Whenever you’re reading books or watching presentations on management, two names are bound to show up.
The first would be Frederick Winslow Taylor.
This guy’s important because he basically invented the manager role. At the turn of the 20th century, he introduced “scientific management” to the world, the idea that unorganized processes in factories can be optimized through sets of precise (and scientific) rules and moving the decision making from the workers to the managers.
Taking Taylor’s ideas to the extreme has led to the current connotation of the term Taylorism: the belief that workers are inherently stupid and lazy and that they need managers to tell them how to do their work.
It is easy to see how Taylorism has worked well in the early to mid 20th century. Most of the relevant work at that time (especially during the two world wars) required only limited skill and knowledge.
However, with the rise of the knowledge worker in the late 20th century and the constant corruption of the term “manager” from Taylor’s original definition to PHBs, the management world needed to look for another person for ideas.
And this is where William Edwards Deming steps in.
W. Edwards Deming came into the efficiency management world some decades after Taylor. He’s most famous for improving production of Japanese companies after the war. (Rumor has it that he was shipped to Japan because most of his ideas were not accepted by American companies.)
Unlike Taylor, Demings didn’t believe that workers are “stupid and lazy” nor did he believe in the predominant notion that profitability trumps quality.
Instead, he believed that workers are inherently driven to produce good work and the management should not handicap this drive through the enforcement of unnecessary policies. He also believed in the importance of the customer’s needs and that quality should be built into the products instead of just waiting for the problem to persist down the line and eventually affect the customer.
This radical new approach to management is not just wishful thinking: Toyota used Deming’s ideas to transform their company from a sub-par company to one that eventually surpassed American companies like Ford and GM. Deming’s ideas also form the backbone of most of the new management techniques that were introduced at the turn of the millennium.
So what would you prefer to work under: Taylor’s 20th century management, or Deming’s 21st century management? :D