Posted by: JC Gatlin | November 15, 2010

Lean Beginnings… (part 1)

Based on the science of Henry T. Ford’s original assembly line production, and vastly improved by Taichi Ohno’s Toyota Production System, lean is a way of operating that can be pared down to two basic principles:

  • Respect for People
  • Eliminate Waste


Its roots stretch back to the late 1800’s as more and more farmers and field hands took to the factories after the Industrial Revolution. Frederick W. Taylor was a mechanical engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency.  Taylor is regarded as the father of Scientific Management, and was one of the first management consultants.

“Frederick W. Taylor was the first man in recorded history who deemed work deserving of systematic observation and study.”  — Peter Drucker, Concept of the Corporation

Taylor believed that the industrial management in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was amateurish, that management could be formulated as an academic discipline, and that the best results would come from the partnership between a trained and qualified management and a cooperative and innovative workforce.

Taylor published his monograph The Principles of Scientific Management, in 1911. His approach is also often referred to as Taylor’s Principles, or frequently disparagingly, as Taylorism. Taylor’s scientific management consisted of four principles:

  1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.
  2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.
  3. Divide work between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.
  4. Provide detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker’s discrete task. 

image from

In his book, Taylor had very precise ideas about how to introduce his system: “It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.”

Workers were supposed to be incapable of understanding what they were doing. According to Taylor this was true even for rather simple tasks.

While Taylorism did improve factory efficiency and productivity, it created a divide between an elite management and a workforce that had little to no control over their environment. The introduction of his system was often resented by workers and provoked numerous strikes.

© November 2010 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo



  1. […] Lean Beginnings… (part 2) (continued from part 1)  […]

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