Villain, Victim or Visionary?: The Insights and Flaws in F. W. Taylor’s Ideas

  • J.-C. Spender


Taylor’s theory of organization has never been properly delineated even though it has given rise to much passion, both supportive and critical. Some would argue that Taylor had no clear idea of the organization, working only at the level of the individual workers. But this is to forget Taylor’s considerable experience and success as a senior executive and investor, and as a leading management consultant. Taylor could not have had these successes without a powerful set of ideas about how successful firms should work. His concept of functional foremen and his disputes with Henri Fayol, the French industrialist and organizational theorist with whom he is often compared, and with Edwin Gay, the first Dean of the Harvard Business School, also suggest that Taylor had a distinctive theory in mind.


Business School Scientific Management Harvard Business School Position Power Organizational Power 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aitken, H. G. J. (1960) Taylorism at Watertown Arsenal: Scientific management in action, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.Google Scholar
  2. Andrews, Ed (1981) Closing the iron cage: The scientific management of work and leisure, Black Rose Books, Montreal.Google Scholar
  3. Beissinger, M.R. (1988) Scientific management, socialist discipline and Soviet power, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.Google Scholar
  4. Braverman, H. (1974) Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century, Monthly Review Press, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Burns, A. R. (1936) The decline of competition: A study of the evolution of American industry, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Cadbury, E. (1914) “Some principles of industrial organization: The case for and against scientific management” Sociological Review 7,2:99–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chandler, A. D. (1977) The visible hand, Belknap Press, Cambridge MA.Google Scholar
  8. Child, J., and B. Partridge (1982) Lost managers: Supervisors in industry and society, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  9. Commons, J. R. [Ed] (1921a) Trade unionism and labor problems, Ginn and Company, Boston MA.Google Scholar
  10. Commons, J. R. and others (1921b) Industrial government, Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  11. Copley, F. B. (1923) Frederick W. Taylor: Father of scientific management, Harper & Brothers, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Cyert, R. M. and D. C. Mowery (Eds.) (1987) Technology and employment, National Academy Press, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  13. Denhardt, R. B. (1981) In the shadow of organization, University of Kansas Press, Lawrence KS.Google Scholar
  14. Drucker, P. F. (1967) “Frederick Taylor: The professional management pioneer” Academy of Management Journal, October: 8Google Scholar
  15. Drucker, P. F. (1970) Technology, management and society, Harper & Row, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Edwards, R. C. (1979) Contested terrain: The transformation of the workplace in the twentieth century, Basic Books Inc., New York.Google Scholar
  17. Fayol, H. (1949) General and industrial management, Pitman, London.Google Scholar
  18. French, J. R. P. and B. Raven (1959) “The bases for social power”. In Dorwin Cartwright (Ed.) Studies in social power, pp. 150–167, Inst, for Soc. Res. Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI.Google Scholar
  19. Gantt, H. L. and Others (1911) How scientific management is applied (2nd Edn), The System Company, Chicago IL.Google Scholar
  20. Goldthorpe, J. H. and D. Lockwood (1963) “Affluence and the British class structure”, Sociological Review, 11,2:133–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gordon, R. and J. Howell (1959) Higher education for business, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  22. Henderson, B. E. and D. C. Mowery (1988) The future of technology and work: Research and policy issues, National Academy Press, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  23. Hershberg, T. (Ed) (1981) Philadelphia: Work, space, family, and group experience in the nineteenth century, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  24. Hirschhorn, L. (1984) Beyond mechanization: Work and technology in a postindustrial age, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA.Google Scholar
  25. Hobson, J. A. (1913) “Scientific management”, Sociological Review, 6, 3, 197–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Huff, A. S. (1990, Ed.) Mapping strategic thought, John Wiley & Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  27. Kakar, S. (1970) Frederick Taylor: A study in personality and innovation, MIT Press, Cambridge MA.Google Scholar
