Scientific Management (what an old model can still teach us today)

managementWhat do you think is the objective of management? What do the managers in your business think? What does management contribute to your business or organisation and to your employees?

Take a look at this quote:

The principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee

Now I’m guessing that, based on the rather formal language, you can tell that this quote wasn’t written recently? When would you guess it was written?

The quote is from Frederick Winslow Taylor written around 1911 in his work on Scientific Management

OK so that’s an interesting bit of management history, but so what? Well, what strikes me as interesting is how well this quote has stood the test of time and how relevant it still is within the context of people management (unlike, in my view, most of the other concepts of Scientific Management!)

Let me explain

Management and Employer Prosperity

A whole body of research can tell us that employees who are effectively managed are more productive, and teams that are effectively managed are more profitable. Research also shows us that one of the key reasons for lost productivity – and one comprehensive piece of research suggests that in the UK and US at least 18% of time spent at work is unproductive – is because of poor staff supervision or ineffective management. And of course we know that a lack of effective management has a negative effect on staff satisfaction, engagement and retention

Put simply effective people management positively impacts business results and good business results = prosperity

Management and Employee Prosperity

I guess we could argue that if a business is prosperous then the employees who work for that business will also be prosperous (i.e. wealthy). I guess we also know that life (or at least business life) doesn’t always work like that. But what does ‘prosperity’ actually mean? Here are dictionary definitions of ‘prosper’ and ‘prosperity’

Prosper: To thrive, succeed etc in a healthy way

Prosperity: the condition of prospering, success or wealth

If we put aside the thorny issue of ‘wealth’ (because we probably have to) we can then ask ourselves; how does effective management help our employees to succeed?

Here are a couple of ideas

Management and employee success

1. Help your employees understand what success looks like in their job

On the basis that, if we can’t define what success looks like in practice, how can our employees achieve that success?

The easiest way, in my book, to define success is to define what good performance looks like. The easiest way to do this is to use performance objectives (you can read more about performance objectives – and what they actually are – here)

2. Help your employees know whether their job performance is where it should be – are they successful?

Recent research by Leadership IQ   shows that only 21% of the employees surveyed answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘I know whether my job performance is where it should be’

Of course it’s hard to be successful if we don’t know if there are any gaps between where we are and where we should be so it’s vitally important that employees know where they stand. Using performance objectives and monitoring methods and then giving feedback are the key ways we can help our employees measure their success

Summary: Scientific Management – Do your managers need help?

Using performance objectives can take us a long way towards using the best of the ‘scientific management’ model. In my video ‘Motivating Your Staff with Powerful Performance Objectives’ I teach managers how to write objectives, how to communicate those objectives and how to gain their staff’s commitment to achieving those objectives. Take a look at the video details and find out how to watch a preview session from the video HERE


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