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Shop Management
Frederick Winslow Taylor
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Title: Shop Management
Author: Frederick Winslow Taylor
Release Date: September, 2004 [EBook #6464]
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Shop Management
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Frederick Winslow Taylor
Through his business in changing the methods of shop management, the
writer has been brought into intimate contact over a period of years
with the organization of manufacturing and industrial establishments,
covering a large variety and range of product, and employing workmen in
many of the leading trades.
In taking a broad view of the field of management, the two facts which
appear most noteworthy are:
(a) What may be called the great unevenness, or lack of uniformity
shown, even in our best run works, in the development of the several
elements, which together constitute what is called the management.
(b) The lack of apparent relation between good shop management and the
payment of dividends.
Although the day of trusts is here, still practically each of the
component companies of the trusts was developed and built up largely
through the energies and especial ability of some one or two men who
were the master spirits in directing its growth. As a rule, this leader
rose from a more or less humble position in one of the departments, say
in the commercial or the manufacturing department, until he became the
head of his particular section. Having shown especial ability in his
line, he was for that reason made manager of the whole establishment.
In examining the organization of works of this class, it will frequently
be found that the management of the particular department in which this
master spirit has grown up towers to a high point of excellence, his
success having been due to a thorough knowledge of all of the smallest
requirements of his section, obtained through personal contact, and the
gradual training of the men under him to their maximum efficiency.
The remaining departments, in which this man has had but little personal
experience, will often present equally glaring examples of inefficiency.
And this, mainly because management is not yet looked upon as an art,
with laws as exact, and as clearly defined, for instance, as the
fundamental principles of engineering, which demand long and careful
thought and study. Management is still looked upon as a question of men,
the old view being that if you have the right man the methods can be
safely left to him.
The following, while rather an extreme case, may still be considered as
a fairly typical illustration of the unevenness of management. It became
desirable to combine two rival manufactories of chemicals. The great
obstacle to this combination, however, and one which for several years
had proved insurmountable was that the two men, each of whom occupied
the position of owner and manager of his company, thoroughly despised
one another. One of these men had risen to the top of his works through
the office at the commercial end, and the other had come up from a
workman in the factory. Each one was sure that the other was a fool, if
not worse. When they were finally combined it was found that each was
right in his judgment of the other in a certain way. A comparison of
their books showed that the manufacturer was producing his chemicals
more than forty per cent cheaper than his rival, while the business man
made up the difference by insisting on maintaining the highest quality,
and by his superiority in selling, buying, and the management of the
commercial side of the business. A combination of the two, however,
finally resulted in mutual respect, and saving the forty per cent
formerly lost by each man.
The second fact that has struck the writer as most noteworthy is that
there is no apparent relation in many, if not most cases, between good
shop management and the success or failure of the company, many
unsuccessful companies having good shop management while the reverse is
true of many which pay large dividends.
We, however, who are primarily interested in the shop, are apt to forget
that success, instead of hinging upon shop management, depends in many
cases mainly upon other elements, namely,--the location of the
company, its financial strength and ability, the efficiency of its
business and sales departments, its engineering ability, the superiority
of its plant and equipment, or the protection afforded either by
patents, combination, location or other partial monopoly.
And even in those cases in which the efficiency of shop management might
play an important part it must be remembered that for success no company
need be better organized than its competitors.
The most severe trial to which any system can be subjected is that of a
business which is in keen competition over a large territory, and in
which the labor cost of production forms a large element of the expense,
and it is in such establishments that one would naturally expect to find
the best type of management.
Yet it is an interesting fact that in several of the largest and most
important classes of industries in this country shop practice is still
twenty to thirty years behind what might be called modern management.
Not only is no attempt made by them to do tonnage or piece work, but the
oldest of old-fashioned day work is still in vogue under which one
overworked foreman manages the men. The workmen in these shops are still
herded in classes, all of those in a class being paid the same wages,
regardless of their respective efficiency.
In these industries, however, although they are keenly competitive, the
poor type of shop management does not interfere with dividends, since
they are in this respect all equally bad.
It would appear, therefore, that as an index to the quality of shop
management the earning of dividends is but a poor guide.
Any one who has the opportunity and takes the time to study the subject
will see that neither good nor bad management is confined to any one
system or type. He will find a few instances of good management
containing all of the elements necessary for permanent prosperity for
both employers and men under ordinary day work, the task system, piece
work, contract work, the premium plan, the bonus system and the
differential rate; and he will find a very much larger number of
instances of bad management under these systems containing as they do
the elements which lead to discord and ultimate loss and trouble for
both sides.
If neither the prosperity of the company nor any particular type or
system furnishes an index to proper management, what then is the
touchstone which indicates good or bad management?
The art of management has been defined, "as knowing exactly what you
want men to do, and then seeing that they do it in the best and cheapest
way.'" No concise definition can fully describe an art, but the
relations between employers and men form without question the most
important part of this art. In considering the subject, therefore, until
this part of the problem has been fully discussed, the other phases of
the art may be left in the background.