  28. Kusterer, K. C. (1978) Know-how on the job: The important working knowledge of unskilled workers, Westview Press, Boulder CO.Google Scholar
  29. Lave, J. (1988) Cognition in practice, Cambridge University Press, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Leavitt, H. J. (1987) Corporate pathfinders, Penguin Books, New York.Google Scholar
  31. March, J. G. and H.A. Simon (1958) Organizations, John Wiley & Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  32. Metcalf, H. C. (Ed) (1927) Business management as a profession, Hive Publishing, Easton PA.Google Scholar
  33. Mintzberg, H. (1983) Structuring in fives: Designing effective organizations, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJ.Google Scholar
  34. Montgomery, D. (1976) “Workers’ control of machine production in the nineteenth century”, Labor History 17, 485–509.Google Scholar
  35. Nelson, D. (1975) Managers and workers: Origins of the new factory system in the United States 1880–1920, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison WI.Google Scholar
  36. Nelson, D. (1980) Frederick W. Taylor and the rise of scientific management, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison WI.Google Scholar
  37. Nelson, D. (Ed.) (1992) The mental revolution: Scientific management since Taylor, Ohio State University Press, Columbus OH.Google Scholar
  38. Peters, T.J. and R. H. Waterman (1982) In search of excellence: Lessons from America’s best-run companies, Harper & Row, New York.Google Scholar
  39. Pollard, S. (1968) The genesis of modern management, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth Middx.Google Scholar
  40. Rabinbach, A. (1990) The human motor: Energy, fatigue, and the origins of modernity, Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  41. Redlich, F. (1957) “Academic education for business”, Business History Review, 31:35–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roethlisberger, F. J. and W. J. Dickson (1939) Management and the worker, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.Google Scholar
  43. Roy, D. (1952) “Quota restriction and gold-bricking in a machine shop”, American Journal of Sociology, 57, 427–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sabel, C. F. (1982) Work and politics: The division of labor in industry, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Simon, H. A. (1947) Administrative behavior, Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  46. Smith, A. (1979) The wealth of nations, Books I–III, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middx.Google Scholar
  47. Spender, J.-C. (1989a) Industry recipes: The nature and sources of managerial judgement, Basil Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  48. Spender, J.-C. (1989b) “Meeting Mintzberg — and thinking again about management education”, European Management Journal, 7, 3, 254–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Spender, J.-C. & P. H. Grinyer (1995) “Organizational renewal: Top management’s role in a loosely coupled system”, Human Relations, 48, 909–926, 1995.Google Scholar
  50. Sternberg, R. J. and R.K. Wagner (Eds.) (1986) Practical intelligence: Nature and origins of competence in the everyday world, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  51. Taylor, F. W. (1911a) Shop management, Harper & Brothers, New York.Google Scholar
  52. Taylor, F.W. (1911b) The principles of scientific management, Harper & Brothers, New York.Google Scholar
  53. Taylor, F.W. (1947) Scientific management, Harper & Row, New York.Google Scholar
  54. Warner, S.B. (1968) “If all the world were Philadelphia: A scaffolding for urban history, 1774–1930”, American Historical Review, 74, 39.Google Scholar
  55. Weber, M. (1969) The theory of social and economic organization, Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  56. Whitley, R. D., A.Thomas and J. Marceau (1981) Masters of business? Business schools and business graduates in Britain and France, Tavistock Publications, London.Google Scholar
  57. Whitsett, D. A. and L.Yorks (1983) From management theory to business sense: The myths and realities of people at work, AMACOM, New York.Google Scholar
  58. Williamson, O. E. (1975) Markets and hierarchies: Analysis and antitrust implications, Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  59. WPA (1988) The WPA guide to Philadelphia, The University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA.Google Scholar
  60. Wrege, C. & A. Stotka (1978) “Cooke creates a classic”, Academy of Management Journal, October, 736–749.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • J.-C. Spender
    • 1
  1. 1.Rutgers UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations