Employee Motivation, the Organizational Environment and Productivity

Historical perspective on productivity and employee motivation

Historical perspective on productivity improvement

Scientific Management - Frank and Lillian Gilbreth

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were associates of Frederick Winslow Taylor. The Gilbreths, unlike Taylor, had experience in unionized industry, which presumably limited their enthusiasm for timing jobs.

In Frank Gilbreth's early career he was interested in standardization and method study.

Noticing, in the bricklaying, at construction sites where he worked, that no two bricklayers used exactly the same method or even the same set of motions when working fast as opposed to slow, he set about trying to find an improved method.

The result was that he was able to raise output from 1000 to 2700 bricks per day.

From their various studies the Gilbreths developed, the laws of human motion from which evolved the principles of motion economy.

It was they who coined the term 'motion study' to cover their field of research and as a way of distinguishing it from those involved in 'time study'; it is a technique that they believed should always precede method study. This still holds true today.

The use of the camera in motion study stems from this time and the Gilbreths used micro-motion study in order to record and examine detailed short-cycled movements as well as inventing cyclographs and chronocycle graphs to observe rhythm and movement.

'Cheaper by the Dozen'

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth carried their work to extremes and their treatise 'Cheaper by the Dozen' is exemplified by their family of twelve. This was also made into a Hollywood movie.

This incorporation of their work into family life is now legendary.

Henry Gantt

The third well-known pioneer in the early days of scientific management was Henry Gantt. Gantt worked for Frederick Winslow Taylor in the USA and is to be remembered for his humanizing influence on management, emphasizing the conditions that have favorable psychological effects on the worker.

Gantt Chart

The Gantt chart for which he will also be remembered, is a visual display chart used for scheduling which is based on time, rather than quantity, volume or weight.

From the doctrines of Taylor and the Gilbreths, there followed rapid developments in machinery and technology and with the improvement of materials came the moving assembly line.

The Production Assembly Line

Towards the end of the nineteenth century the internal combustion engine was invented, leading to the development of the motor car. There was a move towards streamlining production, and the first assembly line method of manufacture can probably be attributed to the mail order factory of Sears and Roebuck of America.

More famous was, of course, Henry Ford. His car factory in the United States is the best example of the change to modern assembly-line techniques. Before the 'line' was set up each car chassis was assembled by one man, taking a time of about twelve and a half hours.

Eight months later with standardization and division of labor, the total labor time had been reduced to just ninety-three minutes per car. (It is interesting to note that the idea of assembly line came to him when he was watching a moving conveyor of carcasses in a Chicago slaughterhouse. A similar creative innovation to Gutenberg's conception of the printing press.)

Charles Bedaux

Another pioneering contributor to the field of scientific management was Charles Bedaux. Although not embarking on his career until after Taylor's death, he was to have widespread influence, firstly in the USA and later in Europe.

Many major European companies were his clients, although many who experienced his work had unscrupulous managers who brought his name into disrepute.

Bedaux introduced the concept of rating assessment in timing work.

He adhered to Gilbreth's introduction of a rest allowance to allow recovery from fatigue. Although crude and poorly received at first, his system has been of great consequence to the subsequent development of work study.

He is also known for extending the range of techniques employed in work study which included value analysis.

Next | Scientific management developments from the Second World War