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The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency Paperback – Import, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 685 pages
  • Publisher: ABACUS; New Ed edition (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349110379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349110370
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,792,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Kanigel was born in Brooklyn, NY, but for most of his adult life has lived in Baltimore, MD, where he lives today. He has written seven books, on wildly differing subjects. His second, "The Man Who Knew Infinity," was named a National Book Critics Circle finalist, a Los Angeles book Prize finalist, a New York Public Library "Book to Remember," has been translated into Italian, German, Greek, Chinese, and other languages, and is being made into a film starring Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel. His latest book, for which he was named recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, is "On an Irish Island," set on a windswept island village off the coast of Ireland. He is currently finishing a biography of Jane Jacobs to be published by Knopf.

Customer Reviews

Overall, the book is extremely well done.
foobar
Part biography, part history book, and part management study, this amazing piece of work kept me interested and engaged for every single one of its 685 pages.
Todd Cherches - BigBlueGumball
His work did help our economy and helped the average worker become more productive.
Craig Matteson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on May 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
For anyone who has worked - on an assembly line, as a bureaucrat-in-a-box - the greatest workplace nemesis is a nonexistent ideal: the theoretical person against whom your "efficiency" is measured. Often, not even a boss or office rival is as irritating as this cold standard, the product of stopwatch-wielding efficiency experts and industrial psychologists who claim to have a scientific measure of "average output." In The One Best Way, science writer Robert Kanigel examines the first so-called efficiency expert of them all: Frederick Taylor, the turn-of-the-century engineer and pioneering management consultant.
Taylor's idea was simple: break down all jobs into their smallest component tasks, experiment to determine the best way to accomplish them and how fast they can be performed, and then find the right workers to do them. It was called scientific management, or "Taylorism" -- a formula to maximize the productivity of industrial workers. "The coming of Taylorism," Kanigel writes, took "currents of thought drifting through his own time -- standards, order, production, regularity, efficiency -- and codif[ied] them into a system that defines our age."
Though he had an enormous impact on our everyday lives, today Taylor is little known outside management circles. This is curious: in his own time, Taylor was a world-class celebrity, advocating an organizational revolution that would link harder work to higher wages -- as well as instituting shorter working hours and regular "cigarette breaks." His books and articles were translated into all the major languages and passionately studied, even in the Soviet Union, as guides to a future industrial utopia; he was, in many ways, Stalin's prophet.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book. You shouldn't reject this book based upon your opinion of its subject. The books is written very well and evokes enough of the times in which Taylor lived to give us a more nuanced portrait of the man within the context of his world.
Nowadays, F.W. Taylor is often portrayed as either a villain who has all but enslaved us or he is defended as not really meaning what he said. Instead, this book shows us Taylor's nineteenth century upper middle-class background and spends a good amount of time on character development and work habits.
Once all this is understood, Taylor's seemingly obsessive goals become more understandable. He did have many important insights in making work efficient. When he began manufacturing was done in thousands of very small shops. It was horribly inefficient. His work did help our economy and helped the average worker become more productive. However, I still can't understand how someone could think having a human body physically haul 47 tons of pig iron per day is a good thing. There is a definite quality of life aspect that still wasn't grasped by these early efficiency experts.
Another extremely valuable topic the author clarifies is that Henry Ford's assembly line had more to do with meatpacking than Taylor's Scientific Management. Taylor's critics have unjustly used Henry Ford's manufacturing techniques as evidence against Taylor's methods when Ford himself made statements denying Taylor's influence. Also, like many original thinkers, Taylor was ill served by many who came after him and used his name but not his methods. This is all clearly laid out in this valuable book.
This isn't a whitewash or a book of simple praise. It paints a complex portrait of Taylor, but gives us enough context to understand him within his time.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By anton@wsh.state.wy.us on January 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book because I wanted to have a better understanding of Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management. I got it. Although at times Kanigel's sentence structure got a bit convoluted, particularly at the beginning, I found the book fascinating and useful to the end.
One of the major premises of the book is that we owe, or wish we did not owe, to Taylor the driving , amost relentless beat of our own age to be efficient, to use every spare moment. He revolutionized the world by combining elements that had existed for years into a coherent whole. We live with that legacy, for good or evil. As a manager and as someone concerned with organizations, I found the book not only good reading, but useful in thinking about my own work and how I view what I do. I highly recommend it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. L. Owens on February 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
I started my career as a manufacturing engineer and had often heard of Fred Taylor. Kanigel does a better job than most historians of making manufacturing history interesting. For me, there may have been a little more emphasis on Taylor's early life than I would normally be interested in, but Kanigel does an excellent job of defining Taylor. I had known that Taylor was famous for his time study techniques, what I didn't know was that he may have been partially or indirectly responsible for the advent and/or need for the human resources profession as well. He also had some involvement in cost accounting as it relates to calculating overhead rates for which I will be eternally disappointed in him for. He may have also been partially responsible for establishing the profession of manufacturing consultant as well. I am still enjoying the book and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of manufacturing.
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