Frederick W. Taylor

Author: Frederick W. Taylor was born in 1856 in Philadelphia, and died in 1915 in the same city. He was born into a lawyer’s family, and excelled in academics. He passed the entrance exam for Harvard, but unfortunately was unable to go due to failing eyesight. He later joined the Midvale Steel Company where he rose in the ranks from laborer to chief engineer. He could have become an engineer, but chose to focus more on work reforms in factories instead.

Context: Taylor lived during the height of the Industrial Revolution in America, and although he did not live in Europe, it is clear his ideas were influenced by other European authors on the subject. In his work, The Principles of Scientific Management, he takes many ideas from Adam Smith. Namely, that factory workers can improve themselves almost indefinitely, that incorporating machines is a good thing, and that everyone is connected and everyone improves from utilizing factory labor.

Language: Taylor also uses a very scientific approach in his work (much like Adam Smith), and uses dialogue to prove his point. His dialogue uses the accent of the laborer in the transcript, to perhaps show what kind of character he is, as well as his education level and why he can be persuaded to improve his workload in a gruff way.

Audience: It is pretty clear that he is speaking to the Middle to Upper classes here. He is trying to explain why this method works to other possible factory managers so that they may incorporate this method as well. He is not speaking to the actual laborers. If he were, it would possibly jeopardize his methods, since he is speaking about how to manipulate the workers so they perform better.

Intent: To reveal a new method of managing laborers: appeal to them on an individual basis, get to know them, and learn what will make them perform better.

Message: The archetype of the manager overseeing from afar while the laborers do all the work is an unstable and unproductive one. It is important for the manager to take on some of the work and be the glue that holds the factory together.

Source for biographical evidence:

Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management

The main argument of Frederick Taylor’s “The Principles of Scientific Management” is that men are wasting their time in factories but there are ways to improve that.  The paper itself “was originally prepared for presentation to The American Society of Mechanical Engineers” so he was not writing for the uninformed.  This meant that his writing in the paper was not simple, it was not trying to address the everyman.  Taylor was aiming for people who had seen the issue of workers taking their time.  Written after the Industrial Revolution had been established, Taylor had seen the issues with the new factory system.  Taylor himself was a mechanical engineer so he had seen first hand the issues he was writing on.  His paper focused on the issue of “soldiering” and how it could be improved.  He referenced studies that proved that workers, when they got to work, would do everything slower than when they were walking to work or at home. Taylor was writing to expose this flaw in the factory system and gives ways to fix it.  He gave three distinct reasons about why the “soldiering” and explained each of them.  He proved that men do take it easy when they get to work and that it not only reflects the employee but also the employer.  Taylor’s complete message was that the factory system still is not perfect, that it has its flaws and they need to be recognized.  While the problem of laziness in the workplace exists, it is one that can be fixed.