FW Taylor January 25, 1912

From The Taylor and other systems of shop management…. Congressional Hearings, 1912.

Thursday, January 25, 1912. The committee met at 10.40 o’clock a. m., Hon. William B. Wilson (chairman) presiding.

TESTIMONY OF ME. FREDERICK WINSLOW TAYLOR.

I have had a very great deal to do with the development of the system of management which has come to be called by certain people the “Taylor system,” but I am only one of many men who have been instrumental in the development of this system. I wish to state, however, that at no time have I ever personally called the system the “Taylor system,” nor have I ever advocated the desirability of calling it by that name.

I should like to attempt to make it clear what the essence of scientific management is; what may be called the atmosphere surrounding it; the sentiments which accompany scientific management when real scientific management comes to exist, and which are appropriate to it…

I wish to make clear those sentiments, on the one hand, which come to be most important for those on the management’s side, and those sentiments, on the other hand, which come to be the essence and most important to the men working under scientific management…

The most important fact… is the fact that the average workingman believes it to be for his interest and for the interest of his fellow workmen to go slow instead of going fast, to restrict output instead of turning out as large a day’s work as is practicable.

Now, I find that this fallacy is practically universal with workingmen, and in using the term “workingmen” I have in mind only that class of workmen who are engaged in what may be called cooperative industries, in which several men work together.

Therefore, in using the word workman” I hope it will be understood that I am referring simply to that group of men cooperatively engaged, and that is rather a small group of men in any community. We who are engaged in cooperative industry have somehow gotten the impression that the whole world is engaged in the same sort of work, but the class of which I speak forms a rather small minority, but, nevertheless, a very important element of the community.

When you get almost any workingman to talking with you intimately… he will almost always state that he can not see how it could be for the interest of his particular trade—that is, for the interest of those men associated with him, and with whose work he is familiar—to very greatly increase their output per day.

(“Lump of labor” theory announced/increased output or efficiency could lead only to immiseration of fellow workers) The question the workman will ask you, if you have his confidence, is: “What would become of those of us in my particular trade who would be thrown out of work in case we were all to greatly increase our output each day?” Each such man in a particular working group feels that in his town or section or particular industry there is, in the coming year, only about so much work to be done. As far as he can see, if he were to double his output, and if the rest of the men were to double their output to-morrow or next week or next month or next year, he can see no other outcome except that one-half of the workmen engaged with him would be thrown out of work.

That is the honest viewpoint of the average workman in practically all trades. And let me say here that this is a strictly honest view; it is no fake view; there is no hypocrisy about it. This is a firm conviction on the part of almost all workingmen. Holding those views and acting upon them, the workmen can not be blamed for impressing upon other workmen their conviction that it is not for their mutual interest to greatly increase the output in their particular trade. And as a result they almost all come to the conclusion that it would be humane, it would be a kindly thing, it would be acting merely in the best interests of their brothers, to restrict output rather than to materially increase their output.

(Taylor says this is honest, but incorrect view; blames men of the “literary classes” and, most of all, “labor leaders,” for failing to teach workers that increasing output will improve their fortunes, though in the case of the latter, they do not know any better

Of those “labor leaders”: I think you will find as many good men among them as you will in any class, but you will find also many misguided men among them, men whose prejudices are carrying them away in the wrong direction, just as you will find with men of other classes. And please note here that I am using the words ‘class’ or  ‘classes’ throughout in the sense of groups of men and women with somewhat similar aims in life, and not at all with the ‘upper and lower class’ distinctions which are sometimes given to these words. So that when I say the labor leaders are misdirecting their followers, are giving them wrong views, are teaching wrong doctrines to their men, I sav this with no idea of imputing wrong motives to labor leaders. They themselves are as ignorant of the underlying truths of political economy as the workmen whom they are teaching… I have talked with a great many of them and I find that they are as firmly convinced of the truth of this fallacy as to the restriction of output as the workmen themselves. 

