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[Xmca-l] Re: Unit of analysis RE: experience
Couldn't resist sharing an exchange (below) that F. W. Taylor supposedly
had with one of his workers (as recounted by Taylor in an article titled
"Scientific Management" - the worker suspected to be behind this story is
actually named Henry Noll, but "Schmidt" is the pseudonym given to him by
Taylor so that he can take some liberties with the character - adjusting
"Schmidt's" accent down while adjusting his salary up for the purposes of
the story - $1.60 is what Noll was the higher salary that Noll was given
vs. $1.85 in the story). I've pasted it below.
But more than that, I wonder if we could imagine a scientific management
that wouldn't be the bain of workers' existence? This is what Taylor and
many others thought that they were doing. Yes, we can argue about Taylor's
intentions, but in the abstract (and notwithstanding the evidence to the
contrary below), getting more labor out of the same amount of labor time
SHOULD be of benefit to all. In an ideally communistic system, it would be.
Perhaps "scientific management" then is an entirely different thing when
considered within the context of capitalism as compared to what it is when
considered within a (ideal?) communistic system.
Is that fair?
What did Taylor say to Schmidt to get him to increase his output 400% with
only a 60% pay increase
[this is taken directly from F. W. Taylor’s article on “The Principles of
Scientific Management”. Note the “accent” is Schmidt’s accent - according
to Taylor. Also note that Taylor is the other speaker]
“Schmidt, are you a high-priced man?”
“Vell, I don’t know vat you mean.”
“Oh yes, you do. What I want to know is whether you are a
high-priced man or not.”
“Vell, I don’t know vat you mean.”
“Oh, come now, you answer my questions. What I want to
find out is whether you are a high-priced man or one of these
cheap fellows here. What I want to find out is whether you want to earn
$1.85 a day or whether you are satisfied with $1.15, just the same as all
those cheap fellows are
“Did I vant $1.85 a day? Vas dot a high-priced man? Vell, yes, I vas a
“Oh, you’re aggravating me. Of course you want $1.85 a day every one
wants it! You know perfectly well that that has very little to do with
your being a high-priced man. For goodness’ sake answer my questions, and
don’t waste any more of my time. Now come over here. You see that pile of
“You see that car?”
“Well, if you are a high-priced man, you will load that pig iron on that
car tomorrow for $1.85. Now do wake up and answer my question. Tell me
whether you are a high-priced man or not.”
“Vell did I got $1.85 for loading dot pig iron on dot car to-morrow?”
“Yes, of course you do, and you get $1.85 for loading a pile like that
every day right through the year. That is what a
high-priced man does, and you know it just as well as I do.”
“Vell, dot’s all right. I could load dot pig iron on the car to-morrow for
$1.85, and I get it every day, don’t I?”
“Certainly you do certainly you do.”
“Vell, den, I vas a high-priced man.”
“Now, hold on, hold on. You know just as well as I do that a high-priced
man has to do exactly as he’s told from morning till night. You have seen
this man here before, haven’t you?”
“No, I never saw him.”
“Well, if you are a high-priced man, you will do exactly as this man tells
you to-morrow, from morning till night. When he tells you to pick up a pig
and walk, you pick it up and you walk, and when he tells you to sit down
and rest, you sit down. You do that right straight through the day. And
what’s more, no back talk. Now a high-priced man does just what he’s told
to do, and no back talk. Do you understand that? When this man tells you to
walk, you walk; when he tells you to sit down, you sit down, and you don’t
talk back at him. Now you come on to work here to-morrow morning and
I’ll know before night whether you are really a high-priced man or not.”
and Taylor’s comments:
"This seems to be rather rough talk. And indeed it would be if applied to
an educated mechanic, or even an intelligent laborer. With a man of the
mentally sluggish type of Schmidt it is appropriate and not unkind, since
it is effective in fixing his attention on the high wages which he wants
and away from
what, if it were called to his attention, he probably would consider
impossibly hard work… ."
Here is a link to the full text:
On Fri, Jul 4, 2014 at 11:54 AM, Lubomir Savov Popov <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Hello everyone,
> I proposed expert management, envisaging the alternative attempts by the
> the Moscow Methodological Circle (MMC) and the movement for evidence-based
> practice. Although these are very different approaches, they are based on
> the belief that science (as a social institution, not just Positivism) can
> contribute to more efficient and productive problem solving.
> What about activity theory as a new way to organize? A new way to manage?
> One of the big contributions of activity theory can happen in that field.
