Sociology Index


The term scientific management is applied to a method of work organization where management implements a specialized division of labor and sets out detailed instructions for the performance of work.

Scientific management is associated with the innovative methods introduced by Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) to separate workers from their knowledge of the work process, to divide labor so as to pay only for the specific skill required to perform a narrow function and to establish management as the controller of work and the work process.

Ernst Abbe’s scientific management: theoretical insights from a nineteenth-century dynamic capabilities approach - Guido Buenstorf and Johann Peter Murmann

‘Scientific management’ is the label Frederick Taylor attached to the system of shop-floor management devised by him. In this article we present our discovery of very different ‘scientific’ management principles that, roughly concurrently with Taylorism, were developed by German physicist-turned-manager Ernst Abbe and that are codified in the statutes of the Carl Zeiss Foundation created by Abbe.

They exhibit striking parallels to resource-based and capability-based theories of the firm, and indicate managerial challenges that warrant further theoretical elaboration. Abbe develops an account for managing a science-based firm and securing its long-term competitiveness, giving detailed prescriptions with regard to the type and scope of a firm’s activities, its organizational set-up and its labor relations.

We highlight some of the most characteristic features of Abbe’s thought, discuss its effects on the development of the firms owned by the Zeiss Foundation, and compare it to and draw out implications for present-day management theory.

Scientific management, culture and control: A first-hand account of Taylorism in practice 
Oswald Jones, Aston Business School, UK 
In this article I examine the changes that occurred in a large domestic appliance factory over a 12 year period. The appointment of a new managing director was the catalyst for many innovations in the plant including the ending of PBR (payment by results) and the use of stopwatches by work study engineers (WSEs). Despite senior managerial efforts to change the organizational culture those employed in the work study department continued to exert considerable influence over factory design and work organization. In the article I present a first-hand account of the way in which individual identity and subjectivity contributed to a distinctive subculture. This masculine culture encouraged conflict with shopfloor workers even after the PBR scheme had been discontinued.

Scientific Management, Bureau-Professionalism, New Managerialism: The Labour Process of State Social Work 
JOHN HARRIS, Senior Lecturer 
Summary: An outline is provided of radical social work writers' use of Braverman's labour process thesis on scientific management to account for developments in state social work in the late 197Os/early 1980s. The advocacy of a scientific management model in radical social work texts is tested against the existence of a bureau-professional social work labour process in the 1970s/early 1980s.