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Dishing it out is one thing...
on June 20, 1998
Most people can dish it out a lot easier than they can take it. Frederick Winslow Taylor apparently typified this rule of thumb. Robert Kanigel gives due credit to Taylor, but portrays the father of scientific management as a thin-skinned hypocrite and a phony. Taylor's perfectly-logical theories--lowering production costs to increase the bottom line--paved the way (kinda) from small workshop manufacturing to low-cost mass production. Some potholes nonetheless remained. The changes that scientific management contained were bound to upset some apple carts. But Taylor was his own worst enemy. He was bereft of emotional intelligence, rarely if ever trying to win employee trust and cooperation. Browbeating and rebuking was his m.o. in a for-me-or-against-me ideology.
Fred claimed his ideas were unassailable, principally by virtue of his having risen from the ranks of the "working men." He apparently beat the working-stiff attitude into the ground at every turn in his life. It was was one of two tongues he spoke with. The fact was, Fred Taylor was never a "working man" per se. His very birth put him a class apart.
Young Fred Taylor studied at expensive private schools. He never had to worry about his next meal. Au contraire, he and his family ate the finest foods while they checked in and out of chic European resorts. Even with today's egalitarian travel packages, the number of American lathe operators who visit the Old Continent are small by comparison. In Taylor's day, European vacations were exclusively the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Fred deluded himself into thinking he was a garden-variety raggged dick but, like the down-and-out George Orwell, Taylor was a wannabee. There was always a way out. For the real working men, reality was sink or swim.
Fred Taylor failed when he finally confronted his intellectual equals in Congress (a dubious distinction). Like an uncoached trial witness, he fell prey to basic court-room set ups. He initially denied insignificant evils! (for example, that the main objective of a firm is to earn money) which he should have acknowledged, then found it impossible to backtrack while saving face. Taylor also claimed complete credit for developing scientific management. In fact, he grasped several different pre-existing ideas (no shame in that), then wove them into scientific management.
All in all, Kanigel's analysis seems sound, despite a rather belabored effort. He frequently provides in his text almost full bibliographic references for contemporary secondary sources (what are end notes for?). Kanigel also likes to ignite gossipy tidbits which have little bearing on the subject. He then fans the sparks into nearly complete chapters. It all serves only to pad an already-lengthy text.