Frederick Taylor's theory of Scientific Management can be used to increase productivity in telecommunications installation. This paper will examine the history and specifics of Taylor's theory of Scientific Management. The scope of telecommunication installation will be discussed, and the application of Taylor's theory of Scientific Management to telecommunications installation will be reviewed. A summary of key points and recommendations will be given.
In order to understand how Frederick Taylor's theories apply to telecommunications, it is first important to understand the scope of telecommunication installation. Telecommunication itself is simply communication that is achieved through electronic transmission, such as cable, radio, television, telephone, or even the telegraph (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). Installation in telecommunications can include installation of underground and aerial telephone and other telecommunication lines, and cable television lines and cables. Further, telecommunication installation can include fitting of telephone equipment and hardware, as well as wiring (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada). In addition, the installation of radio communications dishes and antennae, underground cabling, and public payphones is included
This field can also include the installation of large telecommunications facilities that include mobile phone towers.
Frederick Taylor's Theory of Scientific Management
Much of our modern understanding of project management comes from the work of Frederick Taylor in the early 1900s (University of Houston, 2004). Prior to Taylor's work, managers had little contact with factory activities, and a single foreman held most of the responsibility for work completed. This changed dramatically with Taylor's development of the theory out of Scientific Management, which essentially applied scientific principles to the business environment (AccelTeam, 2004). Taylor (1964) himself noted that scientific management "consists of the complete revolution in the mental attitude and the habits of all those engaged in the management, as well of the workmen." While Taylor's theory came to be known as Scientific Management, he himself called it task management or task analysis. Later, Taylor's theory was known as Industrial Engineering (Drucker, 1999).
Scientific management involves many different concepts. One of the main concepts is task allocation where large tasks are broken into smaller and smaller chunks. Once tasks are allocated, Taylor could then determine the specific optimal time for completing the task, and the specific work conditions required. Taylor's theory emphasized the systematic analysis of each specific operation, centralized planning, and created detailed instructions and supervision (Kanigel, 1999). Famously, Taylor's work often involved using stopwatches to time specific observations (AccelTeam, 2004).
Taylor's theory became highly influential. Henry Ford's assembly line borrowed heavily from Taylor's ideas. Early adopters of Taylor's theories of scientific management included the government-owned and government-run Watertown Arsenal of the United States Army (Drucker, 1999). McDonald's is a notable adoptee of many of Taylor's ideas (Pruijt, 2000). Later theories like Deming's Total Quality Management were heavily derived from Taylor's Scientific Management theory (Drucker, 1999).
Drucker (1999) notes that Taylor's Theory of Scientific Management has been highly effective, as well as highly influential. Since Taylor's work took hold, the productivity of manual workers has increased approximately 50 times. Further, notes Drucker, this increased productivity led to enormous economic and social gains within the 20th century (Drucker, 1999).
Scientific Management in Today's Economy
Today, Taylor's principles can still be effectively applied. Drucker (1999) notes that Taylor's ideas are especially applicable to manual labor in developing countries. In addition, the manual component of some knowledge work can benefit from Taylor's principles. At the same time, changes such as increased use of foreign resources, outsourced service providers, and increased demands for speed delivery have a profound impact on the use of Taylor's ideas in today's economy (University of Houston, 2004).
Drucker (1999) notes that increasing knowledge worker productivity will often be the only real competitive advantage for developed countries in the new world economy, especially in era of outsourcing. Drucker (1999) predicts that in 50 years' time, leadership in today's globalized economy will have moved to countries and industries that have successfully and consistently increased the productivity of knowledge workers.
Scientific Management and Telecommunications Installation
Today, many knowledge workers are engaged in manual work. Drucker (1999) terms these people technologists, and they make up the largest single group of knowledge workers. Individuals who to install telecommunications systems are included within this technologist category.
There is a strong history of using Drucker's principles within telecommunications. In the early 19th century, AT&T was faced with the challenge of satisfying customer needs regarding the installation of telephone systems, as well as the repair and maintenance of such systems. After studying some of Drucker's principles, it became apparent that a single individual would need to understand system components, and perform specific technical skills, rather than have specialists for each sub-area (Drucker, 1999).
In the early 1990s, SU faced a similar challenge in satisfying customer demands regarding the installation of network connections. Early on, such installation used multiple specialists, often resulting in confusion over specific job tasks, and difficulties with timing. In a situation similar to that of AT&T, SU concluded that a single individual should perform most tasks. This resulted in changes to the education of wiring technicians in this area (Drucker, 1999). This successful history indicates that Taylor's principles can be effective in improving the productivity of technologists such as telecommunications installers.
Today, Taylor's ideas can be used to increase the productivity of telecommunications installation. One of Taylor's most influential initiatives was to script the actions of individual workers. This scripting included arranging the worker space, work habits, and even rest habits. In Taylor's day, scripted instructions were provided on index cards (Pawson and Matthews, 2002).
Today, technology has moved far beyond index cards. Pawson and Matthews (2002) "suspect that he (Taylor) would have been delighted by its capacity for extending his methods in both their range and their reach. Most business systems treat the user as simply a process-follower. The system controls the whole procedure, subcontracting to the user only those subtasks that it is not able to fulfill autonomously."
Thus, scripted instructions for telecommunications installation should take advantage of such technological advances. As Pawson and Matthews (2002) note, scripted instructions can be provided at a system level. For telecommunications installers, such a system could be a software-driven automated installation process that only requires the installer to complete subtasks such as the manual laying of lines and cables.
Similarly, many other aspects of Scientific Management can be used to improve telecommunications installation. These include task allocation, systematic analysis of specific operations, centralized planning, and creating detailed instructions and supervision. For example, detailed analysis of installation procedures such as the laying of cable, task allocation to individual team members, the creation of detailed installation instructions, and centralized planning of installations could be used to increase productivity.
Drucker (1999) notes that achieving appreciable productivity gains with technologists and other workers can take considerable amounts of time. As such, organizations must be careful not to give up on initiatives at too early a date, a fact which must be considered while adopting Taylor's theory to telecommunications installation.
Frederick Taylor's theory of Scientific Management has been tremendously influential. Scientific management is based upon the application of scientific principles to the business world, and includes task allocation, creating detailed instructions, and systematic analysis. Telecommunication installation includes the installation of technologies such as cable, radio, television, telephone, and telegraph. When applied to telecommunications installation, Taylor's theory of Scientific Management could be used to increase productivity. Such an advantage is crucial in today's competitive business environment, as increasing the productivity of knowledge workers such as telecommunications technicians is essential to establishing a competitive advantage.
In conclusion, Taylor's theory of Scientific Management could be used to effectively increase productivity and telecommunications installation. Specifically, systematic analysis of operations, followed by the creation of detailed installation instructions, task allocation of individual…