The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency

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Viking, 1997 - Industrial engineering - 675 pages
"In the past man has been first. In the future the System will be first", predicted Frederick Winslow Taylor, the first efficiency expert and model for all the stopwatch-clicking engineers who stalk the factories and offices of the industrial world. In 1874, eighteen-year-old Taylor abandoned his wealthy family's plans for him to attend Harvard, and instead went to work as a lowly apprentice in a Philadelphia machine shop, shuttling between the manicured hedges of his family's home and the hot, cussing, dirty world of the shop floor. As he rose through the ranks of management, he began the time-and-motion studies for which he would become famous, and forged his industrial philosophy, Scientific Management. To organized labor, Taylor was a slave-driver. To the bosses, he was an eccentric who raised wages while ruling the factory floor with a stopwatch. To himself, he was a misunderstood visionary who, under the banner of Science, would confer prosperity on all and abolish the old class hatreds. To millions today who feel they give up too much to their jobs, Taylor is the source of that fierce, unholy obsession with "efficiency" that marks modern life. The assembly line; the layout of our kitchens; the ways our libraries, fastfood restaurants, and even our churches are organized all owe much to this driven man, who broke every job into its parts, sliced and trimmed and timed them, and remolded what was left into the work of the twentieth century.

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About the author (1997)

Robert Kanigel teaches at MIT and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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