The progress of many types of management is punctuated by a series of
disputes, disagreements and compromises between employers and men, and
each side spends more than a considerable portion of its time thinking
and talking over the injustice which it receives at the hands of the
other. All such types are out of the question, and need not be
It is safe to say that no system or scheme of management should be
considered which does not in the long run give satisfaction to both
employer and employee, which does not make it apparent that their best
interests are mutual, and which does not bring about such thorough and
hearty cooperation that they can pull together instead of apart. It
cannot be said that this condition has as yet been at all generally
recognized as the necessary foundation for good management. On the
contrary, it is still quite generally regarded as a fact by both sides
that in many of the most vital matters the best interests of employers
are necessarily opposed to those of the men. In fact, the two elements
which we will all agree are most wanted on the one hand by the men and
on the other hand by the employers are generally looked upon as
What the workmen want from their employers beyond anything else is high
wages, and what employers want from their workmen most of all is a low
labor cost of manufacture.
These two conditions are not diametrically opposed to one another as
would appear at first glance. On the contrary, they can be made to go
together in all classes of work, without exception, and in the writer's
judgment the existence or absence of these two elements forms the best
index to either good or bad management.
This book is written mainly with the object of advocating high wages and
low labor cost as the foundation of the best management, of pointing out
the general principles which render it possible to maintain these
conditions even under the most trying circumstances, and of indicating
the various steps which the writer thinks should be taken in changing
from a poor system to a better type of management.
The condition of high wages and low labor cost is far from being
accepted either by the average manager or the average workman as a
practical working basis. It is safe to say that the majority of
employers have a feeling of satisfaction when their workmen are
receiving lower wages than those of their competitors. On the other hand
very many workmen feel contented if they find themselves doing the same
amount of work per day as other similar workmen do and yet are getting
more pay for it. Employers and workmen alike should look upon both of
these conditions with apprehension, as either of them are sure, in the
long run, to lead to trouble and loss for both parties.
Through unusual personal influence and energy, or more frequently
through especial conditions which are but temporary, such as dull times
when there is a surplus of labor, a superintendent may succeed in
getting men to work extra hard for ordinary wages. After the men,
however, realize that this is the case and an opportunity comes for them
to change these conditions, in their reaction against what they believe
unjust treatment they are almost sure to lean so far in the other
direction as to do an equally great injustice to their employer.
On the other hand, the men who use the opportunity offered by a scarcity
of labor to exact wages higher than the average of their class, without
doing more than the average work in return, are merely laying up trouble
for themselves in the long run. They grow accustomed to a high rate of
living and expenditure, and when the inevitable turn comes and they are
either thrown out of employment or forced to accept low wages, they are
the losers by the whole transaction.
The only condition which contains the elements of stability and
permanent satisfaction is that in which both employer and employees are
doing as well or better than their competitors are likely to do, and
this in nine cases out of ten means high wages and low labor cost, and
both parties should be equally anxious for these conditions to prevail.
With them the employer can hold his own with his competitors at all
times and secure sufficient work to keep his men busy even in dull
times. Without them both parties may do well enough in busy times, but
both parties are likely to suffer when work becomes scarce.
The possibility of coupling high wages with a low labor cost rests
mainly upon the enormous difference between the amount of work which a
first-class man can do under favorable circumstances and the work which
is actually done by the average man.
That there is a difference between the average and the first-class man
is known to all employers, but that the first-class man can do in most
cases from two to four times as much as is done by an average man is
known to but few, and is fully realized only by those who have made a
thorough and scientific study of the possibilities of men.
The writer has found this enormous difference between the first-class
and average man to exist in all of the trades and branches of labor
which he has investigated, and these cover a large field, as he,
together with several of his friends, has been engaged with more than
usual opportunities for thirty years past in carefully and
systematically studying this subject.
The difference in the output of first-class and average men is as little
realized by the workmen as by their employers. The first-class men know
that they can do more work than the average, but they have rarely made
any careful study of the matter. And the writer has over and over again
found them utterly incredulous when he informed them, after close
observation and study, how much they were able to do. In fact, in most
cases when first told that they are able to do two or three times as
much as they have done they take it as a joke and will not believe that
one is in earnest.
It must be distinctly understood that in referring to the possibilities
of a first-class man the writer does not mean what he can do when on a
spurt or when he is over-exerting himself, but what a good man can keep
up for a long term of years without injury to his health. It is a pace
under which men become happier and thrive.
The second and equally interesting fact upon which the possibility of
coupling high wages with low labor cost rests, is that first-class men
are not only willing but glad to work at their maximum speed, providing
they are paid from 30 to 100 per cent more than the average of their
The exact percentage by which the wages must be increased in order to
make them work to their maximum is not a subject to be theorized over,
settled by boards of directors sitting in solemn conclave, nor voted
upon by trades unions. It is a fact inherent in human nature and has
only been determined through the slow and difficult process of trial and
The writer has found, for example, after making many mistakes above and
below the proper mark, that to get the maximum output for ordinary shop
work requiring neither especial brains, very close application, skill,
nor extra hard work, such, for instance, as the more ordinary kinds of
routine machine shop work, it is necessary to pay about 30 per cent more
than the average. For ordinary day labor requiring little brains or
special skill, but calling for strength, severe bodily exertion, and
fatigue, it is necessary to pay from 50 per cent to 60 per cent above
the average. For work requiring especial skill or brains, coupled with
close application, but without severe bodily exertion, such as the more
difficult and delicate machinist's work, from 70 per cent to 80 per cent
beyond the average. And for work requiring skill, brains, close
application, strength, and severe bodily exertion, such, for instance,
as that involved in operating a well run steam hammer doing
miscellaneous work, from 80 per cent to 100 per cent beyond the average.
There are plenty of good men ready to do their best for the above
percentages of increase, but if the endeavor is made to get the right
men to work at this maximum for less than the above increase, it will be
found that most of them will prefer their old rate of speed with the
lower pay. After trying the high speed piece work for a while they will
one after another throw up their jobs and return to the old day work
conditions. Men will not work at their best unless assured a good
liberal increase, which must be permanent.
It is the writer's judgment, on the other hand, that for their own good
it is as important that workmen should not be very much over-paid, as it
is that they should not be under-paid. If over-paid, many will work
irregularly and tend to become more or less shiftless, extravagant, arid
dissipated. It does not do for most men to get rich too fast. The
writer's observation, however, would lead him to the conclusion that
most men tend to become more instead of less thrifty when they receive
the proper increase for an extra hard day's work, as, for example, the
percentages of increase referred to above. They live rather better,
begin to save money, become more sober, and work more steadily. And this
certainly forms one of the strongest reasons for advocating this type of
In referring to high wages and low labor cost as fundamental in good
management, the writer is most desirous not to be misunderstood.
By high wages he means wages which are high only with relation to the
average of the class to which the man belongs and which are paid only to
those who do much more or better work than the average of their class.
He would not for an instant advocate the use of a high-priced tradesman
to do the work which could be done by a trained laborer or a
lower-priced man. No one would think of using a fine trotter to draw a
grocery wagon nor a Percheron to do the work of a little mule. No more
should a mechanic be allowed to do work for which a trained laborer can
be used, and the writer goes so far as to say that almost any job that
is repeated over and over again, however great skill and dexterity it
may require, providing there is enough of it to occupy a man throughout
a considerable part of the year, should be done by a trained laborer and
not by a mechanic. A man with only the intelligence of an average
laborer can be taught to do the most difficult and delicate work if it
is repeated enough times; and his lower mental caliber renders him more
fit than the mechanic to stand the monotony of repetition. It would seem
to be the duty of employers, therefore, both in their own interest and
in that of their employees, to see that each workman is given as far as
possible the highest class of work for which his brains and physique fit
him. A man, however, whose mental caliber and education do not fit him
to become a good mechanic (and that grade of man is the one referred to
as belonging to the "laboring class"), when he is trained to do some few
especial jobs, which were formerly done by mechanics, should not expect
to be paid the wages of a mechanic. He should get more than the average
laborer, but less than a mechanic; thus insuring high wages to the
workman, and low labor cost to the employer, and in this way making it
most apparent to both that their interests are mutual.
To summarize, then, what the aim in each establishment should be:
(a) That each workman should be given as far as possible the highest
grade of work for which his ability and physique fit him.
(b) That each workman should be called upon to turn out the maximum
amount of work which a first-rate man of his class can do and thrive.
(c) That each workman, when he works at the best pace of a first-class
man, should be paid from 30 per cent to 100 per cent according to the
nature of the work which he does, beyond the average of his class.
And this means high wages and a low labor cost. These conditions not
only serve the best interests of the employer, but they tend to raise
each workman to the highest level which he is fitted to attain by making
him use his best faculties, forcing him to become and remain ambitious
and energetic, and giving him sufficient pay to live better than in the
Under these conditions the writer has seen many first-class men
developed who otherwise would have remained second or third class all of
their lives.
Is not the presence or absence of these conditions the best indication
that any system of management is either well or badly applied? And in
considering the relative merits of different types of management, is not
that system the best which will establish these conditions with the
greatest certainty, precision, and speed?
In comparing the management of manufacturing and engineering companies
by this standard, it is surprising to see how far they fall short. Few
of those which are best organized have attained even approximately the
maximum output of first-class men.
Many of them are paying much higher prices per piece than are required
to secure the maximum product while owing to a bad system, lack of exact
knowledge of the time required to do work, and mutual suspicion and
misunderstanding between employers and men, the output per man is so
small that the men receive little if any more than average wages, both
sides being evidently the losers thereby. The chief causes which produce
this loss to both parties are: First (and by far the most important),
the profound ignorance of employers and their foremen as to the time in
which various kinds of work should be done, and this ignorance is shared
largely by the workmen. Second: The indifference of the employers and
their ignorance as to the proper system of management to adopt and the
method of applying it, and further their indifference as to the
individual character, worth, and welfare of their men. On the part of
the men the greatest obstacle to the attainment of this standard is the
slow pace which they adopt, or the loafing or "soldiering,'" marking
time, as it is called.
