Critically Discuss the Contribution of the Work of Frederick W. Taylor

Grey offers a number of opinions on management thought in his book “A Very Short Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Organisations” (2009). He outlines his opinions through a number of themes within the book such as looking at bureaucracy and scientific management together, his views on human relations theory (HRT) and its links with people management, the theme of organization culture and post-bureaucracy and how it is effecting change management.
The final theme I will discuss in my essay is fast capitalism and how it is ending management. While looking at the themes I will also be evaluating Grey’s arguments within them and try to relate them where applicable to Wren and Bedeian’s book “The Evolution of Management Thought” (2009). Grey views on bureaucracy are that he sees it as a highly efficient way of management in this book bureaucracy is not seen as red tape but a management type as put forward by Weber whereby rules and regulation are used to become as efficient as possible.
Relevant materials: Scientific Management Theory in Nursing

Grey tells us how Weber saw an emergence of an ideal called “rational legal authority” (Grey, 2009). Grey tells us how rationality links with bureaucracy using a number of examples such as formal or instrumental rationality the idea of this is to adopt a means to meet and end using the most efficient way possible. Grey uses an excellent example to illustrate this being the Nazi Holocaust it is as Grey (2009) says the extreme application of bureaucratic logic. It operated under a set of rules which were applied impersonally.
This allowed it to be unbelievably efficient. Grey’s ideas on bureaucracy are linked to the ideas explored in Wren and Bedeian’s “The Evolution of Management Thought” (2009) both books emphasise how Weber did not mean red tape when he said bureaucracy, they also share similar views of the disadvantages of bureaucracy such as how workers will work to the rules and therefore know exactly what they must do to stay in the job or to achieve something Grey’s view on scientific management as put forward by Taylor is that his ideas still define management today.
The real leap for scientific management as explained by Grey (2009) was the use of it by Henry Ford the man who made Ford cars. He employed scientific management within his factory to increase efficiency and it did so hugely. Grey also recognises the problems caused by Taylor’s ideas. Such as the many strikes by workers as it left the workers with less power and the managers with all the power, one of the main problems with it as explained by Grey (2009) is it eroded working onditions, reduced autonomy and threatened unemployment. I feel that Grey’s view here focuses too much on the problems caused by scientific management he does give a few advantages of it but he doesn’t emphasise enough how scientific management really revolutionised the way in which factories and companies operated such as how using Taylor’s ideas on scientific management thought companies such as General Motors and Du Pont have become two of the biggest corporations in the world thanks to it.
Wren and Bedeian share similar views to Grey on scientific management however I feel they show more admiration for it when they say how scientific management paved the way forward for subsequent management development (Wren and Bedeian 2009). Grey (2009) expresses his view many people see scientific management as the bad guy and human relations theory (HRT) as the good guy. I agree with this and Grey uses the Hawthorne experiment example which I feel expresses this view correctly and helped me understand the inefficiency’s caused by HRT.
He tells us of an experiment in a bank wiring room where workers were producing electrical components and rather than produce at maximum output which would earn them a bonus they choose to produce at a lower level. This was due to informal norms set around the workplace such as peer pressure and an unofficial gang leader. This shows us that the informal side of an organisation to some is more important than the formal side. This shows how HRT can be seen as inefficient as and not always better than scientific management.
This can be linked to Wren and Bedeian’s (2009) conclusions drawn from the Hawthorne Studies, they conclude that these experiments showed us that workers were not driven only by money but also by social factors which can lead to increased and decreased productivity. People management and HRT are very similar in my opinion as HRT is the way in which we manage people. It is important for people to see a manager as someone who helps people and not just a person who exploits someone to get the best work out of them.
Grey (2009) gives an example of how HRT has changed the way we view managers by using a son and father conversation. The child asks his dad what he does and he replies how he exploits people and dehumanises them by making them work as hard as possible. Under HRT thought he replies how he helps people and makes unhappy people see that he cares about them. This example by Grey is exceptional in my opinion and to me it personifies what HRT and people management is; it is type of thought whereby the manager’s aim is to care for and motivate his workers.
The view of the manager is undeniably hugely important to motivating workers as if they are seen as caring and helpful it acts as an incentive to workers to work harder this view is also shared in Wren and Bedeian (2009) where they say the significance of effective supervision in maintaining employee’s productivity and job satisfaction is huge. Grey’s (2009) view on organisation culture is that its aim is to intervene and regulate being so that there is no distance between individual’s purpose and those of the organisation for which they work.
I agree with what Grey is saying here organisation culture to me is simply making an organisation a place where the worker feels completely comfortable and for the worker to feel proud to work for the company. An example of this I can relate to is the bank RBS having done work experience with them I now understand how they create organisation culture. On all their leaflets, cards and employee videos they try to show their core values and company slogans to create a good organisation culture. Grey argues that managers who try to change organisation culture are completely unrealistic.
I agree with what Grey says here as the example he uses shows us how it is not possible. He cites an experiment carried out by Ogbonna and Wilkinson (1988) where a supermarket told all its employees to make customer service their prime focus by smiling all the time and to make them feel valued. The study results showed they obeyed superficially because they knew they were being watched but they didn’t mean their shows of friendliness. This may seem like they are carrying out the organisation culture but actually they have failed as they don’t actually believe in it.
