Frederick Winslow Taylor  (1856-1915)  


Adam Smith (1759, 1776), Karl Marx (1867) and Frederick Taylor (1911) agreed that there are
organizational alternatives to sweatshops that yield more productivity, profit, and net workers higher, even "living wages." Each applies a different ideological FRAME to management (Note words such as Frame, Rhythm, Dialog have special meaning in this essay - see SEPTET Boje, 2002a; 2002b SEPTET, POETICS, and PENTAD; 2002c comparisons of Burke & Goffman).

Taylor's idea system (ideological Frame) about Scientific Management is different from the many Frames of Taylorism that have been implemented around the world.  For example, millions of Taylor's (1911) book were translated to Russian and became the basis of Lenin's grand industrialization program in the former Soviet Union, under strict Party control. Over a million Taylor books were distributed in Japan after World War II, to become the basis of Japan's re-industrialization, and the backbone of the Total Quality Management Movement (Boje & Winsor, 1993) which was imported back into the US. Taylor's ideas in the early 1900s were so popular that people formed Taylor society groups across Europe and the U.S., the results of the ideas were thought to be so revolutionary, that Congressional hearings were held.  The point is, that there are many Taylorisms (many ideological Frames), not just one; Taylor's ideas morphed into different, and quite contradictory practices in different countries; Taylor's ideas continue to evolve in different countries.  For example, in a special issue of Journal of Organizational Change Management,JOCM Vol. 13 2000 Issue 5  Critical Theories of Organizational Change by Guest Editors - Dominique Besson and Slimane Haddadj 

Following links are to On Line PROQUEST Database (NMSU STUDENT access to PROQUEST database is required before you link to any of the following articles; New at this check HOW TO ACCESS from Off Campus using Student account).

France in the 1950s: Taylorian modernity brought about by postmodern organizers? Dominique Besson

Repainting modifying, smashing Taylorism Hans Pruijt

From Taylorism to post-Taylorism: Simultaneously pursuing several management objectives Jean-Louis Peaucelle

Isolation and technology: The human disconnect Gina Vega and Louis Brennan

Taylorism given a helping hand: how an IT system changed employees' flexibility and personal involvement in their work June Tolsby

Negotiation and work flexibility in France: towards a post-Taylorian organizational approach Yannick Schwamberger and Said Yami

Besson (2001: 423), for example, argues "Taylorist managers were storytellers able to translate their own rhetoric into the French workers' culture." What is important for Besson is the difference between what Taylorism was in the 1950s and what it is now in France. Contemporary management theory in the U.S. defines "Taylorism as characterized by employees' demotivation and resistance" (p. 424). Overpaid guru consultants espouse an anti-Taylorism ideological Frame. The guru consultants confuse "Taylorization" (an historical moment of implementation of Taylor's ideas, adapted and evolve in a specific geographical region, such as post-WWII France) with "Taylorism" (what guru consultants think about it). For example, Taylorization in the U.S. became a way to deskill the work force, by transferring workers' knowledge of craft into the system of decomposition of work into highly repetitive jobs, with planning tightly controlled by management and planning clerks (i.e. separation of planning form workers, and inspection of quality from workers, and responsibility for work improvement from workers). But in France, Taylorian ideas became implemented, quite differently, as a more positive system of work and skills that offered knowledge-protection and job security and a way to defuse Socio-Economic conflict between management and labor. The implementers of Taylorism in France were "storytellers" and able to translate Taylor rhetoric of efficiency and rationalization of work into the French workers' cultural language, as a form of "postmodern administration" (Besson, 2001: 426). Instead of deskilling, in France Taylorization is multi-skilling and reskilling. In addition, Taylorism was expanded in France from micro-concerns with shop floor Socio-Technical work design to firm restructuring initiatives. Further, Taylorization in France as a multi-voice discourse, not a mono-voice system for work analysis. In short, Taylor's Frame (as an ideological system) had become Post-Taylorist. 

Meanwhile in the U.S. Taylorism continues to be an ideological (Frame) of global, Socio-Economic disempowerment, deskilling, with pompous headquarters networked in supply and distribution chain (virtual) contracting to sweatshops in Asia, Mexico, South America, Africa, and the inner city of every First World metropolis. Ironically, sweatshops organized according to U.S. management principles was what Frederick Winslow Taylor wanted to eradicate in the early 1900s; And now the chains of sweatshops to rich brand-logo corporations such as GAP, NIKE, and Wal-Mart is considered the Americana way to run a global empire of sweatshop contracting. Workers in these systems have less control over their work than the most mechanistic Taylorian work organization of the 1900s, and the quota work systems (i.e. work on 2,000 pieces for a fixed pay rate) is the exact opposite of what Taylor proposed as a solution to sweatshops. See Boje et. al (2001) for plan to experiment with Postmodern Taylorization, as a way to demonstrate the Socio-Economic losses in revenue potential and the hidden costs of Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and New Balance sweatshop-supply chains. 