This loafing or soldiering proceeds from two causes. First, from the
natural instinct and tendency of men to take it easy, which may be
called natural soldiering. Second, from more intricate second thought
and reasoning caused by their relations with other men, which may be
called systematic soldiering. There is no question that the tendency of
the average man (in all walks of life) is toward working at a slow, easy
gait, and that it is only after a good deal of thought and observation
on his part or as a result of example, conscience, or external pressure
that he takes a more rapid pace.
There are, of course, men of unusual energy, vitality, and ambition who
naturally choose the fastest gait, set up their own standards, and who
will work hard, even though it may be against their best interests. But
these few uncommon men only serve by affording a contrast to emphasize
the tendency of the average.
This common tendency to "take it easy" is greatly increased by bringing
a number of men together on similar work and at a uniform standard rate
of pay by the day.
Under this plan the better men gradually but surely slow down their gait
to that of the poorest and least efficient. When a naturally energetic
man works for a few days beside a lazy one, the logic of the situation
is unanswerable: "Why should I work hard when that lazy fellow gets the
same pay that I do and does only half as much work?"
A careful time study of men working under these conditions will disclose
facts which are ludicrous as well as pitiable.
To illustrate: The writer has timed a naturally energetic workman who,
while going and coming from work, would walk at a speed of from three to
four miles per hour, and not infrequently trot home after a day's work.
On arriving at his work he would immediately slow down to a speed of
about one mile an hour. When, for example, wheeling a loaded wheelbarrow
he would go at a good fast pace even up hill in order to be as short a
time as possible under load, and immediately on the return walk slow
down to a mile an hour, improving every opportunity for delay short of
actually sitting down. In order to be sure not to do more than his lazy
neighbor he would actually tire himself in his effort to go slow.
These men were working under a foreman of good reputation and one highly
thought of by his employer who, when his attention was called to this
state of things, answered: "Well, I can keep them from sitting down, but
the devil can't make them get a move on while they are at work."
The natural laziness of men is serious, but by far the greatest evil
from which both workmen and employers are suffering is the systematic
soldiering which is almost universal under all of the ordinary schemes
of management and which results from a careful study on the part of the
workmen of what they think will promote their best interests.
The writer was much interested recently to hear one small but
experienced golf caddy boy of twelve explaining to a green caddy who had
shown special energy and interest the necessity of going slow and
lagging behind his man when he came up to the ball, showing him that
since they were paid by the hour, the faster they went the less money
they got, and finally telling him that if he went too fast the other
boys would give him a licking.
This represents a type of systematic soldiering which is not, however,
very serious, since it is done with the knowledge of the employer, who
can quite easily break it up if he wishes.
The greater part of the systematic soldiering, however, is done by the
men with the deliberate object of keeping their employers ignorant of
how fast work can be done.
So universal is soldiering for this purpose, that hardly a competent
workman can be found in a large establishment, whether he works by the
day or on piece work, contract work or under any of the ordinary systems
of compensating labor, who does not devote a considerable part of his
time to studying just how slowly he can work and still convince his
employer that he is going at a good pace.
The causes for this are, briefly, that practically all employers
determine upon a maximum sum which they feel it is right for each of
their classes of employees to earn per day, whether their men work by
the day or piece.
Each workman soon finds out about what this figure is for his particular
case, and he also realizes that when his employer is convinced that a
man is capable of doing more work than he has done, he will find sooner
or later some way of compelling him to do it with little or no increase
of pay.
Employers derive their knowledge of how much of a given class of work
can be done in a day from either their own experience, which has
frequently grown hazy with age, from casual and unsystematic observation
of their men, or at best from records which are kept, showing, the
quickest time in which each job has been done. In many cases the
employer will feel almost certain that a given job can be done faster
than it has been, but he rarely cares to take the drastic measures
necessary to force men to do it in the quickest time, unless he has an
actual record, proving conclusively how fast the work can be done.
It evidently becomes for each man's interest, then, to see that no job
is done faster than it has been in the past. The younger and less
experienced men are taught this by their elders, and all possible
persuasion and social pressure is brought to bear upon the greedy and
selfish men to keep them from making new records which result in
temporarily increasing their wages, while all those who come after them
are made to work harder for the same old pay.
Under the best day work of the ordinary type, when accurate records are
kept of the amount of work done by each man and of his efficiency, and
when each man's wages are raised as he improves, and those who fail to
rise to a certain standard are discharged and a fresh supply of
carefully selected men are given work in their places, both the natural
loafing and systematic soldiering can be largely broken up. This can be
done, however, only when the men are thoroughly convinced that there is
no intention of establishing piece work even in the remote future, and
it is next to impossible to make men believe this when the work is of
such a nature that they believe piece work to be practicable. In most
cases their fear of making a record which will be used as a basis for
piece work will cause them to soldier as much as they dare.
