The following appeared in the April, 1996, issue of



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The principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee. —Frederick Winslow Taylori

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The following appeared in the April, 1996, issue of Quality Progress:
Don't Throw Scientific Management Out with the Bathwater

Taylor's much-maligned philosophy was a valuable forerunner to TQM.

by Michael G. Freeman


lthough most American managers are familiar with the history of total quality management (TQM) since World War II, few are aware of the powerful influence that Frederick W. Taylor's principles of scientific management had on Japanese business practices — and subsequently on TQM — starting as far back as 1912. TQM is not a uniquely Japanese system; it has strong American underpinnings. Indeed, TQM might just be scientific management brought up to date.

The birth of scientific management

Scientific management was Taylor's brainchild. His definitive work on the subject, The Principles of Scientific Management, was published in 1911. It was very controversial; workers, and their unions, disliked scientific management because it called for the methodical, scientific investigation of the elements of each job. Through this study, management would come to know as much about each job as the workers, and as a result, it could tell just how much effort the workers were putting forth.

The workers feared that if they increased their productivity many of them would lose their jobs. Taylor countered that less expensive goods meant there would be more buyers, and hence more, not fewer, jobs. Even though the economic evidence was on Taylor's side, he was not very convincing; to the workers and their unions, it was an emotional issue rather than an economic one. For its part, management liked the increased productivity that scientific management brought, but it did not like Taylor's insistence that it share the productivity gains with workers.

Taylor's approach, however, was correct: There was a tremendous amount of waste in industry in the late 1800s, and he knew that if he could increase productivity and decrease waste, the cost of goods would fall and sales prices would follow. He wrote: "Through this lowering of the selling price the whole public, the buyer and user, of the joint product of the labor and machinery have profited by getting what they buy cheaper. This is the greatest interest that the general public has in scientific management — that in the end they will get more for their money than they are now getting — in other words, that scientific management will in the end enable us all to live better than we are now living. Through scientific management, then, the manufacturer has already profited, and the general public has also profited."ii

Scientific management in Japan

At the turn of the century, a new generation of managers — educated in Japan and abroad — was running Japanese businesses. Thus, as the Japanese became familiar with Western thought they looked to the United States for management ideas. Yukinori Hoshino, director of Japan's Kajima Bank of Osaka, encountered Taylor's The Principles of Scientific Management during a visit to the United States. He was so impressed that he obtained permission to translate it into Japanese. His translation, called The Secret of Saving Lost Motion, was first distributed in 1912. It sold 1.5 million copies.iii

Almost immediately, dissenting views began to appear, just as they had in the United States. Some of the reasons for this were universal; for example, the idea that scientific management was anti-worker. Some reasons were distinctly Japanese, such as labor problems and paternalism.iv And as the influence of the human relations movement grew in Japan, objections to scientific management based on social policy began to grow. Nevertheless, scientific management spread. The Taylor Society was invited to organize its first Japanese branch in 1925, and three branches of its successor organization, the Society for the Advancement of Management, still operate in Japan today.

In the 1930s, the Japanese unions began to show a renewed vigor; but since their goals were much different from those of American unions, the Japanese had an unquestionably easier time adopting the scientific management philosophy. The unions were flexible about job assignments, and since Japanese managers already had low wages and a seemingly permanent surplus of labor, they did not have the same interest in squeezing out every last ounce of productivity as did U.S. managers. Because Japanese management had control over worker training, its prerogative to decide on work assignments and restructure to meet changing technology was readily accepted. Even today, the idea that management has a discretionary right to move its work force about without union interference is strongly entrenched in Japan. In this context, neither management nor labor saw much benefit in the practice of tying wages to job performance. Thus, the interplay of union interests and demands with those of management, which led to sharp job demarcation in the United States, had the opposite outcome in Japan.v

By the beginning of World War II, scientific management was well established in Japanese industry. It had been in use for almost 30 years, and most of Japan's younger managers had known no other system. Taylor's influence at this time was felt through top management involvement, employee training, worker-management cooperation, customer focus, and the use of the scientific method and scientific measurement. The technical orientation and management mind-set were now in place for the coming quality revolution.

