In the late 19th century, management decisions were often arbitrary and workers often worked at an intentionally slow pace. There was little in the way of systematic management and workers and management were often in conflict. Scientific management was introduced in an attempt to create a mental revolution in the workplace. It can be defined as the systematic study of work methods in order to improve efficiency. Frederick W. Taylor was its main proponent. Other major contributors were Frank Gilbreth, Lillian Gilbreth, and Henry Gantt.
Scientific management has several major principles. First, it calls for the application of the scientific method to work in order to determine the best method for accomplishing each task. Second, scientific management suggests that workers should be scientifically selected based on their qualifications and trained to perform their jobs in the optimal manner. Third, scientific management advocates genuine cooperation between workers and management based on mutual self-interest. Finally, scientific management suggests that management should take complete responsibility for planning the work and that workers' primary responsibility should be implementing management's plans. Other important characteristics of scientific management include the scientific development of difficult but fair performance standards and the implementation of a pay-for-performance incentive plan based on work standards.
Scientific management had a tremendous influence on management practice in the early twentieth century. Although it does not represent a complete theory of management, it has contributed to the study of management and organizations in many areas, including human resource management and industrial engineering. Many of the tenets of scientific management are still valid today.