The scientific design a modern job using Smith’s, Taylor’s, and Ford’s advice
Adam Smith, Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford contributed much to the knowledge of applying scientific policies and principles to work tasks in order to increase efficiency and productivity.
Adam Smith pioneered the concept of division of labor, arguing that workers should be expected to perform a limited number of tasks that represent a portion of the whole process. His research indicated that division of labor leads to greater worker dexterity, time efficiency and the development of better machines and techniques (Smith, 1776). Thus, designing a job following the advice of Smith would entail analyzing the task to determine the optimal level of division of labor, without falling prey to the problems of overspecialization (i.e., boredom, alienation and over de-skilling of workers).
Frederick Taylor called for implementation of a broad system of Scientific Management in the workplace. In terms of work design, this encompassed the application of scientific principles in the analysis of the many steps involved in a particular work task. His analyses incorporated the use of various measurement techniques to analyze the integration of the task, the worker’s capabilities and the resources and machinery involved (i.e., physical movements of the worker, capacity of the machines, physical location and proximity of worker and resources).
From this he proposed developing a set of standard procedure for accomplishing the task in the most efficient and productive manner. These procedures would then become the “work rules” for each position in an organization. He further proposed the matching of the most suitable worker to the particular job and training him/her according to the standards previously developed (Taylor, 1911). Thus, incorporating Taylor’s concepts into job design would involve the systematic examination of the task and development of the standards of job performance and subsequent training programs to convey these standard operating procedures to workers.
Additionally, Henry Ford enlisted the assistance of Frederick Taylor and his process of Scientific Management in designing his revolutionary moving assembly line. Using the job analysis methods proposed by Taylor, including time and motion studies, Ford devised the most efficient and economical way to produce his automobiles. Ford also incorporated the concepts of interchangeable parts, continuous flow, division of labor and reducing wasted effort. His innovative approach transformed the large-scale manufacturing industry (Ford, 1922).
Incorporating the principles of Ford’s assembly line into modern job design would involve attention to the four aforementioned principles he espoused. Analyzing what aspects of a job could be routinized and implementing division of labor and continuous flow processes where appropriate and feasible could greatly increase the efficiency of the workflow. Furthermore, reducing wasted effort is a basic goal and one that requires renewed consideration in the modern workplace.
Taken together, various methods and prescriptions of these early innovators can still prove effective when incorporated into a real-world job design today.
Ford, H. (1922). My Life and Work: Autobiography of Henry Ford. Harvard University Press.x
Smith, Adam (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. 1 (1 ed.). London, UK.
Taylor, F. W. (1911), The Principles of Scientific Management, London, UK: Harper & Brothers