Have Management Practices changed in 100 years?

In 1911 Frederick W Taylor (1856 – 1915) published his famous book “The Principles of Scientific Management”.

Critics will say that his methods concentrated purely on increasing efficiencies with his stopwatch ‘time and motion’ studies in the workplace. This ignored the human elements of good management and leadership practice.

His methods created one of the first formal divisions between those who do the work (workers) and those who supervise and plan it (managers).  A situation which alienated many workers and also management theorists.

BUT in 1924 George Elton Mayo (1880 – 1949) an Australian psychologist conducted research at the Hawthorne, Illinois, plant of Western Electric Co.(in Chicago).

The study began in 1924 by isolating two groups of workers in order to experiment with the impact that various incentives and changing working conditions had on their productivity.

Despite concerns that this would lead to a decrease in output, it became obvious that no matter what changes, good or bad, were imposed on the group – productivity increased.

Mayo concluded that job satisfaction increased as workers were given more freedom to determine the conditions of their working environment and to set their own standards of output.

His studies fostered a more open and trusting environment that put greater emphasis on groups rather than just individuals

Also job satisfaction and output depended more on cooperation and a feeling of worth than on physical working conditions.

So while many observers, theorists, (McGregor, Herzberg, Goleman, Hersey & Blanchard, Ouchi etc.,) have developed theories since Mayo – it seems they have all stood on the shoulders of Mayo.

For today’s leaders and managers, Mayo’s work was a revolutionary turning point in understanding how to create a high performance workforce.

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