A factory worker. Image credit thejournal.co.uk

A factory worker. Image credit thejournal.co.uk 

ZIMSEC O Level Business Studies Notes: F W Taylor’s Theory of Scientific Management

  • Taylor lived in an era when management was an ad hoc practice rather than a true and trained discipline
  • He was mainly concerned with increasing the productivity of workers
  • Labour productivity is the number of units/goods produced per given unit of time, usually one hour.
  • He believed that management should be a true science and
  • Workers should not be left to their own devices where they choose the pace of work, the goals and the methods to be used to achieve goals
  • Instead management should be a true science
  • Management should set and determine the goals they want to achieve
  • They should also conduct a work study
  • work study-a system of assessing methods of working so as to achieve the maximum output and efficiency
  • Work study is therefore an attempt by managers
  • During a work study various techniques such as video recording, observing and interviewing are used on those workers that have a higher output than all the others
  • The fastest/best workers are observed as they work
  • Their method/way of completing the task is recorded
  • This way is used to train all the other workers in the organisation
  • Once workers have been trained a target/goal is set that they have to achieve
  • Performance related payment systems are used to reward workers
  • Workers who achieve and exceed the set target are given a bonus or some form of financial reward
  • Those that fail to achieve the set target are punished, reprimanded and told to do better
  • According to Taylor money is a motivator
  • In order to motivate workers there has to be a clear relationship between pay and performance
  • He used the piece rate system of compensation which is still widely employed
  • Taylor also insisted that after a work study had been completed management should come up with a profile of the best person for the job/task
  • During recruitment, selection and allocation of roles the best person must be given the job
  • Taylor emphasised that management techniques should be based on real science and not on whims

How to motivate workers under Taylorism

  • Management should take control of the work situation
  • Management should conduct a work study
  • Once the best way to do a job/task is determined,
  • All the other workers should be trained in this method
  • Management should set clearly defined goals
  • A clear payment system that is based on performance e.g. piece rate should be communicated to employees
  • Those who meet the target and exceed it must be rewarded
  • Those who fail to meet the target should be punished
  • The best workers for a given task/job must be scientifically selected based on their ability to do the job
  • For example in the army and police there is a minimum height requirement that has to be met in order for a person to do their job.

Strengths and weaknesses

  • It led to the development of management as a science
  • Businesses still conduct selection processes in order to determine the best person for the job
  • Linking pay to performance clearly motivates workers as was proved by Taylor’s own consultancy achievements
  • Training workers increases efficiency and gives the workers the confidence needed to perform their jobs
  • Standardising tasks eliminates chaos at the workplace and ensures standard results
  • Taylor introduced work breaks which allowed workers to be more productive
  • His theory supports specilisation which improves productivity


  • People have social needs such as companionships that have to be met in order to motivate them
  • Money while important is not the only motivator
  • It calls for an autocratic leadership style which results in resentment and alienation of workers
  • The theory dehumanises people and treats them as workhorses
  • It leads to clashes with Trade Unions
  • Specialization might lead to loss of skills

To access more topics go to the O Level Business Notes page.