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On Taylorism , Demingism and Japanese-styled Management Systems(1999/02)

For a student of industrial engineering and management, one of the most confusing phenomena in recent decades is the Taylorism-bashing , together with the related myth and cult of Japanese style management. Many people think the so-called new way of management thinking is very different from Scientific Management and even with fundamental difference. I think most of the exchanges of charges and rebutals of Taylorism vs. Demingism are guilty by associations.

The basic belief is that people are different but the art and science of management are universal to most extent. Especially that the "visible hand of management professionals and management thinking" start to shape the developed and developing countries. Any regions to adopt markets and organizations as the mechanisms of running business will accept the fact that to think productivity( or efficiency) and "quality" as opposite driving forces are quite arbitrary.

Unfortunately, people are liable to use the tactics of finding a targeted enemy and trying to win it in words and thinking. Later with pretend understanding of the enemy, they even become quite proud of their invention. In this context, the easiest way of teaching management is to make an invented contrast list of * they (say, the enemy approach is only for means or for short-term benefits) vs. us (say, our efforts are for ends and for long-term benefits)* or using* now vs. then *or *this paradigm/school vs. that one or all the others *. If the targeted enemy is a historic subject( person or school of thinking) for contrasting, then it is more difficult to be without bias in judgement.

For example, we still not be capable of making a conclusion of the influence of French Revolution (say, did it have some impacts and influence on the Chinese Culture Revolution). To some extent, this is very similar with common misunderstanding of alienation of work life (H. A. Simon, 1996). We can find many equivalent ones in management studies field. We'll focus on the bashing of F. Taylor and Scientific Management movement (or Taylorism and so-called Neo-Taylorism, see the arguments and cases in the book by K. T. Delavigne and J. D. Robertson, 1994).

The Taylor- bashing seems to get much stronger from sixties and seventies. The timing is also coincident with the rising of Japanese corporations as economical power . This coincides with the Japanese start their searching for a new post-war identification . For example, some scholars start to position Japan as a very unique country which is in fact should be classified as one member of advanced countries with its own culture or ecological advantages, one typical and very popular account Japanese reaction to Toynabee's classification scheme of civilizations(U. Tadao,1967 ). In management field, Japanese industries did learn a lot from Taylor heritage for example, the introduction and development of Toyota Systems and Total Productive Maintenance (or TPM which is key in the emerging of new technologies to be complementary with most prevailing TQC or Company-wide QC).

I think both productivity and quality enhancement are the very purpose of human values (see, R. Ackoff , 1981, for the Greek heritage of pursuing truth, plenty, the good and beauty and also the work by W. E. Deming, 1982). It may be easier for practitioners to quantify and improve productivity first, so that the subject dominated most studies in industries and economics. On the other hand, the study of quality or the economic of mass production did start from the stability of product quality characteristics (W. A. Shewhart,, 19 ). Unfortunately, the popular impression of the introduction of mass production systems is somehow deterioration of product quality (D. J. Boorstin, 1973 )and some incidents of the quality of bombs in the war time from USA, see E. E. Nishibori, 19).

But I think the fair viewpoints from Peter Drucker( 1973 and 1976) and J. M. Juran (1973, 1995)are important for us to have a more balanced view of quality and productivity.. Juran thinks the Taylor system was a major contributor to making the USA the world leader in productivity while had negative consequences in human relationship and centralization of inspectors.( 1995). Drucker's main point is the coming rediscovery of Scientific Management and the real importance of Taylorism in the study of knowledge workers and their works. To some extent, this is also applied to the rediscovery to Demingism and Mary Follett.


Peter F. Drucker (1976) " The Coming rediscovery of Scientific Management," The Conference Board Record

Peter F. Drucker (1973) * Management : Mission, Responsibility and Practice*

Peter F. Drucker & Isao Nakauchi (1997) *Drucker on Asia"

Daniel J. Boorstin (1973) " The Americans" Random House

K. T. Delavigne and J. D. Robertson, 1994) " Deming's Profound Changes" PTR, PH

Russell L. Ackoff(1981) "Creating The Corporate Future" John Wiley & Sons

Umesao Tadao (1967) " An Ecological Viewpoint of Civilizations" (Japanese and Chinese Translation, 1988)

H. A. Simon(1996, 4th Edition) "Administrative Behavior " The Free Press

J. M. Juran( 1995) " A History of Managing for Quality" ASQC Quality Press.

J. M. Juran( 1973)" The Taylor System and Quality Control" Quality Progress, May through December.

E. E. Nishibori,(1984) "Introduction to Quality Control" Chinese translation Chung-Shin Consulting Inc.

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