(Taylor’s prescription: economic history, which proves–not, as neoclassical economists insist, that workers simply have to give up their atavistic Luddism for the good of the economy–that increased productivity actually increases the amount of work in any given affected trade):

I do not care what trade you go into, get back to the basic facts, the fundamental truths connected with that trade, and you will find that every time there has been an increased output per individual workman in that trade produced by any cause that it has made more work in the trade and has never diminished the number of workmen in the trade. All you have to do is to go back in the history of any trade and look up the facts and you will find it to be true; that in no case has the permanent effect of increasing the output per individual in the trade been that of throwing men out of work, but the effect has always been to make work for more men.

(…)

Let us examine the actual facts in one trade—the cotton trade, for instance. It is as well known, perhaps, and as well understood as any trade in the whole list. The power loom was invented some time between 1780 and 1790, I think it was… Somewhere about the year 1840—the exact date is immaterial, and I give that as about the time of the occurrence—there were in round numbers 5,000 cotton weavers in Manchester, England. About that time these weavers became convinced that the power loom was going to win out, that the hand looms which they were operating were doomed. And they knew that the power loom would turn out per man about three times the output…

Now, I think that is the view of the great majority of the workingmen of this country, and I do not blame them for it. I think I may say that for the almost universality with which this view is found among workingmen, and still more for the fact that this view is growing instead of diminishing, that the men who are not themselves working in cooperative industry and who belong, we will say, taking a single example, to the literary classes, men who have the leisure time for study and investigation and the opportunity for knowing better, are mainly to blame. Some one is surely to blame for the fact that workingmen hold this view, because it is a fallacy which some one should have taken the trouble to point out long ago. This view is directly the opposite of the truth. This view is false from beginning to end, and I say again that for this fallacy on the part of the working people the men who have the leisure and the opportunity to educate themselves, the men whose duty it is—or ought to be—to see that the community is properly educated and told the truth, are mainly to blame. I know of very few men in this country who have taken the trouble to bring out the truth of this fact and make it clear to the working people.

On the contrary, the men who are immediately in contact with the workmen—most of all the labor leaders—are teaching the workmen just the opposite of the facts in this respect, and yet I want to say right here, gentlemen, that while I shall have to say quite a little in the way of blame as to the views and acts of certain labor leaders during my talk, in the main I look upon them as strictly honest, upright, straightforward men. I think you will find as many good men among them as you will in any class, but you will find also many misguided men among them, men whose prejudices are carrying them away in the wrong direction, just as you will find with men of other classes. And please note here that I am using the words ” class” or “classes” throughout in the sense of groups of men and women with somewhat similar aims in life, and not at all with the “upper and lower class” distinctions which are sometimes given to these words. So that when I say the labor leaders are misdirecting their followers, are giving them wrong views, are teaching wrong doctrines to their men, I sav this with no idea of imputing wrong motives to labor leaders. They themselves are as ignorant of the underlying truths of political economy as the workmen whom they are teaching. I say this quite advisedly, because I have talked with a great many of them and I find that they are as firmly convinced of the truth of this fallacy as to the restriction of output as the workmen themselves. Therefore, I repeat again, the teaching of this doctrine by almost all labor leaders is the result of honest conviction and not of any less praiseworthy motive.

And yet, in spite of the fact that nearly all labor leaders are teaching this doctrine, and that almost no one in this country is giving much, if any, time to counteracting the evil effects—and they are tremendous—of this fallacy, that it is for the interest of the workman to go slow. In spite of this fact, I may say that all that is necessary to do to prove the direct contrary of this fallacy is to investigate the facts of any trade, whatever that trade may be. I do not care what trade you go into, get back to the basic facts, the fundamental truths connected with that trade, and you will find that every time there has been an increased output per individual workman in that trade produced by any cause that it has made more work in the trade and has never diminished the number of workmen in the trade. All you have to do is to go back in the history of any trade and look up the facts and you will find it to be true; that in no case has the permanent effect of increasing the output per individual in the trade been that of throwing men out of work, but the effect has always been to make work for more men.

Now, that is the history of every trade, but in spite of that fact the world at large, both on the workman’s side and on the manufacturer’s side believes this fallacy (and I find a great many men who ought to know better completely misinformed on the side of the management). And yet this is a fallacy, and a blighting fallacy, as far as the interests of the workingmen and the interests of the whole country are concerned. Now, I feel it important or desirable to give just one illustration to show that an increase in output does not throw men out of work, and I could give thousands, simply thousands, of such illustrations.