Scientific management and the quality movement in Japan

Following World War II, the concepts and techniques of modern quality control were brought to Japan from the United States. In late 1945, the first seminar on quality control was held by W.G. Magil of the Civil Information Division, General Headquarters of the Allied Occupation Forces. This weeklong course was geared for managers and engineers of the Japanese telecommunication industries; presumably the General Headquarters intended to improve the quality of telecommunications in Japan, which was indispensable to the military.vi

In 1946, a young engineer named Homer M. Sarasohn was assigned the task of restoring Japan's production of radio receivers. The situation was grave: "Sarasohn spent much of his time finding materials the Japanese needed to get radio parts into production. Soon a trickle of miserably unreliable radios was reaching Japan's villages."vii Two years later, Sarasohn was joined by Charles Protzman, an engineer from Western Electric Company. Both were followers of scientific management; they believed that their mission would fail unless they could teach the Japanese modern management methods. Gen. Douglas MacArthur agreed, and in 1949, under his direction, Sarasohn and Protzman wrote a textbook for the U.S. Army of Occupation's Civil Communications Section, which eventually became known as CCS: Industrial Management. Their students included Matsushita Electric's Masaharu Matsushita, Mitsubishi Electric's Takeo Kato, and the eventual founders of the Sony Corporation, Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka.

Sarasohn and Protzman's message was threefold:

1. Every company needs a concise, complete statement of purpose for its existence, one that provides a well-defined target for the idealistic efforts of employees.

2. Companies must put quality ahead of profit, pursuing it rigorously with techniques such as statistical quality control.

3. Every employee deserves the same kind of respect managers receive. Good management is democratic; lower-level employees need to be listened to by their bosses.

Like many of America's best engineers at the time, and like many Japanese managers today, Sarasohn and Protzman saw no conflict between scientific management, which carefully measures and analyzes everything within the organization, and democratic management, which shows respect for employees. They disagreed with the human relations experts who harshly criticized scientific management on the grounds that it focused on the nuts and bolts when in fact managers should care foremost about people. Sarasohn and Protzman's presentation to Japanese business leaders, however, was a blend of both scientific management and respect for the worker.

Their message was not lost on the Japanese: If one has articulated a worthwhile purpose and constantly strives to create the best possible manufacturing systems — culture, in today's terms — human relations problems will take care of themselves.viii Even though Sarasohn and Protzman left Japan at the end of the occupation in 1950, the Japan Federation of Employers Associations continued to use their manual until 1973.

Scientific management becomes TQM

Taylor understood the role of inspection in maintaining quality. He pioneered the practice of inspecting the first pieces of each lot and performing inspections at the subassembly level, rather than allowing a defective product to reach the end of the line before being detected. By 1929, The Taylor Society had grasped the concept of variance and the use of inspection findings in analysis, but the detection of trends eluded it: "The reason for inspection which is peculiar to scientific management is that it serves as a device for the maintenance of, or interpretation of reasons for, variation from the definite standards which have been established. … If scientific management is a management of precision made possible by the substitution of constants for variables, then the maintenance of the constants is essential. Inspection promotes this maintenance of constants."ix

In the latter half of the 1920s, Walter A. Shewhart of Bell Telephone Laboratories developed a theory of statistical quality controls. He analyzed many different processes and concluded that all manufacturing processes display variation. He asserted that, while assignable causes could be economically discovered and removed, the same could not be done with random causes without making basic changes in the process.

Deming's contribution

W. Edwards Deming's unique contribution to the quality field was introducing Shewhart's work — the concept of statistical process control — to all levels of Japanese industry. In 1950, Deming accepted an invitation from the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) to visit Japan. He lectured to top managers at eight-day quality control courses and seminars in several Japanese cities. His lectures at these seminars helped the participants understand the importance of statistical quality control in manufacturing industries.

Later, Deming was invited to speak to the presidents of 21 of Japan's leading industrial organizations. His message was clear:

The consumer is the most important part of the production line. "If you can build a quality product, the world will beat a path to your door," Deming said. "I told them they would capture markets the world over within five years. They beat that prediction. Within four years, buyers all over the world were screaming for Japanese products."x On later trips Deming saw the fruits of his efforts, as the use of control charts and the statistical process blossomed throughout Japanese industry.

