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Sly-entific Management

Sly-entific Management 10 - Bogus Theories

Bogus Theories, Bad For Business, published last week in the Wall Street Journal, reviews a new book, The Management Myth by Matthew Stewart (Norton). Further evidence that Scientific Management ain't science, 'taint management, neither. The lasting image from this piece is the management consultant hopping around via first class travel, dispensing advice. The most inefficient possible means to induce efficiency.


Sly-entific Management 9 - Activity Poisoning

I recognized the symptoms immediately. A really smart guy shut down in the face of a seemingly simple request. His charge? Just fill in his activities on this master program plan. The framework had been lovingly pre-determined by the program management office, the structure seemingly straightforward. The request, trivial. Yet after weeks of fretting and fussing, his task was still not complete. Worse, the obligation had thrown his rhythm off. He was working longer, increasingly frantic, making little headway.

"Activity poisoning," I declared. "A classic case!" Slip over here for more ...


Sly-entific Management 8

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh

The Way A Poet Might

If I were to write this poem the way we’re trained to manage work,
I wouldn’t need a pen or paper (or an eraser, or any quirks).
I’d start with pure logistics, and organize the space
in the One Best Way to guarantee the efficiency of pace.
I’d consider all the resources I’d likely ever need,
Then contract to acquire each before I would ever dare proceed.
And I would draft a careful plan with metrics clean and square
to guide my pen and paper use, to co-opt every care.
I would also study others’ works with a coolly larcenous eye,
To find the very best of class to anonymously plagiarize.
Then I might change a word or two, and certainly tweak the title,
before publishing the result to great tumult, The New American Bible! Slip over here for more ...


Sly-entific Management 7

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth.

Following the general strike at an arsenal following an attempt to install the Taylor System, the government funded an investigation of this method in practice. Visiting thirty five plants identified by the primary proponents of Scientific Management, the investigators produced a fascinating snapshot of a revolution in the making, one unresolved today, the patterns repeated with every emerging innovation. Ergo:

. Slip over here for more ...


Sly-entific Management 6

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth.

In pursuing this study, the investigator and the official experts were governed throughout by two standards of judgment.

First, scientific management, in its relations to labor, must be judged, not merely by the theories and claims, either of its representatives or opponents, but mainly by what it proves to be in its actual operation. Mr. Taylor, especially, has intimated that if any principle of scientific management which he has laid down is violated, scientific management ceases to exist. Evidently, the acceptance of this dictum would lead to endless quibbling, and would prevent the drawing of significant conclusions as to the actual character and tendencies of scientific management and its effects upon labor welfare. It would be as true to say that the church and the state rest upon certain fundamental principles, and that if any of these are violated in practice, church and state cease to exist. Scientific management, in this respect, is like any other thing in the social or material world. It is what it is in fact, and not what the ideals or theories of its advocates or opponents would have it to be. Labor and society at large are not interested especially in the theory of scientific management as it exists in the mind of an individual, but in the way that it affects welfare in its application. Like all other things which affect humanity, it must, therefore, be judged by actual results and tendencies. Slip over here for more ...


Sly-entific Management 5

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third, Fourth

The General Definition of Scientific Management (according to Labor)

"Organized labor understands by the term "scientific management" certain well defined efficiency systems which have been recently devised by individuals and small groups under the leadership and in imitation of men like Frederick W Taylor, HL Gantt and Harrington Emerson, by whom this term has been preempted. Organized labor makes a clear distinction between scientific management thus defined and science in management. It does not oppose savings of waste and increase of output resulting from improved machinery and truly efficient management. It stands therefore definitely committed to science in management and its objections are directed solely against systems devised by the so called "scientific management" cult."

"Scientific management thus defined is a device employed for the purpose of increasing production and profits and tends to eliminate consideration for the character, rights and welfare of the employees. It looks upon the worker as a mere instrument of production and reduces him to a semi automatic attachment to the machine or tool. In spirit and essence it is a cunningly devised speeding up and sweating system which puts a premium upon muscle and speed rather than brains, forces individuals to become rushers and speeders, stimulates and drives the workers up to the limit of nervous and physical exhaustion and over speeds and over strains them, shows a constant tendency to increase the intensity and extent of the task, tends to displace all but the fastest workers, indicates a purpose to extract the last ounce of energy from the workers, and holds that if the task can be performed it is not too great."
Excerpted from Scientific Management and Labor by Robert Franklin Hoxie, D. Appleton and Company, New York and London, 1915 - T58H63


Sly-entific Management 4

Previously in this series: First, Second, Third

So, what makes scientific management scientific? Originally, Taylorism was not referred to as Scientific Management, but as The Taylor Method. Taylor claimed it was rooted in scientific method, so Louis Brandeis, a progressive attorney, suggested the label. In a society crazy about science, the label stuck. So, the first reason this approach is called Scientific Management is that a clever lawyer, trying a prominent case, called it that. The case got press and the label was permanent. Slip over here for more ...


Sly-entific Management 3

... Previously ...
First Installment
Second Installment

What starts as inspiration, gets explained as technique. Then technique gets taught as if that would induce inspiration.

The history of every management scheme, every movement since Scientific Management, has followed exactly the same pattern. It starts with some visionary, a real oddball, experiencing an insight. [Hey, that works!] Usually for no reason directly related to anything the oddball actually did (but sometimes due entirely to passionate public relations), the odd insight gets noticed. Perhaps it gets a little prominent press. Slip over here for more ...


Sly-entific Management 2

... Continued from here.

Henry Laurence Gantt is not remembered as the Father of Scientific Management, but he was present at the birth. He knew the mother well. He worked 'under' Frederick Winslow Taylor at Midvale and Bethlehem, and was one of the four people closest to Taylor professionally. He knew how Taylor operated, and may have operated in the same autocratic way. It's a curious fact of history that most of the attempts to implement Scientific Management failed, and every implementation was achieved only by autocratic command. Slip over here for more ...


Sly-entific Management

Read your history. Not the retrospective history written from the distance of today, but the history published as daily dispatches in newspapers and the original writings of those who went on to make history. There you will find a different texture, because none of the authors knew what would come next, though many assumed they did. History stands upon folly enlivened by circumstance.

The word 'manager' has existed for about one hundred and seventy-five years; 'scientist' for perhaps just a few years longer. The melding of these two new concepts didn't take hold until two generations later. By then, corporations had grown beyond proprietorships manageable by the owner into geographically-dispersed, culture-straddling entities which were, by traditional means, unmanageable. Slip over here for more ...


The Modern Chief Executive

I am the very model of a modern chief executive
My name is widely known and mostly used as if an expletive
I know you are a sucker, so I quote the Dow historical
From bull to bear and back again, my profits categorical.

I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters hypothetical
I leave it to my quants to understand the mere quadratical
About the buzz on Wall Street, well, I'm teeming with a lot o' news
But don’t expect me to explain the square of an hypotenuse.

Don’t expect me to explain the square of an hypotenuse
Don’t expect me to explain the square of an hypotenuse
Don’t expect me to explain the square of an hypotenuse Slip over here for more ...


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