Monday, May 7, 2012

The founding story of scientific management

If you've heard of Frederick Taylor, you've probably heard the foundational story of scientific management: Taylor observes workers moving pig iron, applies his superior intellectual capabilities to redesign the process, and by motivating one of the workers with pay achieves a four-fold increase in productivity. As it turns out, however, this story was "erroneous", or perhaps "more fiction than fact". The authors of these two papers are overpolite; in practice Taylor's experiment was a failure, and he lied about the results so successfully that it took 75 years before anyone called him on it. More here if you don't want to chase down JSTOR access (your public library will likely have a subscription you can use).