Online College Courses for Credit

3 Tutorials that teach Scientific Management
Take your pick:
Scientific Management

Scientific Management

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize the role and components of scientific management and the McDonaldization of society.

See More

Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain, Images from, Public Domain

Video Transcription

Download PDF

[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on scientific management. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today we're looking at scientific management and a couple terms connected with scientific management. So scientific management, you might have actually heard of, called Taylorism. And that's because it was started by a guy whose last name was Taylor.

And what he did is he tried to make the work environment run much more scientifically. So he used rules of efficiency to try to help workers work more efficiently. People often said that the stopwatch was his favorite tool because he would measure how long it took you to walk from step A to step B. And if you could save three seconds by moving equipment around in this workshop, and you're repeating this process a thousand times a day, that adds up to a very large amount of time savings.

So again, the idea is to make a business really run on scientific ideas. And it's helping workers work more efficiently. And often these changes were incentivized for the workers. So if workers were told that if you can increase your productivity by x amount, then you would get x as your bonus.

Now, scientific management isn't without criticism. There's only so fast people can work. And in some ways, scientific management can-- it doesn't always-- but can treat workers like robots. By getting rid of some of the variety in routines, the routine becomes so monotonous that the workers actually struggle with that.

Also, Taylor was actually known for going into businesses. And he would do a quick measurement of what someone can be, to be what he saw as efficient. But how long could someone keep up this efficientness? If you're someone lifting really higher, iron bars, you can do that much better in the beginning of your shift than in the end. Because by the end, your muscles are just physically fatigued. And scientific management doesn't always take into account those kind of factors.

Now, the other term we're going to look at today is McDonaldization of society. Now, this idea was put forth by George Ritzer. And it's kind of the idea that most organizations in the modern or post-modern world are moving towards a McDonald's-like system. And Ritzer really broke this down into a couple of different categories, which I'm going to explain for you, to help understand what he means by making everything look like McDonald's. It's, of course, not just like the color scheme or those kind of things.

So the first one is uniformity and predictability. So when you go into a McDonald's, you expect to see the same fries as a different McDonald's. You have the same interior. You have the same music playing. This idea is that organizations want to give the people using their organization the same experience regardless of what location they are experiencing at it.

Now, another thing organizations are doing is things are really calculable. So if we take the idea of McDonald's, their patties are exactly measured to the same height, and weight, diameter. It's the exact same size.

So things are really measured down to a specific system. And that system is passed on to multiple different stores. And so everything is really trying to be measured and quantified in specific values so that it can be replicated.

Another thing that the McDonaldization of society is doing is there's really a focus on efficiency. The workplace is set up, both for customers and for the people working for the organization, as being ultraefficient. You minimize the number of steps between the counter and where you pick up the food. Or specifically using a McDonald's, it's a counter where you don't have to pay someone to bring your food out to them. Instead, you order and you wait there. And that is a more efficient way to distribute food.

Another way that society is being McDonalized is automation. So tasks are becoming much more automated. The more that can be done with machines-- organizations are moving towards automation because the things that the organization really values, so that efficiency, that having the same experience, that having the same weight for all their objects, well, automation makes that much easier to do. There's not as much human error when you have it automatically happening with a machine. And that's another way that society is moving towards this McDonaldization.

So today's take-away message. Today, we learned about scientific management. And that's using scientific ideas to run or help run a business. And then we looked at the McDonaldization of society. And this was an idea that all organizations are moving towards a McDonald's-like system, that really promotes this uniform experience and the calculability of all their different aspects. And its ultraefficient and its ultra-automated.

And George Ritzer was the one who came up with that idea. And he was a sociologist. And he just studies modern and post-modern society.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing you on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
McDonaldization of Society

The idea that many aspects of life are modeled after the approach taken by the restaurant chain. There are four main principles: 1) Efficiency, 2) Predictability, 3) Uniformity, 4) Control.

Scientific Management (Taylorism)

The application of scientific principles to analyze workflow and efficiency in business and production.

People to Know
George Ritzer

American sociologist who studies American patterns of consumption, as well as globalization and social theory. Ritzer developed the "McDonaldization of Society" in a book of the same name.