GOOD NEWS: Living Wages, Rest Breaks, and an analysis of the Situation were part of Taylorism - Taylor had some ideas about Living Wages. Taylor (1911), for example, concludes, "the writer has great sympathy with those who are over-worked, but on the whole a greater sympathy for those who are under paid" (p. 18). And both Taylor and Marx wrote about paying living wages instead of paying the least wage the law allows, and held out viable solutions to sweatshops' "slow sacrifice of humanity" (Marx, 1867: 244). Living wage is NOT a quota wage system. 

With the rise in sweatshop production that is part of the Global Supply Chain of Virtual Capitalism, Taylorism seems like progress to millions of young (mostly women) workers in today's sweatshop supply chains. At least Taylor (1911: 14-18) argued that it is possible to have prosperity for both owners and workers and the diminution of poverty and the alleviation of human suffering. Frederick Taylor, the Father of Scientific Management, thought that the sweatshop was a horrible way to influence people and not even the most productive way to run an enterprise. Taylorization was a way to stop the sweatshops of the 1900s, just as Marxism was a way to stop it in the 1860s.

Now, if there is such a movement as Postmodern-Scientific Management in France, then it is a vastly different ideological Frame than is taught in the failed management discourse in most U.S. management schools. In the U.S. management schools, the focus is on maximizing economic extraction at the expense of sociocultural (economic dominates social), but the rhetoric (persuasion) is that management in the U.S. is enlightened; but how can the proliferation of global networks of sweatshop contracting be enlightened? 

Vive La France and its Post-Scientific Management Movement - for the Socio-Economic dialectic relationship between the Social and the Economic has achieved an alternative to capitalist despotism. French Taylorian Scientific Management is also not taught in the French Business College; since postmodern philosophy is banished from those classrooms and restricted to the Philosophy colleges. So what does one find taught in the French Business College. 

Ironically, it is the U.S. management academy ideological Frames, imitative of non-postmodern and non-critical theory approaches to guru approaches, where Taylorism is taught as anti-Taylorism, without any sensitivity to geographical and temporal differences in Taylorizations implemented around the world. Hey, name one Ph.D. student in a French Business College that will ever achieve tenure is they use the word "postmodern" in their dissertation? One succeeds in France, by implementing (failed) Americana management philosophy.  This pedagogy of guru-Americana leads to absurd multiple choice answer memorization by American and French business students, who naively think that TQM is the opposite of Taylorization (See Boje & Winsor, 1993 for an opposite view). To find Postmodern Taylorism, do not look in either the Americana or French business college classroom, instead look to the French firm, that will reveal French Post-Taylorization.  

What is needed is a Scientific Management pedagogy in Business universities that goes beyond guru fads and fashions to studies of how Taylorization is actually implemented differently, and rhetorically assigned new fashion labels.  For example, Besson (2001: 434) asserts that there is in Post-Taylorian approaches a "social dialog" between workers, union officials, Taylorian organizers, and management officials; this is not the univocal monolog practiced in U.S. Taylorism or the despotism of sweatshop supply chains I would call pre-Taylorization. Rather it is social dialog to widen scientific work-field analysis to align the social and economic system. 

