How is Lean Different From Taylorism? | Michael Ballé | LEI

“They are completely different indeed. They differ in their purpose, their practice and their outcomes. Lean is about self-reflection and seeking smarter, less wasteful dynamic solutions together. Taylorism is about static optimization of work imposed by ‘those who know’ on ‘those who do.'”

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Michel Baudin‘s comments:

Yes, “Scientific Management” was just a marketing label for theories that weren’t truly scientific but were instead based on a simplistic view of human nature. And Taylor’s stopwatch time studies were just aimed at increasing production at every operation with no consideration of flow. I would, however, ask for a more accurate and complete story

I would start with the timeline. It is easy to check. For example, Taylor couldn’t have had many brilliant insights in “mid-nineteenth century” because he wasn’t born until 1856. Also, the Toyota Production System originated before 1960.

The time matters because everything changed in America between 1850 and 1900, as it did in Japan between 1930 and 1960. By 1900, the American manufacturing industry had sprouted companies with tens of thousands of employees, employing many non-English speakers straight from farms in Eastern and Southern Europe, with primary school educations at best. It is quite possible that the communication challenges with the work force played a role in shaping Taylor’s perceptions.

Toyota’s post-war workforce was comprised of native Japanese speakers, like their managers, and, like their American counterparts, better educated than 50 years earlier. As a result, some management approaches could work with them that Taylor wouldn’t have thought possible in 1900.

The article also implicitly attributes Ford’s mass production system to Taylor. The Ford people would disagree with this, but it is a common and deliberate confusion made by French unions. In their literature, words like “taylorism” and “toyotism” also  serve to create further confusion and paint both as ideological smokescreens used by evil employers.

The article also omits some of Taylor’s actual contributions. This includes technical work like the invention of high-speed steel and the theory of functional foremanship which, while never used as he prescribed, defined the list of support departments found today in just about any manufacturing facility. See Fairness to Frederick Taylor  and Lean’s Midlife Crisis.

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