The Increasing Application of Scientific Management Principles Of Work
Organisations To Services Is, Despite Its Limitations, Inevitable and

I Introduction

From the outset of this essay it is necessary to define the basic principles of
Scientific Management in order for the statement to be fully understood and why
if at all such a practice is ‘inevitable\' and indeed ‘irreversible\' within a
service industry context.

The underlying belief that scientific management, or rationalisation= , is able
to provide the basis for separating management from the execution of work. ‘The
rationalisation of work has the effect of transferring functions of planning,
allocation and co-ordination to managers, whilst reinforcing the managerial
monopoly of decision-making, motivation and control\'. Hales (1994).

Taylor (1856-1915) has been referred to as the father of Scientific Management.
He believed that management, not labour, was the cause of and potential solution
to problems in the industry. Taylor concluded that workers systematically ‘
soldiered\' because they believed that faster work would put them out of a job
and because hourly or daily wages destroyed individual incentive. Taylor
believed that in order to discourage, and indeed halt, this ‘soldiering\' a ‘
mental revolution\' was required. He believed this could be achieved via four
vital principles: (1) the development of the best work method, via systematic
observation, measurement and analysis; (2) the scientific selection and
development of workers; (3) the relating and bringing together of the best work
method and the developed and trained worker; (4) the co-operation of managers
and non-managers which includes the division of work and the managers
responsibility of work.

From this five key facets have evolved that lie at the foundation of scientific
management. Hales (1994) has summarised these as follows:

- systematic standardised work methods via mechanisation and standard
- a clean functional division between managers and non-mangers.
Braverman (1974) described this as the ‘separation of conception from
- centralised planning and control.
- an instrumental, low-involvement employment relationship due to the
requirement of the individual employee being that of just carrying out their
specified low-skilled task.
- an ideology of neutral technical efficiency.

Industries that have embraced such scientific management methods have
essentially deskilled the workforce, often by menial, repetitive tasks, and have
attempted to replace workers with machines wherever technically feasible and
economic. A classic example of such an application is the Fordist principle of
the production line. The remainder of the essay concentrates on the two key
aspects of the statement, i.e. that of inevitability and irreversibility.

II Are Scientific Management principles inevitable and irreversible within
the service industry ?

It has been suggested that the principles of scientific management have been
widely adopted throughout industry.

"The orientation of larger firms towards professional managers,
engineers and consultants additionally provided a supportive framework for the
rise of Taylorism". Thompson and Hugh (1990)

Although this rise has certainly been evident within manufacturing industries
the service industry has been slower to utilise the principles of
rationalisation. The question must therefore be asked why has the sector been
slow on the uptake of these beliefs and could the reason for this provide an
argument against the suggestion of the ‘inevitability\' of the principles within
the service industries.

For rationalisation to be applied three prerequisite conditions are required:
clear and single objective (for example maximising profit); hard data ( for
example accounting information); and no more than limited and measurable
uncertainties (for example normally distributed machine parts). In general these
three conditions do not hold in the service sector. Furthermore the quantities
and the types of resources differ greatly from manufacturing industries. Within
the service sector there is often more labour and less capital. This ‘human
emphasis\' greatly limits the application of scientific management principles.

Targett (1995) has identified seven distinctive characteristics that highlight
the limitations of applying scientific management principles and therefore
raising doubts over the ‘inevitability\' of such management practices being used
in the service sector.

- Measurement of output and performance is difficult. Quality of service
cannot be measured solely by easily quantifiable data, such as revenue and sales
volume alone. For example, the performance of a health care organisation is a
combination not only of financial results and patient throughput but also of
quality of care, the effectiveness of preventative measures and many other
- The "product" is not tangible. Amongst the many effects of this are
that quality control is not straight forward. For example checking the quality
of car manufacture is a lot clearer task than checking the quality of service
given at a hotels reception desk.
- Production and consumption are usually simultaneous. A particular
implication of this is that there can be no inventory of the service itself,
therefore not allowing ‘systematic observation\' nor