Frederick Winslow Taylor (March 20, 1856 - March 21, 1915) was an American engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. He was one of the intellectual leaders of the Efficiency Movement and his ideas, broadly conceived, were highly influential in the Progressive Era.
Taylor was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to a wealthy Quaker family. He had intended to pursue his education at Harvard University, but poor eyesight forced him to consider an alternative career. In 1874, he became an apprentice machinist, learning of factory conditions at the grass-roots level. He earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering through a highly unusual (for the time) series of correspondence courses at Stevens Institute of Technology (graduating in 1886).
Taylor thought that by analyzing work, the "One Best Way" to do it would be found. He is most remembered for developing the time and motion study. He would break a job into its component parts and measure each to the second. One of his most famous studies involved shovels. He noticed that the workers used the same shovel for all materials. He determined that the most effective load was 2 1/2 lb, and found or designed shovels that for each material would scoop up that amount. He was generally unsuccessful at applying his concepts; it was largely through his disciples (most notably H.L. Gantt) that his ideas were implemented in industry. After being fired from Bethlehem Steel he wrote a book, Shop Management, which sold well.
Taylor believed that contemporary management was amateurish and should be studied as a discipline, that workers should cooperate with management (and hence would not need trade unions), and that the best results would come from the partnership between a trained and qualified management and a cooperative and innovative workforce. Each side needed the other.
Taylor was a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, founded in 1900. He is known for coinage of the term scientific management in his article "The Principles of Scientific Management," published in 1911.
Taylor developed five principles of Scientific Management: 1. Scientifically study each part of a task and develop the One best way of performing it. 2. Select the best person to do the job. 3. Train, Teach and develop the worker. 4. Provide financial incentives for following the methods. 5. Divide work and responsibility so that managers are responsible for planning the work methods and workers are responsible for executing the work accordingly.
Harvard University, one of the first American universities to offer a graduate degree in business management in 1908, based its first-year curriculum on Taylor's ideas regarding scientific management.