In 1951, the Japanese established the Deming prize for quality in appreciation of what Deming had done for them. The money to pay for the prizes was donated by Deming himself, from the proceeds of his lecture transcripts. Competition for the individual and corporate prizes is still intense to the present day.

With the marriage of scientific management's carefully determined manufacturing processes, modern machine tools, Shewhart's statistical process control, and Deming's quest for quality in manufacturing, the technical side of TQM was now in place. All that remained was the human element.

A fresh perspective

In 1954, quality control expert J. M. Juran arrived in Japan to present a series of lectures. His focus was on a newer orientation to quality control, with the emphasis that it must be an integral part of the management function and practiced throughout the organization. This meant teaching quality control to middle management. Juran's ideas spread rapidly in major firms, with the Japanese adding one important innovation: Every person in the organizational hierarchy, from top management to shop-floor employees, would be exposed to statistical quality control, and all workers would join study groups to upgrade existing practices.xi

This was not the first time the Japanese had heard about cooperation between workers and management and proper training, but it was the first time they had dealt with quality. Scientific management included provisions for employee suggestions and continuous improvement, but the Japanese took Taylor's concept to a uniquely higher level with the quality circle. Since the Japanese unions already accepted management's right to assign work, the formation of quality circles faced no union opposition.

The Japanese recognized the importance of frontline workers to the progress of companywide quality control; without the daily efforts of those workers, they knew, product quality could not be achieved. So, to train workers, a 13-week series, "QC for the First-Line Supervisors," was broadcast via shortwave radio from October to December 1956. The series continued to be broadcast by the Japan Broadcasting Company until 1962. During the first year, some 100,000 transcripts of the radio broadcast were sold at newsstands. In 1959, a weekly television series on quality control was initiated, and QC Text for Foremen, edited by Kaoru Ishikawa, was published by JUSE in 1960; 200,000 copies were sold before the end of 1967. This education and training of supervisors and frontline workers, carried out so enthusiastically, helped pave the way for the quality circle movement. In May 1962, the first quality circle was registered at the QC Circle Headquarters of JUSE in Tokyo.xii With the advent of quality circles, the human side of TQM was finally in place.

Through scientific management, the Japanese had developed a sound production system. Shewhart's statistical process control techniques gave them the ability to closely monitor the production process. Quality circles provided the mechanism to make rapid changes when things went wrong, and the means to make continuous improvements when things were running well. The system was further enhanced by union flexibility and employees who supported their companies' goals.

And today...

There are many different viewpoints regarding the effect of scientific management on TQM. Some are very positive, crediting scientific management with nearly single-handedly turning around Japan's manufacturing system. Shigeo Shingo, one of the Toyota system inventors, studied Taylor's The Principles of Scientific Management in 1931 and was so impressed that he devoted his life to the practice.xiii Naomi Yamaki, a consultant for Mitsubishi Space Software Company in Tokyo, said, "Scientific management has revolutionized the Japanese management and industrial system. We used to make products that the world thought were cheap but bad. Now they consider our products cheap but good. Unions welcome the growth in productivity and quality — it benefits us all."xiv

Other commentators claim that there are no lasting effects from scientific management. Ishikawa, an acknowledged leader in the Japanese quality control movement, has stated, "The Taylor method is one of management by specialists. It suggests that specialists and engineers formulate technical standards and work standards. All the workers have to do is simply do what they are told to do and follow the standards set for them, This method was probably a viable method 50 years ago, but it is certainly not applicable to today's Japan."xv

Finally, there are those who recognize that scientific management is still making a contribution to the Japanese system, but also give credit to some of the systems that have come since. One such commentator is Kaichiro Nishino, an adviser to the Shibaura Engineering Works. In an article in Management Japan, he wrote: "To attain the improvement of productivity, the management has to count on the positive cooperation of both workers and unions. When we commenced the study of the rudiments of management, priority was given to the machine and productivity was improved by submitting the workers to mechanical control. Nowadays such a system no longer works. The unions are getting increasingly stronger, and when top priority is given to the human being, it is absolutely necessary to change radically the method of work. Thus, we think that the fundamental problem is how to introduce the tradeoff relation between scientific management and human relations in the management of business. I think the so-called Japanese management style has succeeded in attaining a well-balanced tradeoff."xvi