It is, however, under piece work that the art of systematic soldiering
is thoroughly developed. After a workman has had the price per piece of
the work he is doing lowered two or three times as a result of his
having worked harder and increased his output, he is likely to entirely
lose sight of his employer's side of the case and to become imbued with
a grim determination to have no more cuts if soldiering can prevent it.
Unfortunately for the character of the workman, soldiering involves a
deliberate attempt to mislead and deceive his employer, and thus upright
and straight-forward workmen are compelled to become more or less
hypocritical. The employer is soon looked upon as an antagonist, if not
as an enemy, and the mutual confidence which should exist between a
leader and his men, the enthusiasm, the feeling that they are all
working for the same end and will share in the results, is entirely
The feeling of antagonism under the ordinary piecework system becomes in
many cases so marked on the part of the men that any proposition made by
their employers, however reasonable, is looked upon with suspicion.
Soldiering becomes such a fixed habit that men will frequently take
pains to restrict the product of machines which they are running when
even a large increase in output would involve no more work on their
On work which is repeated over and over again and the volume of which is
sufficient to permit it, the plan of making a contract with a competent
workman to do a certain class of work and allowing him to employ his own
men subject to strict limitations, is successful.
As a rule, the fewer the men employed by the contactor and the smaller
the variety of the work, the greater will be the success under the
contract system, the reason for this being that the contractor, under
the spur of financial necessity, makes personally so close a study of
the quickest time in which the work can be done that soldiering on the
part of his men becomes difficult and the best of them teach laborers or
lower-priced helpers to do the work formerly done by mechanics.
The objections to the contract system are that the machine tools used by
the contractor are apt to deteriorate rapidly, his chief interest being
to get a large output, whether the tools are properly cared for or not,
and that through the ignorance and inexperience of the contractor in
handling men, his employees are frequently unjustly treated.
These disadvantages are, however, more than counterbalanced by the
comparative absence of soldiering on the part of the men.
The greatest objection to this system is the soldiering which the
contractor himself does in many cases, so as to secure a good price for
his next contract.
It is not at all unusual for a contractor to restrict the output of his
own men and to refuse to adopt improvements in machines, appliances, or
methods while in the midst of a contract, knowing that his next contract
price will be lowered in direct proportion to the profits which he has
made and the improvements introduced.
Under the contract system, however, the relations between employers and
men are much more agreeable and normal than under piece work, and it is
to be regretted that owing to the nature of the work done in most shops
this system is not more generally applicable.
The writer quotes as follows from his paper on "A Piece Rate System,"
read in 1895, before The American Society of Mechanical Engineers:
"Cooperation, or profit sharing, has entered the mind of every student
of the subject as one of the possible and most attractive solutions of
the problem; and there have been certain instances, both in England and
France, of at least a partial success of cooperative experiments.
"So far as I know, however, these trials have been made either in small
towns, remote from the manufacturing centers, or in industries which in
many respects are not subject to ordinary manufacturing conditions.
"Cooperative experiments have failed, and, I think, are generally
destined to fail, for several reasons, the first and most important of
which is, that no form of cooperation has yet been devised in which each
individual is allowed free scope for his personal ambition. Personal
ambition always has been and will remain a more powerful incentive to
exertion than a desire for the general welfare. The few misplaced
drones, who do the loafing and share equally in the profits with the
rest, under cooperation are sure to drag the better men down toward
their level.
"The second and almost equally strong reason for failure lies in the
remoteness of the reward. The average workman (I don't say all men)
cannot look forward to a profit which is six months or a year away. The
nice time which they are sure to have today, if they take things easily,
proves more attractive than hard work, with a possible reward to be
shared with others six months later.
"Other and formidable difficulties in the path of cooperation are, the
equitable division of the profits, and the fact that, while workmen are
always ready to share the profits, they are neither able nor willing to
share the losses. Further than this, in many cases, it is neither right
nor just that they should share either in the profits or the losses,
since these may be due in great part to causes entirely beyond their
influence or control, and to which they do not contribute."
Of all the ordinary systems of management in use (in which no accurate
scientific study of the time problem is undertaken, and no carefully
measured tasks are assigned to the men which must be accomplished in a
given time) the best is the plan fundamentally originated by Mr. Henry
R. Towne, and improved and made practical by Mr. F. A. Halsey. This plan
is described in papers read by Mr. Towne before The American Society of
Mechanical Engineers in 1886, and by Mr. Halsey in 1891, and has since
been criticized and ably defended in a series of articles appearing in
the "American Machinist."
The Towne-Halsey plan consists in recording the quickest time in which a
job has been done, and fixing this as a standard. If the workman
succeeds in doing the job in a shorter time, he is still paid his same
wages per hour for the time he works on the job, and in addition is
given a premium for having worked faster, consisting of from one-quarter
to one-half the difference between the wages earned and the wages
originally paid when the job was done in standard time. Mr. Halsey
recommends the payment of one third of the difference as the best
premium for most cases. The difference between this system and ordinary
piece work is that the workman on piece work gets the whole of the
difference between the actual time of a job and the standard time, while
under the Towne-Halsey plan he gets only a fraction of this difference.