Let us examine the actual facts in one trade—the cotton trade, for instance. It is as well known, perhaps, and as well understood as any trade in the whole list. The power loom was invented some time between 1780 and 1790, I think it was… Somewhere about the year 1840—the exact date is immaterial, and I give that as about the time of the occurrence—there were in round numbers 5,000 cotton weavers in Manchester, England. About that time these weavers became convinced that the power loom was going to win out, that the hand looms which they were operating were doomed. And they knew that the power loom would turn out per man about three times the output…

Now, what could they see? They were certain… that nothing could happen through the introduction of this power loom except that after it was in… that instead of there being 5,000 weavers in Manchester they would be reduced to 1,500 or 2,000, and that 3,000 weavers would be thrown out of a job. Now, those men felt fully convinced of that; with them there was no doubt about it; it was a matter of certainty, and they did in kind just what all of us would be apt to do in kind if we were convinced that three-fifths of our working body were to have our means of livelihood taken away from us. What I mean to say is that, broadly speaking, we would adopt the same general policy of opposition that they adopted. I am not advocating violence, arson, or any of the wrong things that were done by these men when I say that we would in a general way have done, broadly speaking, what they did. We would nave opposed the introduction of any such policy by every means in our power. What the Manchester weavers did was to break into the establishments where these power looms were being installed. They smashed up the looms. They burned down the buildings in which they were being used. They beat up the scabs using them, and they did almost everything that was in their power to prevent the introduction of the power loom.

And even after that exhibition of fearful violence, gentlemen, I do not hesitate to say that I do not feel very bitterly toward those men. I believe that they were misguided. I feel a certain sympathy for them, not in their violence—I do not endorse that for one moment— but I can not help but feel a certain sympathy for men who believe, with absolute certainty, that their means of livelihood is being taken away from them. You can not help but feel sympathy for men who believe that, even if you thoroughly disapprove of their acts.

(…)

(teleology/technological inevitability argument) Now, gentlemen, the power loom came into use just as every laborsaving device that is a real labor-saving device is sure to come at all times. In spite of any opposition that may come from any source whatever, I do not care what the source is, I do not care how great the opposition, or what it may be, any truly labor-saving device will win out. All that you have to do to find proof of this is to look at the history of the industrial world.

And, gentlemen, scientific management is merely the equivalent of a labor-saving device; that is all it is; it is a means, and a very proper and right means, of making men more efficient than they now are, and without imposing materially greater burdens on them than they now have, and if scientific management is a device for doing that it will win out in spite of all the labor opposition in the world; in spite of any opposition that may be brought to bear against it from any quarter whatever, from any class of people, or from the whole people, it will win out. If scientific management is right, and I believe it is right; if it is a labor-saving device for enabling men to do more work with no greater effort on their part, then it is going to win out.

(…)

The wealth of the world comes from two sources— from what comes out of the ground or from beneath the surface of the earth, on the one hand, and what is produced by man on the other hand. And the broad fact is that all you have to do is to bring wealth into the world and the world uses it.

… This is the fundamental meaning of increase in output in all trades, namely, that additional wealth is coming into the world. Such wealth is real wealth, for it consists of those things which are most useful to man; those things that man needs for his everyday happiness, for his prosperity, and his comfort. The meaning of increased output, whether it be in one trade or another, is always the same, the world is just receiving that much more wealth.

Now, let us see what happened from the introduction of the power loom in 1840. or thereabouts. Did it throw men out of work; did it make work for a less number of men? (…) In Manchester, England, in 1840, there were 5,000 operatives, and in Manchester today there are 265,000 operatives. Now, in the light of those figures has the introduction of the power loom, has the introduction of laborsaving machinery thrown men out of work?