Scientific management still works



If the proof is in the pudding, consider New United Motor Manufacturing Inc, (NUMMI) in Fremont, CA, a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota. Paul Adler of the University of Southern California School of Business Administration had this to say after a two-year study of the plant: "[NUMMI] has succeeded in employing an innovative form of Taylor's time-and-motion regimentation on the factory floor not only to create world-class productivity and quality but also to increase worker motivation and satisfaction. What's more, NUMMI's intensely Taylorist procedures appear to encourage rather than discourage organizational learning and, therefore, continuous improvement. ... Yet by far the most striking advantage of standardized work is that it gives continuous improvement a specific base to build on. As one manager put it, 'You can't improve a process you don't understand.' In this case, standardization is the essential precondition for learning. … The difference between traditional Taylorism and the learning-oriented NUMMI version resembles the difference between computer software designed to be 'idiot-proof' and the kinds of computer systems that are meant to leverage and enhance their users' capabilities. ... The idiot-proof system may be easy to use, but it is also static and boring. Leveraging systems make demands on the operator. They take time to learn and require thought and skill to use, but they are immensely flexible, responsive, and satisfying once mastered. ... Taylorist time-and-motion discipline and formal bureaucratic structures are essential for efficiency and quality in routine operations. But these principles of organizational design need not lead to rigidity and alienation. NUMMI points the way beyond Taylor-as-villain to the design of a truly learning-oriented bureaucracy."xvii

i Frederick W. Taylor, Scientific Management: Comprising Shop Management, The Principles of Scientific Management, Testimony Before the Special House Committee (New York. NY: Harper & Brothers, 1947). Shop Management was originally written in 1903, Principles was written in 1911, and the testimony was given in 1912.

ii Ibid.

iii R.G. Greenwood and R.H. Ross, "Early American Influence on Japanese Management Philosophy: The Scientific Management Movement in Japan:" in S.M. Lee and G. Schwendiman, editors, Management by Japanese Systems (New York, NY: Praeger, 1982), pp. 43-54.

iv K. Okuda, comment made at 15th International Conference on Business History, Fuji, Japan, 1988, in Japanese Management in Historical Perspective: Proceedings of the Fuji Conference (Tokyo, Japan: University of Tokyo Press, 1989), pp.192-196.

v Robert E. Cole, Work Mobility and Participation: A Comparative. Study of American and Japanese Industry (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979).

viJ. M. Juran, and Frank M. Gryna, editors, Juran's Quality Control Handbook, 4th edition (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1988).

vii Robert Chapman Wood, "A Lesson Learned and a Lesson Forgotten" Forbes, February 6, 1989, pp. 70-78.

viii Ibid.

ix The Taylor Society, Scientific Management in American Industry (Easton, PA: Hive Publishing Company, 1972).

x Mary Walton, The Deming Management Method (New York, NY: Dodd, 1986).

xi Cole, Work Mobility and Participation: A Comparative Study of American and Japanese Industry.

xii Juran and Gryna, Juran's Quality Control Handbook.

xiii J. R. Stewart, "The Work Ethic, Luddites and Taylorism in Japanese Management Literature," IM (Industrial Management), Nov.-Dec. 1992, pp. 23-26.

xiv R. P. Hagen, "Taylor's Challenge to Management: Is There a Better Way?" SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 53, Spring 1988, pp. 45-48.

xv Stewart, "The Work Ethic, Luddites, and Taylorism in Japanese Management Literature."

xvi Kaichiro Nishino, "Why Productivity of Japanese Industry Is High," Management Japan. Vol.16, Spring 1983, pp.19-25.

xvii Paul S. Adler, "Time-and-Motion Regained" Harvard Business Review, Vol.71, January-February 1993, pp. 97-108.


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