Efficiency by Consent

It was Frederick W. Taylor's purpose to make the laborer worthy of his hire; to make the hire worthy of the laborer; to make the standard of living and the conditions of working worthy to be called American. The American standard of living implies a wage adequate for proper housing and food and clothing, for proper education and recreation, and for insurance against those contingencies of sickness, accident, unemployment, premature death or superannuation, which fall so heavily upon the working classes. That standard implies hours of labor sufficiently short to permit those who work to perform also their duties as citizens and to share in the enjoyment of life. That standard implies postponement of the working period to an age which enables the child to develop into a rounded man or woman. That standard implies working conditions which are not only consistent with the demands of health and safety, but are also such as may make work for others what it was for Taylor—the greatest of life's joys.

Taylor recognized that in order to make such a standard of living and of working attainable, the productivity of man must be greatly increased; that waste must be eliminated, and particularly the waste of effort which bears so heavily upon the worker. And yet the man who sought so to develop industry as to enable labor to reach these higher standards of working and of living, met, throughout his life, widespread opposition from those whom he sought particularly to help. Let all who are undertaking to carry forward his work recognize this hostility as a fact of fundamental importance, for it presents the main problem which confronts scientific management.

The causes of this hostility are twofold:

First. Only a part of the necessary industrial truths have as yet been developed.

Second. The necessary assent to the application of these truths has not been obtained.


Taylor was a great scientist. He established certain truths, fundamental in their nature. But he obviously covered only a part of the field of inquiry. The truths he discovered must be further developed and they must be supplemented by and adjusted to other truths. The greater productivity of labor must not only be attainable, but attainable under conditions consistent with the conservation of health, the enjoyment of work, and the development of the individual. The facts in this regard have not been adequately established. In the task of ascertaining whether proposed conditions of work do conform to these requirements, the laborer should take part. He is indeed a necessary witness. Likewise in the task of determining whether in the distribution of the gain in productivity justice is being done to the worker, the participation of representatives of labor is indispensable for the inquiry which involves essentially the exercise of judgment.

Furthermore, those who undertake to apply the truths which Taylor disclosed must remember that in a democracy it is not sufficient to have discovered an industrial truth, or even the whole truth. Such truth can rule only when accompanied by the consent of men.

We who have had occasion to consider the hostility of labor leaders to the introduction of scientific management, know that the hostility has in large measure been due to misunderstanding. Much of all the waste which Taylor undertook to eliminate has no direct relation to the specific functions of the workingman. It deals with waste in machinery, in supplies, in planning, in adjustment of production and distribution—matters in which changes cannot possibly affect the workman injuriously. And yet we found in many leaders of labor undiscriminating opposition to the whole of the so-called Taylor system. But even if we succeed through education in eliminating the general hostility to the introduction of scientific management in departments of the business which do not directly affect labor, there will remain a wide field where the proposed changes do directly affect labor in which there is determined opposition. This opposition can be overcome only through securing the affirmative cooperation of the labor organizations.


In a democratic community men who are to be affected by a proposed change of conditions should be consulted, and the innovators must carry the burden of convincing others at each stage in the process of change that what is being done is right. Labor must have throughout an opportunity of testing whether that which is being recorded as a truth is really a truth, and whether it is the whole truth. Labor must not only be convinced of the industrial truths—which scientific management is disclosing—but must also be convinced that those truths are consistent with what may be termed human truths. Is the greater productivity attained clearly consistent with the health of the body, the mind, and the soul of the worker? Is it consistent with industrial freedom? Is it consistent with greater joy in work, and generally in living? These are questions which must be answered in the affirmative, and to the satisfaction, not of a few merely, but of the majority of those to be affected.


To do honor to Mr. Taylor and worthily to carry forward his work, those who are his disciples, and those who may become such, should recognize that they have in the solution of these questions a call upon them for patient effort, no less exacting and severe than that to which Taylor subjected himself when pursuing the law of cutting steel. Every step in the installation and the working out of scientific management calls for such cooperation by representatives of labor. The obstacles to securing it are great. Twenty-five years may be required to remove them fully. But whatever the time required fully to convince organized labor, it must be given, if our work is to be well done. The consent and the cooperation of the worker so represented must be secured. In no other way can we attain in full measure the increase of productivity upon which our well-being so largely depends. In no other way can we secure that joy in work without which increase of productivity will not bring greater happiness. In no other way can we attain that freedom and development of the worker without which even his greater happiness would not promote the general welfare. Let us work unremittingly in the spirit of Taylor to solve the problem he left unsolved. In the solution of that problem—which in a true sense is the labor problem—the greatest honor will be done to his memory and the greatest service to mankind.

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