> The Moscow Methodological Circle (MMC) developed a new type of activity
> theorizing that can be used as a methodological tool for improving
> activities and their organization. The work of MMC is very different from
> the tradition of mainstream Soviet psychologists, including LSV, Luria,
> Lentiev, Rubinshtein, although they have started with their ideas. In most
> cases, MMC theorists come from different disciplines but share a
> philosophical background and affiliations. This makes them very different
> from psychologists and psychology trained scholars. The MMC were dissidents
> in science and in politics. While they were revolutionary in science, they
> were not vocal at all on the political arena. They proposed the idea of
> expert government and management. Of course, this idea was threatening to
> the political establishment in the Soviet Union because they were managing
> by objectives, enslaving experts with the help of the commissar institution
> in factories, universities, and all spheres of life. The MMC tried to live
> by proposing new social technologies. They were among the first to propose
> the idea of social design and the role of activity theory in that realm.
> The paradox was that although they were strongly against the establishment,
> they were developing tools for this establishment. This is the tragedy of
> the experts who in order to work and grow professionally, have to serve
> politicians whom they despise.
> Best wishes,
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com [mailto:
> firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Helena Worthen
> Sent: Friday, July 04, 2014 12:19 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Unit of analysis RE: experience
> Hi -
> I think we're talking about the same thing. Only "scientific management"
> is how " a knowledge pool separate from the actual activity of problem
> solving...is then used to control those very problem solvers" in the
> It was the creation of Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) -- lots about
> him on wikipedia. He was a mechanical engineer who worked in the steel
> industry in Pennsylvania (steel = railroads at that time) and did
> observations of workers, abstracted their motions, designed "perfect"
> motions, then taught those "perfect" motions to other workers. This was the
> basis for profound re-design of workplaces. He is famous for saying, "The
> worker's brain in on the boss's shoulders." His technique made it possible
> to chop craft work (which required many years of experience and practice)
> into tiny patterned snips which would be then taught to a less experienced
> -- and less expensive -- worker.
> We say that certain jobs have been "taylorized" -- meaning that what was
> originally (or what could have been) a job that combined both finger or
> muscle skills with complex judgment becomes cut up into tiny bits and the
> judgment is left to the management. Organizational implications: the
> assembly line becomes possible, middle management comes into existence to
> manage the taylorized workers.
> You can see taylorization in education as teachers are required to "teach
> to the test." And in many other workplaces, too.
> Helena Worthen
> On Jul 4, 2014, at 11:27 AM, Glassman, Michael wrote:
> > Hi Helena,
> > I'm not familiar with scientific management. If you mean Argyris'
> action science than the answer would be yes. That is because Action
> Science is based on Lewin's Action Research, which in turn was strongly
> influenced by Dewey (not through Lewin but other members of the originating
> > Otherwise you'll have to explain to me what scientific management is.
> > Michael
> > ________________________________________
> > From: email@example.com [firstname.lastname@example.org]
> on behalf of Helena Worthen [email@example.com]
> > Sent: Friday, July 04, 2014 11:16 AM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Unit of analysis RE: experience
> > Michael --
> > Isn't this the basic idea behind Scientific Management?
> > Helena
> > Helena Worthen
> > firstname.lastname@example.org
> > On Jul 4, 2014, at 11:10 AM, Glassman, Michael wrote:
> >> Hi Lubomir,
> >> My feeling right now is that Dewey might disagree with your argument.
> It's a pretty compelling argument and I probably cannot do it justice.
> Dewey thinks that one of the mistakes we have made in the progress of
> human society is in creating a knowledge base that is in some way separate
> from what people are actually doing to solve problems. This create an
> elite population of people who have knowledge, based on what other people
> do, and then use that knowledge as a form of control. This is seems
> happened first in religion and then in academics. The intellectual elites
> (Dewey doesn't use that word and I wish I could come up with a better one
> right now) develop a knowledge pool separate from the actual activity of
> problem solving that is then used to control those very problem solvers.
> >> It's a pretty radical idea (I have been surprised how radical a book
> Experience and Nature actually is, but also how prescient it is).
> >> Michael
> >> ________________________________________
> >> From: email@example.com [firstname.lastname@example.org]
> on behalf of Lubomir Savov Popov [email@example.com]
> >> Sent: Friday, July 04, 2014 11:04 AM
> >> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; firstname.lastname@example.org
> >> Subject: [Xmca-l] Unit of analysis RE: experience
> >> Hello every one,
> >> The unit of analysis is conceptualized in relation to the nature of
> phenomenon, the paradigm selected, and the objectives of the project, to
> name just a few. There is no problem in conceptualizing experience as an
> unit of analysis. The questions are: in what projects, regarding which
> situations, etc. We can conceptualize alternative units of analysis
> regarding one project. The issue is which of them will be more heuristic or
> more productive regarding our project. There are always competing
> conceptualizations, coming from different paradigmatic traditions or ways
> to look at the phenonon that is studied. We have to make a choice based on
> our epistemological and methodological expertese.
> >> Just a few thoughts,
> >> Lubomir
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602