In relation to Wren and Bedeian’s view on organisation culture differs to that of Grey they see it as more innocent and with less scepticism than Grey does. They (Wren and Bedeian 2009) believe technology, economics and political facets provide the framework for organisation culture. Wren and Bedeian don’t go into the areas that Grey goes into when discussing organisation culture such as how management tries to change organisation as I have discussed already. Grey (2009) argues that post-bureaucracy can and should be mocked.
He gives examples of studies which have been carried out to show that it is a flimsy thought. He cites a study by Paul Thompson who used aggregate statistical evidence and individual cases to prove that job structures and work experience are mostly unchanged by the post-bureaucratic revolution. This study was similar to that of Delbridge (1998) who studied two factories one which had all the paraphernalia of a post-bureaucratic workplace and one which did not. He concluded that both still shared very similar forms of working.
I agree with what Grey is saying here as if you walk into a workplace today such as a factory the methods of management are still evident of the bureaucracy model and yes there is some evidence of post-bureaucracy but not enough to claim it’s a new era of post-bureaucracy. On the theme of change management Grey (2009) argues that is almost always fails. He supports his claim using the example of total quality management (TQM) which is implemented for the first time in a certain industry. One organisation may adopt it and then others will see it and decide to adopt it to.
Now no one has a competitive advantage and there is a conveyer effect where by the companies now want a new method and therefore change. This claim by Grey in my opinion is correct change management doesn’t work as for it to work something has to be applicable from one industry to another but change management fails at this. Grey (2009) however does admit that post-bureaucracy and change management cannot be ignored and that it is a huge part of society today as they have a huge hold over the managerial role in today’s world. Grey (2009) tells us how the post-bureaucracy and change management attract huge attention in the media today.
He gives us the example of policies past by the British Government in which all are based on post-bureaucracy. Grey (2009) says how it is now assumed that for an economy to do well it must be purged of bureaucracy and open to change. I agree with what he has said here all we here about in today’s news is the need to change everything and for rules and regulations to be got rid of. However all we have to look at is the current economic climate to show us what happened when there was less bureaucracy and lots of change. People took advantage of it and we are now stuck in a recession for a number of years because of it.
To show what fast capitalism is Grey (2009) uses the United Kingdom as an example and many of the companies within it such as Jaguar, P&O and Body Shop what all these companies have in common is they once used to be British owned now however they are owned by international companies or consortia. This shows us how Britain has taken on the idea of fast capitalism this however can lead to problems whereby the international companies who buy these smaller firms most of the time only see the financial value of them and not what the company may offer to a community with generations of families who have worked in the same business.
This can lead to employees not feeling the need to work as hard as now they are working for an international company and therefore in my opinion inefficiency will begin to take place. The argument that fast capitalism is failing and problematic is put forward by Grey (2009) using the example of the bank Northern Rock who began by simply taking in deposits from savers and lending to borrowers for house purchases. In 1997 they choose a new more risky route whereby they raised money by through short term borrowing on financial markets.
They also began to give loans to those who had poor credit history and they didn’t take in their account to pay them back. This was all well and good until 2007 when poor credit risks and the inability to get short term funds caused the bank to nearly collapse with customers going to the banks to take out all their money. The bank was then nationalised in 2008. This story shows me how fast capitalism failed as those who ran Northern Rock tried to adopt a new style of management and thought within the business to keep up with fast moving capitalism and in the long run their ideas failed leaving the customers and shareholders to suffer greatly.
Grey (2009) puts forward the argument that management is ending. He explores this idea using a number of examples. The example which explores it best is the one about the study he carried out with a number of colleagues on a set of managers. They interviewed them and none of them described themselves as managers. When ask why they didn’t they all said it was an overused word which didn’t denote any real seniority in today’s workforce and secondly they felt the word had a meaning of someone who was inflexible and bureaucratic. This was not to say the end of management just it has become a somewhat meaningless word.
The final thought Grey (2009) has on this is that managers might be coming to an end but management itself is not and it is constantly evolving and I whole heartedly agree with this point that it is simply changing constantly. Overall I feel that the themes in Grey’s book “A Very Short Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Organisations” (2009) which range from looking at bureaucracy and scientific management together to his views on human relations theory (HRT) and its links with people management and the theme of organization culture and post-bureaucracy and how it is effecting change management.
To the final one which I have explored; fast capitalism and end management have provided me with an insight into Grey’s thoughts on management and the arguments he has put forward about it. I also feeling my reading of this book has allowed me to relate it where applicable to Wren and Bedeian’s “The Evolution of Management Thought” (2009) and allowed me to compare some of the older views on management within this book to the more modern ones explored by Grey. However I do believe that Grey’s book is far more concise than Wren and Bedeian’s which I feel is too long winded and less interesting than Grey’s.
Bibliography: Grey, C. (2009). A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Organizations. London, Sage. Delbridge, R. (1998) “Life on the Line in Contemporary Manufacturing” Oxford: Oxford University Press, Ogbonna, E. and Wilkinson, B. (1988) “Corporate Strategy and Corporate Culture: The View from the Checkout” Personnel Review, Vol. 19 Iss: 4, pp. 9 – 15 Wren, Daniel A . Bedeian Arthur G. December 2008, ©2009. “The Evolution of Management Thought. 6th Edition”. USA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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