Peaucelle (2001) asserts that the Post-Taylorism enterprises added new objectives to Taylorism. Post-Taylorism is equated by Peaucelle with Toyota-ism, the JIT, Kanban Zero Defects, Statistical Process Control, reduced cycle time, and all the related TQM fashions of work mechanization anointed in the rhetoric of continuous improvement, widely exported from Japan to the 1st world economies, in the 1980s (also known as post-Fordism). There are two waves of Taylorization in France; the strikes of 1912 against Taylorism implementations in factories, and the 1945 post-WWII Taylorization movement. In the second wave, "the role of operational departments [was] reduced, thus resulting in cost savings. Moreover, a large degree of autonomy to people, with the condition that efficiency is improved at the same time" (Peaucelle, 2001: 457). The Socio-Economic social contract is bargaining greater worker-autonomy in exchange for lowering costs and enhancing revenue potential through "workplace flexibility" (e.g. autonomous work teams, TQM, JIT, Zero defects, ISO 9000, and more Social Engineering, and even process Reengineering). While in U.S. Taylorization, wages are fixed to the lowest possible level, and in sweatshop contracts to the below living age level -- in French Post-Taylorism, wages are collectively bargained. Workers are given a choice "working in the old workshops at the former wage, or working in the reorganized workshop at a higher wage" (p. 463). In short, reciprocal benefits to management and workers from Socio-Economic experiments in work system redesign, as in the 1911 Taylor Scientific Management. U.S. reengineering approaches to Post-Taylorism had a different social contract: reduction in wage and reduction in number of jobs, while bureaucratizing the work routines into one-best way rigidity, while executives increased their salary and stock benefits (often announcing reengineering so as to drive up stock prices, and their executive compensation from stock trading) [See Boje, D. M., Rosile, G, Dennehy, B, & Summers, D.(1997)]. In France, "the post-Taylorian enterprise hires people at a wage higher than that of the Taylorian enterprise since it is a way of attaining its objectives, with reactivity being one of them" (Peaucelle, 2001: 465). This reactivity says Schwamberger and Yami (2001) includes the decline in the French trade union movement from 4 to 2 million members from 1970 to 1990. Work Rhythms (i.e. time reorganization of work processes) are modified and the length of the working week shortened in France (25 hours maximum by law), parallel with implementations of greater organizational flexibility (employee polyvalence and autonomy). And this is accomplish through dialogues of negotiation between workers and management. And it is these dialogues of negotiation that is missing from the Americana management philosophy in the Business College. This new form of post-Taylorization organization is described as a "postmodern approach to the firm" (Schamberger & Yami, 2001: 501).  But this is only part of the story, because the entire enterprise is NOT postmodern..

Ironically, while Post-Taylorism brings about greater worker autonomy, increased wages and job enrichment in exchange for shop floor work process flexibility (JIT, TQM, self-managed team structures, Kanban, etc.), the administrative pyramid remains as it always ways, a modernist Fayol/Weber bureaucratic Frame (ideology) shrouded in rhetoric that says it is being post-bureaucratic; yet the administrative practices at the top of the pyramid do not match the espoused theory).  Therefore, while the shop floor turns into postmodern approach to internal and external flexibility, the administrative practices at the center of the firm's administrative apparatus remain decidedly modern; though many a consultant is paid big bucks to invent postmodern administrative rhetoric for the modernist executives and board members. 

Next - 

  1. What is postmodern?  
  2. What is relation of SEPTET and SEAM and Post-Taylorism?


Boje, D. M.  (2002a). What is Situation? the SEPTET approach. Basic SEPTET definitions. 

Boje, D. M. (2002b) Revolutionary and Oppressive Pedagogies of Leadership: The Enron Spectacles. New Mexico State University. March 3 2002 Comparison of SEPTET, PENTAD, and POETICS. 

Boje, D. M. (2002c). Beyond Pentad to Hexad: Dancing Partners and Burke's Sixth step. Feb 7 2002. 

Boje & Dennehy Managing in Postmodern World - Chapter on Follett, Fayol, Weber, and Taylor. See Chap 2 

Boje, D. M., Rosile, G, Dennehy, B, & Summers, D.(1997). "Restorying reengineering: Some deconstructions and postmodern alternatives." In Special Issue on Throwaway Employees, Journal of Communication Research.24(6): 631-668. 

Boje, David M & Robert D. Winsor (1993). The resurrection of Taylorism: Total quality management's hidden agenda. Journal of Organizational Change Management. Vol. 6 (4): 57-70. 

Boje, et al (2001) Global Manufacturing and Taylorism Practices of Athletic Apparel Corporations and Their Subcontractors. A research project proposed by 50 academics to conduct Post-Taylorism experiments to prove with cost and revenue data that sweatshops in Nike, Adidas, Reebok and New Balance supply chains is not as cost effective as getting rid of sweatshops, once and for all time. See section on on French Post-Taylorization

Several of his chapters and papers on line at* 

Taylor, Frederick Winslow , M.E., Sc. D. (1911). The Principles of Scientific Management. Taylor's BOOK is ON LINE -  scanned by Eric Eldred.  and and at 

Taylor - Intro and study guide* 

EXERCISES - Beat the Clock - complete with lesson plan and excerpts from Taylor* 

Some links

Recommended Sites for Managing Scholars