for management. You currently run a business that manufactures and sells notebooks. At the end of the year, you realize that your costs have been escalating and believe that the best way to reduce costs is to find a way to make your employees more productive so that they can manufacture the notebooks faster and cheaper.


  1. In what way (or ways) would you gather the information that can be used to analyze and determine the best way to make your employees more productive? How would you use this information to change your production process? (Hint: It may be helpful to create a hypothetical solution to best answer this question).
  2. Do you think there could be a scientific approach that could be used to solve your problem? If so, explain this potential solution.
  3. How would you bridge the gap between the new method that you develop and what your employees currently do? Specifically, how would you get your employees to adopt the new method?
  4. How would you get all employees to complete the new method? That is, how would you be sure that all employees and managers are completing the task the new way as opposed to some completing it the new way while others complete it the old way?


Sample Answers:

  1. You could observe your workers closely over a day or a couple of days and determine what does and does not work. You could then determine a way that your employees could work faster. For example, if you see that some workers are better than others at completing different steps of the process, you could have them focus on these specific tasks.
  2. A scientific approach could be established by looking at data on production and seeing under which conditions production works best.
  3. The best way to get your employees to adjust to the new way of doing things is to provide all employees with training on the new production process.
  4. In order to get all of your employees to adopt the new production method, you need to emphasize that the new way is the only way. Initially, management needs to be hands on to make sure that the new method is closely followed by all employees.

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