Scientific Management vs. Needs Theorists

This essay will discuss the notion that the claims of the ‘Needs Theorists’, though impressive, are impractical in reality and therefore, that Taylors Scientific Management approach is better suited for achieving organisational effectiveness and efficiency.

The importance of understanding and predicting human behaviour in an organisational setting became of prime importance in the late 1950’s early 1960’s. Prior to then bureaucratic practices and scientific management techniques had sufficed as mechanisms through which management could maximise control and productivity.

The reliance on psychology as a legitimatory tool for managerial solutions to workplace problems has led to claims that it and it alone, has provided solutions to many of the human problems encountered in business. Lecture notes (4/11/2007)

The Needs theories are based on simple ideas that work-related behaviours are directed to satisfying certain needs. People will try their hardest to achieve in and outside work to satisfy their needs depending on the type and quality of that need. A. Furnham (1997)
The most well known theory is that of Maslow (1954). Maslows theory supposed that people have five types of needs that are activated in a hierarchical manner. And then the needs are aroused in a specific order, that the lower-order need must be satisfied before the next higher-order needs have been satisfied. When the lowest-order need is met then the next highest need in the hierarchy is triggered, and so on. A. Furnham (1997)

At the beginning of the twentieth century an influential model of organisational behaviour was scientific management which was the approach that was developed by F. W. Taylor, which he intended for achieving organisational effectiveness and efficiency. The basis of his approach is that if you study what to do in sufficient detail you can optimise the performance of individuals by cutting out all the redundant effort and maximising the useful movements. J. Weightman (1999)
“For example, by looking at how someone skins and slices white fish in a factory you can see that some workers are much more efficient than others. By analysing them ‘scientifically’, that is systematically, to see each movement they make of the fish, hands, body and knife you can arrive at a pattern to teach others to make them more efficient fish skinners and slicers. if this principle of careful analysis is then applied to the whole selection of staff and equipment you arrive at a scientifically managed organisation.” J. Weightman (1999)
This scientific procedure is still seen in such devices as quality procedures, the design of control systems in factories and in the analysis of tasks for piece work.
The hard part of using only such a ‘hard’ mechanistic approach is that its hard to take into account any individual differences because not everyone is able to work effectively in the same way. And some individuals may fail to show their initiative and creativity that they have to offer. However the approach can also be useful to managers where the turnover of staff is high, a simple routine task or where the staff cannot be expected to be very motivated. Mcdonald’s food chain is a prime example of this approach. It has scientifically analysed every aspect of their business from the raw materials and packaging, to training of the staff. Another example is call centres like telephone banking and advice lines, where the staff are always under pressure to reach targets and they have little influence over their work. J. Weightman (1999)