Taylor, Frederick Winslow: The First Change Agent, from Rule of Thumb to Scientific Management

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    This chapter describes Taylor from a perspective that appears to have been much neglected – his role as a change agent. Throughout his life and career as a manager and management consultant, Taylor worked with organizations to make positive changes, making them better, more efficient, and less reliant on rules of thumb. He changed the notion of the modern organization to one driven and managed by scientific principles. This chapter interprets his work through this lens. It is not intended as a celebration or critique, but rather as an alternative perspective – one that offers or inspires new insights and views on change and on Taylor and his work. The chapter sets out a general introduction before going on to discuss Taylor’s main influences and sources of motivation – What was fueling his thinking and driving his actions? From there, we consider Taylor’s key contributions, or more precisely his key contributions in his role as a very early proponent of change. This leads us on to a new view of Taylor, from which we ask what can be learned from him today; what new insights, if any, does he bring to perspectives on organizational change? In this context, we review examples of his influence in areas that may be surprising to readers. The chapter ends with a discussion of some unresolved issues – unfinished business and harder-to-transfer ideas that must be addressed if we are to truly harness the potential of Taylor’s work and deliberations. The chapter ends with a short list of suggested further reading.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers
    EditorsDavid B. Szabla
    Number of pages17
    Place of PublicationCham
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    Publication date2021
    ISBN (Print)9783030383237, 9783030383251
    ISBN (Electronic)9783030383244
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


    • Taylorism
    • Change
    • Organizing
    • Scientific management
    • Workflow
    • Knowledge

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