Valentine’s Day in Catskills and Scientific Management

I have always had a fascination with history, world affairs and how problems were solved by specific individuals in specific situations. My wife and i discuss this all the time. This is romance to us

These subjects we also often discusse without spa guests at the Catskills bed and Breakfast here in Stamford NY ( )

Since Valentine’s day is coming up I began to think about how there are many tools available to problem solvers especially in romance, business and politics. These same skills can be applied to public policy. Yet if one really wishes to master the art and science of problem solving it is always good to go back to the source. For me the source has always been a system known as scientific management (SM).

Scientific Management got me interested in game theory and out of that I wrote my primer on Harrison’s Applied Game Theory

Here is a bit of history concerning Scientific Management and how you might benefit from it.

Thanks for reading. Your comments are always welcome.



I first heard about Scientific Management on a History Channel television show about the development of the modern shovel. In the show they mentioned Scientific Management and described it as a theory of management that analyzes and synthesizes workflows. Its main objective is improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity.

I researched the term on the web and called a few friends of mine who are efficiency experts. I learned that SM was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes to management and problem solving within organizations.

The term was originally used by a prospective Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and was later applied to an efficiency system developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor (March 20, 1856 – March 21, 1915) an American mechanical engineer. Taylor had a desire to improve industrial efficiency. Taylor believed that the industrial management of his day was amateurish, that management could be formulated as an academic discipline, and that the best results would come from the partnership between a trained and qualified management and a cooperative and innovative work force Taylor saw the value in analyzing systems of organization from the “bottom up” rather from the “top down.” He began the process by observing and defining the most elemental units of activity -individual actions — then studied the effects of these actions on productivity and effectiveness. After analyzing these factors he, devised new approaches to making the previous activities more efficient. Taylor then applied what he learned at the lower levels to the top levels of the hierarchy. It is interesting to note that in his time the introduction of his system was often resented by workers and provoked numerous strikes, though his own workers were able to earn substantially more than those in similar industries. He also had many enemies among the owners of factories, where scientific management was not in use, since his companies and those he consulted for were usually much more profitable than those who ignored or rejected his approach. When presented with evidence that his work might be flawed, Taylor was quick to absorb and rework his theories so that his system was evermore concise and effective and muted any potential criticism.

When dealing with systems for transcending obstacles the claim could be made that once all the key factors are isolated and analyzed a person could define the “One Best Way”. Though Taylor did not have entrepreneurship or self actualization in mind, when he developed his theories, he was certainly concerned with peak performance.

Taylor’s ideas are highly effective but only in specific types of organizations.

There are four primary principles to scientific management:
1. Replace rule – of – thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.
2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.
3. Provide detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker’s defined task.
4. Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.

Obviously this approach will not solve every problem but when intuition alone, combined with chaos and incompetence seems incapable of solving a particular problem scientific management might just do the trick.

Here is a short music video on problem solving as it relates to the French Revolution.

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