It is not unusual to hear the Towne-Halsey plan referred to as
practically the same as piece work. This is far from the truth, for
while the difference between the two does not appear to a casual
observer to be great, and the general principles of the two seem to be
the same, still we all know that success or failure in many cases hinges
upon small differences.
In the writer's judgment, the Towne-Halsey plan is a great invention,
and, like many other great inventions, its value lies in its simplicity.
This plan has already been successfully adopted by a large number of
establishments, and has resulted in giving higher wages to many workmen,
accompanied by a lower labor cost to the employer, and at the same time
materially improving their relations by lessening the feeling of
antagonism between the two.
This system is successful because it diminishes soldiering, and this
rests entirely upon the fact that since the workman only receives say
one-third of the increase in pay that he would get under corresponding
conditions on piece work, there is not the same temptation for the
employer to cut prices.
After this system has been in operation for a year or two, if no cuts in
prices have been made, the tendency of the men to soldier on that
portion of the work which is being done under the system is diminished,
although it does not entirely cease. On the other hand, the tendency of
the men to soldier on new work which is started, and on such portions as
are still done on day work, is even greater under the Towne-Halsey plan
than under piece work.
To illustrate: Workmen, like the rest of mankind, are more strongly
influenced by object lessons than by theories. The effect on men of such
an object lesson as the following will be apparent. Suppose that two
men, named respectively Smart and Honest, are at work by the day and
receive the same pay, say 20 cents per hour. Each of these men is given
a new piece of work which could be done in one hour. Smart does his job
in four hours (and it is by no means unusual for men to soldier to this
extent). Honest does his in one and one-half hours.
Now, when these two jobs start on this basis under the Towne-Halsey plan
and are ultimately done in one hour each, Smart receives for his job 20
cents per hour + a premium of 20 cents = a total of 40 cents. Honest
receives for his job 20 cents per hour + a premium of 3 1/8 cents = a
total of 23 1/8 cents.
Most of the men in the shop will follow the example of Smart rather than
that of Honest and will "soldier" to the extent of three or four hundred
per cent if allowed to do so. The Towne-Halsey system shares with
ordinary piece work then, the greatest evil of the latter, namely that
its very foundation rests upon deceit, and under both of these systems
there is necessarily, as we have seen, a great lack of justice and
equality in the starting-point of different jobs.
Some of the rates will have resulted from records obtained when a
first-class man was working close to his maximum speed, while others
will be based on the performance of a poor man at one-third or one
quarter speed.
The injustice of the very foundation of the system is thus forced upon
the workman every day of his life, and no man, however kindly disposed
he may be toward his employer, can fail to resent this and be seriously
influenced by it in his work. These systems are, therefore, of necessity
slow and irregular in their operation in reducing costs. They "drift"
gradually toward an increased output, but under them the attainment of
the maximum output of a first-class man is almost impossible.
Objection has been made to the use of the word "drifting" in this
connection. It is used absolutely without any intention of slurring the
Towne-Halsey system or in the least detracting from its true merit.
It appears to me, however, that "drifting" very accurately describes it,
for the reason that the management, having turned over the entire
control of the speed problem to the men, the latter being influenced by
their prejudices and whims, drift sometimes in one direction and
sometimes in another; but on the whole, sooner or later, under the
stimulus of the premium, move toward a higher rate of speed. This
drifting, accompanied as it is by the irregularity and uncertainty both
as to the final result which will be attained and as to how long it will
take to reach this end, is in marked contrast to the distinct goal which
is always kept in plain sight of both parties under task management, and
the clear-cut directions which leave no doubt as to the means which are
to be employed nor the time in which the work must be done; and these
elements constitute the fundamental difference between the two systems.
Mr. Halsey, in objecting to the use of the word "drifting" as describing
his system, has referred to the use of his system in England in
connection with a "rate-fixing" or planning department, and quotes as
follows from his paper to show that he contemplated control of the speed
of the work by the management:
"On contract work undertaken for the first time the method is the same
except that the premium is based on the estimated time for the execution
of the work."
In making this claim Mr. Halsey appears to have entirely lost sight of
the real essence of the two plans. It is task management which is in use
in England, not the Towne-Halsey system; and in the above quotation Mr.
Halsey describes not his system but a type of task management, in which
the men are paid a premium for carrying out the directions given them by
the management.
There is no doubt that there is more or less confusion in the minds of
many of those who have read about the task management and the
Towne-Halsey system. This extends also to those who are actually using
and working under these systems. This is practically true in England,
where in some cases task management is actually being used under the
name of the "Premium Plan." It would therefore seem desirable to
indicate once again and in a little different way the essential
difference between the two.