Let us see, now, in a definite way what the increased output of cotton goods means to the American workman. None of us probably appreciate now that in 1840 the ordinary cotton shirt or dress made, for example, from Manchester cottons was a luxury to be worn only by the middle classes, as the English describe it, and that cotton goods were worn by the poor people only as a rare luxury. Now the cotton shirt and the cotton dress, cotton goods generally, have become an absolute daily necessity of all classes of mankind all over the civilized world. And this magnificent result (more magnificent for the working people than for any other portion of the community) has been brought about solely by this great increase in output so stubbornly fought against by the cotton weavers in 1840. It is in those changes which directly affect the poor—which give them a higher standard of living and make from the luxuries of one generation the necessities of the next that we can best see the meaning of an increase in the wealth of the world. And the most important fact of this whole subject is that any association of men, whether it be a group of workmen or a group of capitalists or manufacturers, a manufacturers’ association, or whatever it may be, any men who deliberately restrict the output in any industry are robbing the people. And they rob the people of the wealth that justly belongs to them, whether they restrict output honestly, believing it to be for the interest of their trade, or dishonestly for any other reason… Therefore that group of men who prevent wealth from coming into the world are robbing the working people of this nineteen-twentieths and the rich people of but one-twentieth. In fact I doubt if they are robbing the rich people at all. That, after all, is the essence or the whole matter—the robbing of the poor through restriction of output—and I want to try and make it clear that I believe it is quite as much a crime for a manufacturer to restrict output for the sake of holding up prices as it is for the workman to restrict output for this or any other reason. (Here we have a clear articulation of straightforward productivism)

I don’t mean to say for one instant that times may not come in every industry when it is wise to restrict output temporarily… It is perfectly clear that there is such a thing as overproduction; that is no myth, but overproduction, in 99 cases out of 100, properly translated, means a lack of balance, a lack of evenness in production, a failure to maintain a fair balance between the necessities of life and production. It is a special condition, not a normal one.

(…)

No, I do not mean to say that overproduction does not at times exist and should be checked, but I do mean to say that, as a guiding policy—that is, a permanent policy on the part of workingman or manufacturer to restrict the world s output to just so much and no more is mere robbery; it is deliberate robbery of the poor people of those things to which they are entitled and which they can get only from the real wealth of the world.

(…)

Now, gentlemen, I have no sympathy whatever with the blackguarding that workmen are receiving from a good deal of the (business) community; there are a great many people who look upon them as greedy, selfish, grasping, and even worse, but I don’t sympathize with this view in the least.

They are not different in the least from any other class in the community; they are no more grasping and selfish, nor are they less so than other classes of people. It may be a debatable question as to whether they are or are not more grasping than other people.

There is one thing, however, we can be perfectly sure of and that is, whatever else they are or they are not, they are not fools. And let me tell you that a workman, after having received one cut of that sort in his wages as a reward for turning out a larger day’s work, is a very extraordinary man if he doesn’t adopt soldiering and deliberately going slow instead of fast as a permanent policy so as to keep his employer from speeding him up and then cutting his piecework price. I soldiered when I was a workman, and I believe that even many of the most sensible workmen, understanding the conditions as I have outlined them, will inevitably adopt the policy of going slow.

Under those conditions it would take an exceedingly broadminded man to do anything else than adopt soldiering as his permanent policy. I will not say that this soldiering is the best policy for the workman to adopt, even for his own best interest in the long run, but I do say that I do not blame him for doing it. In spite of the miserable policy of cutting piecework prices when men increase their output, I believe that those workmen who do not adopt the policy of restricting output and going slow, i. e., soldiering, will in the end be far better off than those who soldier. Certainly, this whole situation is no fault of theirs; they didn’t introduce the system which makes soldiering seem to be necessary, and if blame rests anywhere it certainly does not rest with the working people, but somewhere else.

(…)

Scientific management is not any efficiency device, not a device of any kind for securing efficiency; nor is it any bunch or group of efficiency devices.

(…)

Now, in its essence, scientific management involves a complete mental revolution on the part of the workingman engaged in any particular establishment or industry—a complete mental revolution on the part of these men as to their duties toward their work, toward their fellow men, and toward their employers.

And it involves the equally complete mental revolution on the part of those on the management’s side—the foreman, the superintendent, the owner of the business, the board of directors—a complete mental revolution on their part as to their duties toward their fellow workers in the management, toward their workmen, and toward all of their daily problems. And without this complete mental revolution on both sides scientific management does not exist.

