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The history of management and Frederick Taylor

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In 1909, the then mining engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor published "The Principles of Scientific Management". He wanted to increase efficiency within his mine and saw that there was little cooperation between the different mine employees. By simplifying work tasks and implementing rules and structure, he would improve productivity and increased income without the extra costs.

The history of management and Frederick Taylorl

His publications about his approach were the starting signal of taking management serious. Most of the fundaments of his management theories are - unfortunately - being educated at most universities.

The emergence of Management

There are a few factors that make a thorough determination to investigate whether management is still desirable.

  1. Taylor had to deal with unskilled and unmotivated employees who worked when they had to and not because they wanted to.

  2. Taylor lived in the era of the 2nd industrial revolution where everything literally and figuratively revolved around mechanics. A person was a resource. A replaceable cog in the whole.

  3. Taylor was not bothered by any knowledge of human nature and motivation. His education level as engineers equals a current 15-year-old school leaver.

When Taylor walked into the mine, he saw an uncontrolled mess where everyone did something. As if all the cogs in the clock (the resources) were running at their own pace and in their own direction still expecting that the clock keeps running.

Management comes from the French word "Manage".

Taylor got his inspiration for the word management from the word 'Manage'. It literally means "taking by the hand" and "control". Horses become tame by putting a rope around their neck. You then let them run in circles until all motivation and free will is gone and they do precisely what you want them to do! The ideal solution for the miners and mining industry, according to Taylor.

If you don't tell an employee exactly what he or she should do, it will be a mess.

There are still people who believe that employees are not naturally motivated to do the job. We are now more than 100 years later, and hundreds of studies prove differently, but they stick to their "lessons learned" about management. Companies like Nokia almost went down due to their management style.

These people often put a rope around their employee's neck, let them run in circles until all free will and motivation are gone. And then complain that their employees don’t take enough initiative.

How we can get the best out of motivated people

In 2010, Daniel Pink published the book Drive. Basis of many studies, he concludes that employees are by nature self-motivating individuals, but that an organizational change must take place beforehand. Most companies endorse management, but whatever management style you choose, management is about control.

That is why Daniel Pink is talking about self-motivation. His principle is simple and consists of three pillars.

Self-Motivation comes by nature when people can fulfill three basic needs:


Autonomy: The intrinsic need to do something independently

Mastery: The intrinsic need to become good at something and to do something well

Purpose: The intrinsic need to make a real contribution to something

If those three needs are fulfilled, employees are self-motivating and will achieve the maximum without any kind of management needed.

Can a company be completely without management?

Some people believe that there is an alternative to management that exploits the maximum potential of employees. This alternative consists of three parts, namely:

  1. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose
  2. A set of minimum game rules
  3. Elected leadership and democratic decision-making

In the book "Ik Ben Niet Alleen op de Wereld" by Wassili Zafiris and me, we explain how we transformed my advertising agency into a company completely without management.

Can any company be without any management?

If pilots, astronauts, hospitals, and nuclear power plant employees would work without the strict management principles of Taylor, many people probably die soon. For companies where one push of a button can damage an entire country, management is as far as we know now, the best way is to prevent catastrophes.

For all companies that derive their right to exist from creativity, innovation and service, management is perhaps what stops them from becoming truly successful.

What about successful companies where management is the standard?

It has been proven that you can make a lot of money with organizations and employees that are controlled by managers. If earning money is, just like Taylor, your only goal and measurement of success, it is certainly worth trying to keep doing this.

If employee satisfaction, social impact, the right to exist in the longer term and to free the maximum potential of your employees are also on the agenda, then it is highly recommended to think about alternatives for any form of management.

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