Scientific management is based on the premise that management should only be focused on improving productivity from its employees. This is to done through designing standards for work related tasks and using remuneration related incentives to achieve high levels of productivity. The most notable contributor to this theory was Fredrick Taylor who, in the early 1900s, performed experiments at Bethlehem Steel Corporation to determine the best way to perform certain tasks. Once standardized, the next task for management was to select the appropriate employees to perform them based on the laid down procedures, at higher productivity levels and reward the employees based on achievement of pre-determined levels of productivity. Taylor believed in a “fair pay for a fair day’s work”. In summary, his scientific theory of management was based on the following principles:
- The development of a true science for each person’s work;
- The scientific selection, training and development of workers;
- Co-operation with workers to ensure work is carried out in the prescribed way;
- Hierarchical structures of authority and close supervision;
- Clear division of tasks and responsibility between management and workers.
Despite the criticisms, scientific management is still part of many organizations in the 21st century. Its strengths in creating a divide between management functions and work functions have been applied widely.
Relevance of in HRM nowadays
Java House Africa is one of the leading coffee chains in Kenya. Started in 1999, the company grew from one branch in Nairobi to over 50 branches in 2018. “Our coffee houses would not be what they are without the effort, commitment and passion of the Java House team who make sure each branch is a place where everyone feels at home. Quality and professionalism are deeply rooted in our culture and we ensure that every cup poured and every plate served is a reflection of our promise of offering only the best” (Java House Africa). To create this “feel at home” concept at each branch, the Java management team had to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) that ranged from store build out to how a breakfast croissant recipe. These SOPs were developed through trial and error until they got the right formula for roll out and running of each store. I shall use each of Taylor’s principles to demonstrate how Java applies the scientific theory of management with regards to HRM.
The development of a true science for each person’s work
The team at each store can be split into three i.e. kitchen staff, barristers and front of house.
Kitchen staff and barrister – Led by the executive chef, Java has developed standard menu and standard recipes for each meal and beverage
Front of house – There are standard procedures for how to treat customers on arrival, during and after the meal
The scientific selection, training and development of workers
Java partners with top universities that provide hospitality training and only picks the best candidates for interviews. On joining, the employees are taken through a rigorous onboarding training based on the SOPs established. It has also developed a program for continuous training of staff.
Co-operation with workers to ensure work is carried out in the prescribed way
The onboarding and continuous training aims in inculcating the “Java Way” of doing things. The aim is to showing how the Java Way translates to superior customer experience and how this translates to profits and the employees wellbeing in the long-run.
Hierarchical structures of authority and close supervision
The business is led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) supported by other C-suite executives such as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) who heads the branch operations. The branch is led a branch manager who oversees the kitchen, the barristers and the front of house. For larger branches, the kitchen, barristers and front of house will also a team leader.
Clear division of tasks and responsibility between management and workers
The C-Suite level of management is tasked with development of strategy and supervision to ensure that it is implemented as planned and any deviations corrected. The branch level staff roles is to implement the strategy through the proper application of the standard operating procedures.