The Evolution of Management

The Evolution of Management

The evolution of management was kicked off during the industrial revolution with the introduction of Taylorism. Frederick Winslow Taylor was responsible for designing the production lines for Henry Ford, and for establishing a management approach for physical labor. His approach focused on time and motion studies to improve manufacturing efficiency. His management approach broke the work down into constituent parts.

  1. Responsibility: Deciding what work to do is the role of Management.
  2. Knowledge: Deciding how to do the work is the role of an Expert.
  3. Action: The person doing the actual work.

This top down, command-and-control structure is the foundation of how we (western organizations) still manage today, a whopping 130 years later.

In WWII, when all of the able bodied men went to war, everyone else entered the manufacturing workforce which sparked a change in the evolution of management. The Army was concerned that these inexperienced manufacturers would not be able to adequately support the resupply of soldiers. Thus, a new idea was introduced to manufacturing: Training Within Industry (TWI).

In TWI, knowledge leaders or experts would train a set of trainers and they would in turn train the workforce. The army collaborated with manufacturers to ensure that new workers operated with optimal productivity. One aspect of this new approach was that if a worker had a better idea of how to do something, management listened. It was the first time that the people actually doing the work were able to provide feedback on the process.

When the soldiers returned from the war, management reverted back to the way it operated before the war, i.e., pure Taylorism. Western business management, including product development has largely advance along this historical path using Taylorism as the basis for management.

Meanwhile, General MacArthur brought TWI and its management concepts adopted during WWII to post-war Japan. At the same time, Deming was working for the army in Japan and taught practices developed at Bell Labs to the Japanese.  Among the practices was PDCA, since dubbed the Deming Cycle. PDCA – Plan, Do, Check, Act – is the primary differentiator between our Taylorism based management approach and the Japanese management approach.

With Taylorism, there is no place for feedback as the people actually doing the work are not in a position to tell the expert what to change. It is the responsibility of the expert to discover the single best way of doing something. In contrast, it is the people who do the work that are the experts in the Japanese approach to product development.