Ellen Herman

Department of History, University of Oregon


Reading and Discussion Questions
Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management

1.What are the four basic elements of scientific management?

2.What are the goals of scientific management?

3.What will workers gain when the workplace is managed according to Taylor’s vision? What will employers gain?

4.What does Taylor mean when he insists that scientific management is both a set of techniques and a philosophy? Why do you think this matters?

5.Taylor suggests that his system will harmonize the interests of business and labor so that they are finally understood to be identical. What is his argument? Do you agree?

6.What is “soldiering”? Why is it a problem?

7.Taylor repeatedly contrasts “scientific” approaches to work with “traditional” or “rule-of-thumb” approaches. What are the differences?

8.What new role does Taylor envision for managers?

9 Can workers be workers and managers at the same time? Why or why not?

10. What exactly is wrong with the “initiative and incentive” form of management practiced by most American firms?

11. Is scientific management respectful or disrespectful of workers? Managers?

12. What is the “task idea”?

13. Is there a place for conflict in Taylor’s ideal workplace? Why or why not?

14. What role does experimentation have in scientific management?

15. Can scientifically managed work be mental and manual at the same time? If so, how?

16. Why does scientific management require a mental revolution in worker attitudes as well as an organizational revolution in work? What suggestions does Taylor have for helping this mental revolution along?

17. How does Taylor respond to the charge that scientific management reduces workers to robot-like automatons? Do you agree that the pig handler and the surgeon are similar products of the modern division of labor, similar examples of the tendency toward specialization?

18.Do you think Taylor understood the potentially exploitative uses of scientific management?