Employee Motivation, the Organizational Environment and Productivity

Historical perspective on productivity and employee motivation

Historical perspective on productivity improvement

Developments from the Second World War on

The Second World War, like the first, played a large part in speeding up the rate of output, for which scientific management principles and techniques were particularly useful, as well as in rapid development of new technologies, such as electronics and nuclear physics.

During the period before the wars, development had been much slower. Unfortunately, for the practitioners and advocates of scientific management, its introduction coincided with the depression, which led workers to believe that there was a causal link between productivity improvement and further unemployment. Also at this time technical knowledge was lacking and tools and materials were not always readily available, thus impeding progress.

Statistical Methods

Output per man or machine was calculated in terms of direct relationships and this led to problems in forecasting production variables. It was not until statistical methods were developed that concepts such as probability were applied to forecasting, which in consequence became more reliable.

The introduction of mathematics to business did much to simplify the analysis of problems. Mathematics was applied successfully to project control, strategic planning and decision analysis. F. W. Harris converted graphical descriptions of stock control models into mathematical models. In the same year, 1931, books were written on inventory control (F. E. Raymond) and statistical quality control (W. A. Shewhart of Bell Telephone Laboratories).

Once the initial hostility that had impeded the progress of scientific management had dissipated, a number of texts appeared which tidied up and reinforced much of the work of the early pioneers. In 1934 Tippett who also set standards for operational delays introduced work-sampling theory. From these beginnings statistical quality control concepts developed rapidly.

Operational Research

The Second World War, with its complex problems of logistics, control and weapons system design, created the climate for the development of an interdisciplinary concept now called 'operational research'. During the war OR was started by Professor P.M.S. Blackett of Manchester University. As director of Naval Operational Research, his first task was to study the problems of the detection of ships and submarines by airborne radar.

Operational research groups were attached to all three armed services and quickly became involved in a range of assignments, from establishing the correct explosion depth for RAF Coastal Command's depth charges to considering the relative merits of large versus small convoys. The rationale was to bring together in a group or team, specialists from mathematics, psychology, business and economics, to tackle particular problems, thus removing some responsibility in complex decisions from the existing management at the time. After the war this work became incorporated into the portfolio of management services and development continued.

Linear Programming

In 1947 the introduction by G. B. Dantzig of linear programming for practical application provided management with a basic tool capable of handling many of the large-scale and often complex problems of scheduling and allocating limited resources to a production system. The development of the computer has enabled larger models to be handled than would have been possible manually. In some organizations the work of systems analysis and design, especially since the advent of the microcomputer, has been incorporated into or done in conjunction with more general management services work.

Organization and Methods (O&M)

As organizations become larger and more complex, there is a realization that opportunities for productivity improvements come as much from management and clerical workers as from the direct workers who traditionally enjoyed the focus of attention when productivity improvements were to be made. This area is of management is described as organization and methods.

The computer has now become an invaluable tool, not simply to deal with the tedious repetitive calculations, but also to simulate systems, forecast changes and predict results.

Today, management services has become a multi-disciplined concept, which reflects development and economic growth of Western nations. The departments and functions encompassed include:

  • work study / organization & methods / industrial engineering;
  • operational research;
  • materials handling;
  • production planning and control;
  • personnel / HRM;
  • training;
  • quality;
  • cost accounting and finance;
  • wages and salaries;
  • safety;
  • technical and design;
  • industrial relations.

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