Taylor’s Vision

Poor Fred Taylor. Almost everyone blames him for today’s bad leadership and management practices — not valuing workers, viewing workers as interchangeable, not respecting workers, driving workers to work harder, etc. — when in fact Taylor’s ideas about the new Scientific Management system were cherry picked by top leaders and used within their status-quo oriented classical management system.

Get real! Today’s bad leadership and management practices predates Taylorism by thousands of years — likely as far back as ancient Mesopotamia (~6000 years ago). It is a ridiculous argument to blame Taylor. Instead, blame your leaders for clinging to archaic traditions and for being unwilling to adapt to the times.

The progressive management system developed by Taylor (and Gantt, the Gilbreths, and many others in Taylor’s circle) were rejected by most top leaders then, just as the progressive management system developed by Taiichi Ohno et al. (TPS/TW) and the knockoff sold by James Womack and Daniel Jones (Lean) have been rejected by most top leaders now.

The three slides below are from my 2010 Lean leadership training workshop (Module 1b of 4). They were part of an effort to change people’s minds about Taylor, explain that neither TPS or Lean would exist without the creation of Scientific Management (which led to the critically important creation of industrial engineering), and explain the continuing need for evolution in leadership and management thinking and practice — to not be static and tradition-bound, but to evolve as times and needs change.

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