The one element which the Towne-Halsey system and task management have
in common is that both recognize the all-important fact that workmen
cannot be induced to work extra hard without receiving extra pay. Under
both systems the men who succeed are daily and automatically, as it
were, paid an extra premium. The payment of this daily premium forms
such a characteristic feature in both systems, and so radically
differentiates these systems from those which were in use before, that
people are apt to look upon this one element as the essence of both
systems and so fail to recognize the more important, underlying
principles upon which the success of each of them is based.
In their essence, with the one exception of the payment of a daily
premium, the systems stand at the two opposite extremes in the field of
management; and it is owing to the distinctly radical, though opposite,
positions taken by them that each one owes its success; and it seems to
me a matter of importance that this should be understood. In any
executive work which involves the cooperation of two different men or
parties, where both parties have anything like equal power or voice in
its direction, there is almost sure to be a certain amount of bickering,
quarreling, and vacillation, and the success of the enterprise suffers
accordingly. If, however, either one of the parties has the entire
direction, the enterprise will progress consistently and probably
harmoniously, even although the wrong one of the two parties may be in
Broadly speaking, in the field of management there are two parties--the
superintendents, etc., on one side and the men on the other, and the
main questions at issue are the speed and accuracy with which the work
shall be done. Up to the time that task management was introduced in the
Midvale Steel Works, it can be fairly said that under the old systems of
management the men and the management had about equal weight in deciding
how fast the work should be done. Shop records showing the quickest time
in which each job had been done and more or less shrewd guessing being
the means on which the management depended for bargaining with and
coercing the men; and deliberate soldiering for the purpose of
misinforming the management being the weapon used by the men in
self-defense. Under the old system the incentive was entirely lacking
which is needed to induce men to cooperate heartily with the management
in increasing the speed with which work is turned out. It is chiefly
due, under the old systems, to this divided control of the speed with
which the work shall be done that such an amount of bickering,
quarreling, and often hard feeling exists between the two sides.
The essence of task management lies in the fact that the control of the
speed problem rests entirely with the management; and, on the other
hand, the true strength of the Towne-Halsey system rests upon the fact
that under it the question of speed is settled entirely by the men
without interference on the part of the management. Thus in both cases,
though from diametrically opposite causes, there is undivided control,
and this is the chief element needed for harmony.
The writer has seen many jobs successfully nursed in several of our
large and well managed establishments under these drifting systems, for
a term of ten to fifteen years, at from one-third to one-quarter speed.
The workmen, in the meanwhile, apparently enjoyed the confidence of
their employers, and in many cases the employers not only suspected the
deceit, but felt quite sure of it.
The great defect, then, common to all the ordinary systems of management
(including the Towne-Halsey system, the best of this class) is that
their starting-point, their very foundation, rests upon ignorance and
deceit, and that throughout their whole course in the one element which
is most vital both to employer and workmen, namely, the speed at which
work is done, they are allowed to drift instead of being intelligently
directed and controlled.
The writer has found, through an experience of thirty years, covering a
large variety in manufactures, as well as in the building trades,
structural and engineering work, that it is not only practicable but
comparatively easy to obtain, through a systematic and scientific time
study, exact information as to how much of any given kind of work either
a first-class or an average man can do in a day, and with this
information as a foundation, he has over and over again seen the fact
demonstrated that workmen of all classes are not only willing, but glad
to give up all idea of soldiering, and devote all of their energies to
turning out the maximum work possible, providing they are sure of a
suitable permanent reward.
With accurate time knowledge as a basis, surprisingly large results can
be obtained under any scheme of management from day work up; there is no
question that even ordinary day work resting upon this foundation will
give greater satisfaction than any of the systems in common use,
standing as they do upon soldiering as a basis.
To many of the readers of this book both the fundamental objects to be
aimed at, namely, high wages with low labor cost, and the means
advocated by the writer for attaining this end; namely, accurate time
study, will appear so theoretical and so far outside of the range of
their personal observation and experience that it would seem desirable,
before proceeding farther, to give a brief illustration of what has been
accomplished in this line.
The writer chooses from among a large variety of trades to which these
principles have been applied, the yard labor handling raw materials in
the works of the Bethlehem Steel Company at South Bethlehem, Pa., not
because the results attained there have been greater than in many other
instances, but because the case is so elementary that the results are
evidently due to no other cause than thorough time study as a basis,
followed by the application of a few simple principles with which all of
us are familiar.
In almost all of the other more complicated cases the large increase in
output is due partly to the actual physical changes, either in the
machines or small tools and appliances, which a preliminary time study
almost always shows to be necessary, so that for purposes of
illustration the simple case chosen is the better, although the gain
made in the more complicated cases is none the less legitimately due to
the system.
