In my last blog, The Placebo effect – Project Management, we defined the role of project managers, so why is that important you may ask? It is important to have a good definition in other to have the right foundation to build the framework for our discussion on the project management profession. How does a project manager boost productivity, deliver high-quality and use the fewer overhead resource to achieve project success? To start let’s look back to the modern beginning of project management by discussing a controversial figure, Frederick Taylor (1856-1915). In my opinion, Frederick Taylor is the true father of modern project management, not Henry Gantt (1861-1919). My assertion stems from the fact that as an associate of Frederick Taylor, Henry Gantt’s Chart was heavily influenced by Frederick Taylor’s scientific management principle. Historians would argue on whether Frederick Taylor was an overall positive influencer of management, but that is not the purpose of this discussion. For this topic of discussion, I believe Frederick Taylor’s development of the scientific management theory had a significant positive impact on project management. Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theory goals were to create a standardized task, efficiencies, and productivity by studying work processes closely. To achieve this goal Frederick Taylor did three major things 1) applied science to working, studying task carefully systematically at the micro level to speed up work. 2) divided work processes into small, simple and separate steps, then assigning each step to different individuals and 3) developed a standard i.e. the one best way to do a job by using Time and Motion studies (the fewest amount of time to complete a specific task). A significant flaw in Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theory (Taylorism) is his belief in hierarchy, believing that managers are the only ones capable of designing work process and enforce how work should be performed i.e. an employee’s only role is to follow directions almost like machines. Frederick Taylor’s lack of understanding of the significant value of cultivating cross-pollination of ideas between managers and employees is a flaw that should not be overlooked. Despite that flaw, Frederick Taylor’s contribution was still very important because by using “Time and Motion studies” (a key element of Taylorism), Henry Ford was able to significantly reduce car production duration from 12 hours to 93 minutes and recently Boeing was able to triple production rate. The “Time and Motion” approach created significant savings for both companies. The consensus is that Taylorism boosted productivity by 200% to 400% with fewer people while delivering consistent quality. So why is this information important to Project Managers? It is important because it provides a clear roadmap on how the project management profession can deliver value and be evaluated for performance. In short, project managers must focus on incorporating Frederick Taylor’s theory while including the need for cross-pollination of ideas of all stakeholders within the confines of a project or program.

For more on Taylorism, please watch