That is the essence of scientific management, this great mental revolution. Now, later on, I want to show you more clearly what I mean by this great mental revolution. I know that it perhaps sounds to you like nothing but bluff—like buncombe—but I am going to try and make clear to you just what this great mental revolution involves, for it does involve an immense change in the minds and attitude of both sides, and the greater part of what I shall say to-day has relation to the bringing about of this great mental revolution.

(…)

I think it is safe to say that in the past a great part of the thought and interest both of the men, on the side of the management, and of those on the side of the workmen in manufacturing establishments has been centered upon what may be called the proper division of the surplus resulting from their joint efforts, between the management on the one hand, and the workmen on the other hand.

The management have been looking for as large a profit as possible for themselves, and the workmen have been looking for as large wages as possible for themselves, and that is what I mean by the division of the surplus. Now, this question of the division of the surplus is a very plain and simple one (for I am announcing no great fact in political economy or anything of that sort).

Each article produced in the establishment has its definite selling price. Into the manufacture of this article have gone certain expenses, namely, the cost of materials, the expenses connected with selling it, and certain indirect expenses, such as the rent of the building, taxes, insurance, light and power, maintenance of machinery, interest on the plant, etc. Now, if we deduct these several expenses from the selling price, what is left over may be called the surplus. And out of this surplus comes the profit to the manufacturer on the one hand, and the wages of the workmen on the other hand. And it is largely upon the division of this surplus that the attention of the workmen and of the management has been centered in the past. Each side has had its eye upon this surplus, the working man wanting as large a share in the form of wages as he could get, and the management wanting as large a share in the form of profits as it could get; I think I am safe in saying that in the past it has been in the division of this surplus that the great labor troubles have come between employers and employees.

(Typical Progressive Era “labor question” stuff, stressing the “unnatural” rise of enmity between the classes; NB: if there’s one thing US economic elites have a hard time taking seriously, it’s that class struggle might just be a natural consequence of private property, commodified labor, and logic of accumulation): Thus it is over this division of the surplus that most of the troubles have arisen; in the extreme cases this has been the cause of serious disagreements and strikes. Gradually the two sides have come to look upon one another as antagonists, and at times even as enemies—pulling apart and matching the strength of the one against the strength of the other.

(this is the magical resolution: cooperative, associationalist fantasy, with abundance liquidating all the petty squabbling over spoils): The great revolution that takes place in the mental attitude of the two parties under scientific management is that both sides take their eyes off of the division of the surplus as the all-important matter, and together turn their attention toward increasing the size of the surplus until this surplus becomes so large that it is unnecessary to quarrel over how it shall be divided.

They come to see that when they stop pulling against one another, and instead both turn and push shoulder to shoulder in the same direction, the size of the surplus created by their joint efforts is truly astounding. They both realize that when they substitute friendly cooperation and mutual helpfulness for antagonism and strife they are together able to make this surplus so enormously greater than it was in the past that there is ample room for a large increase in wages for the workmen and an equally great increase in profits for the manufacturer. This, gentlemen, is the beginning of the great mental revolution which constitutes the first step toward scientific management. It is along this line of complete change in the mental attitude of both sides; of the substitution of peace for war; the substitution of hearty brotherly cooperation for contention and strife; of both pulling hard in the same direction instead of pulling apart; of replacing suspicious watchfulness with mutual confidence; of becoming friends instead of enemies; it is along this line, I say, that scientific management must be developed.

The substitution of this new outlook—this new viewpoint—is of the very essence of scientific management, and scientific management exists nowhere until after this has become the central idea of both sides; until this new idea of cooperation and peace has been substituted for the old idea of discord and war.

(…)

(here comes the catch): There is, however, one more change in viewpoint which is absolutely essential to the existence of scientific management. Both sides must recognize as essential the substitution of exact scientific investigation and knowledge for the old individual judgment or opinion, either of the workman or the boss, in all matters relating to the work done in the establishment. And this applies both as to the methods to be employed in doing the work and the time in which each job should be done.

Scientific management can not be said to exist, then, in any establishment until after this change has taken place in the mental attitude of both the management and the men, both as to their duty to cooperate in producing the largest possible surplus and as to the necessity for substituting exact scientific knowledge for opinions or the old rule of thumb or individual knowledge.

These are the two absolutely essential elements of scientific management.

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