Up to the spring of the year 1899, all of the materials in the yard of
the Bethlehem Steel Company had been handled by gangs of men working by
the day, and under the foremanship of men who had themselves formerly
worked at similar work as laborers. Their management was about as good
as the average of similar work, although it was bad all of the men being
paid the ruling wages of laborers in this section of the country,
namely, $1.15 per day, the only means of encouraging or disciplining
them being either talking to them or discharging them; occasionally,
however, a man was selected from among these men and given a better
class of work with slightly higher wages in some of the companies'
shops, and this had the effect of slightly stimulating them. From four
to six hundred men were employed on this class of work throughout the
The work of these men consisted mainly of unloading from railway cars
and shoveling on to piles, and from these piles again loading as
required, the raw materials used in running three blast furnaces and
seven large open-hearth furnaces, such as ore of various kinds, varying
from fine, gravelly ore to that which comes in large lumps, coke,
limestone, special pig, sand, etc., unloading hard and soft coal for
boilers gas-producers, etc., and also for storage and again loading the
stored coal as required for use, loading the pig-iron produced at the
furnaces for shipment, for storage, and for local use, and handling
billets, etc., produced by the rolling mills. The work covered a large
variety as laboring work goes, and it was not usual to keep a man
continuously at the same class of work.
Before undertaking the management of these men, the writer was informed
that they were steady workers, but slow and phlegmatic, and that nothing
would induce them to work fast.
The first step was to place an intelligent, college-educated man in
charge of progress in this line. This man had not before handled this
class of labor, although he understood managing workmen. He was not
familiar with the methods pursued by the writer, but was soon taught the
art of determining how much work a first-class man can do in a day. This
was done by timing with a stop watch a first-class man while he was
working fast. The best way to do this, in fact almost the only way in
which the timing can be done with certainty, is to divide the man's work
into its elements and time each element separately. For example, in the
case of a man loading pig-iron on to a car, the elements should be: (a)
picking up the pig from the ground or pile (time in hundredths of a
minute); (b) walking with it on a level (time per foot walked); (c)
walking with it up an incline to car (time per foot walked); (d)
throwing the pig down (time in hundredths of a minute), or laying it on
a pile (time in hundredths of a minute); (e) walking back empty to get a
load (time per foot walked).
In case of important elements which were to enter into a number of
rates, a large number of observations were taken when practicable on
different first-class men, and at different times, and they were
The most difficult elements to time and decide upon in this, as in most
cases, are the percentage of the day required for rest, and the time to
allow for accidental or unavoidable delays.
In the case of the yard labor at Bethlehem, each class of work was
studied as above, each element being timed separately, and, in addition,
a record was kept in many cases of the total amount of work done by the
man in a day. The record of the gross work of the man (who is being
timed) is, in most cases, not necessary after the observer is skilled in
his work. As the Bethlehem time observer was new to this work, the gross
time was useful in checking his detailed observations and so gradually
educating him and giving him confidence in the new methods.
The writer had so many other duties that his personal help was confined
to teaching the proper methods and approving the details of the various
changes which were in all cases outlined in written reports before being
carried out.
As soon as a careful study had been made of the time elements entering
into one class of work, a single first-class workman was picked out and
started on ordinary piece work on this job. His task required him to do
between three and one-half and four times as much work in a day as had
been done in the past on an average.
Between twelve and thirteen tons of pig-iron per man had been carried
from a pile on the ground, up an inclined plank, and loaded on to a
gondola car by the average pig-iron handler while working by the day.
The men in doing this work had worked in gangs of from five to twenty
The man selected from one of these gangs to make the first start under
the writer's system was called upon to load on piece work from
forty-five to forty-eight tons (2,240 lbs. each) per day.
He regarded this task as an entirely fair one, and earned on an average,
from the start, $1.85 per day, which was 60 per cent more than he had
been paid by the day. This man happened to be considerably lighter than
the average good workman at this class of work. He weighed about 130
pounds. He proved however, to be especially well suited to this job, and
was kept at it steadily throughout the time that the writer was in
Bethlehem, and some years later was still at the same work.
Being the first piece work started in the works, it excited considerable
opposition, both on the part of the workmen and of several of the
leading men in the town, their opposition being based mainly on the old
fallacy that if piece work proved successful a great many men would be
thrown out of work, and that thereby not only the workmen but the whole
town would suffer.
One after another of the new men who were started singly on this job
were either persuaded or intimidated into giving it up. In many cases
they were given other work by those interested in preventing piece work,
at wages higher than the ruling wages. In the meantime, however, the
first man who started on the work earned steadily $1.85 per day, and
this object lesson gradually wore out the concerted opposition, which
ceased rather suddenly after about two months. From this time on there
was no difficulty in getting plenty of good men who were anxious to
start on piece work, and the difficulty lay in making with sufficient
rapidity the accurate time study of the elementary operations or "unit
times" which forms the foundation of this kind of piece work.
Throughout the introduction of piece work, when after a thorough time
study a new section of the work was started, one man only was put on
each new job, and not more than one man was allowed to work at it until
he had demonstrated that the task set was a fair one by earning an
average of $1.85 per day. After a few sections of the work had been
started in this way, the complaint on the part of the better workmen was
that they were not allowed to go on to piece work fast enough. It
required about two years to transfer practically all of the yard labor
from day to piece work. And the larger part of the transfer was made
during the last six months of this time.
As stated above, the greater part of the time was taken up in studying
"unit times," and this time study was greatly delayed by having
successively the two leading men
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