More than a century ago, Frederick Taylor had a great idea that really changed the way we worked. His theory was all about production rationalization and increasing the rate of production by all means. With his Scientific Management theory, he managed to reinvent the production lines.
Although this theory has social limits we are all aware of (monotony of tasks and all that), the scientific management approach ruled our world for the past century. It has been revisited, reinvented and found many iterations over the last 100 years, but all in all, no one really ever called it into question… for a simple reason: it worked!
In short, Taylor’s theory always gets back to the same two fundamentals – increasing productivity by fragmenting. Fragmenting the tasks. Fragmenting the people.
Let’s take a moment to look at how the Taylorism principles apply to what we all do everyday.
Specialization – Fragmenting the tasks
Taylor’s theory is all about specialization: breaking down every job to its minuscule components. Each worker repeats the same task over and over again – the task he is best at. Smart isn’t it? Take people for what they are good at, and have them focus on that single skill – increase productivity and therefore efficiency.
Agencies and clients managed to perfectly translate Taylor’s principle of specialization. We now have a bunch of experts: R&D, marketing, sales, digital, retail, promotion experts and so on. All these experts focus on what they are good at. This is the story of the 20th century organizations. Siloization.
In that context, collaborative processes become more and more difficult to implement, making it extremely challenging to work together.
This becomes a real problem when we talk about Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we don’t need specialists. We do need experts, and we will always need experts, but these experts need to work together.
In Taylor’s model, team work was very limited and had to be as regulated as possible. Teams could be created only with management permission and couldn’t not exceed 4 people and a maximum of a week. Taylor’s approach of teamwork is in intrinsic opposition with what we are trying to achieve when talking about integration since IMC is all about collaborative processes and cooperation.
Individualization – Fragmenting the people
Taylor’s model was build to isolate workers and to prevent them from communicating the ones with the others. This is the idea that « Time is Money » and that workers shouldn’t spend time interacting since they don’t need to!
In Taylor’s model, each worker is rewarded individually, based on his own production rates – a smart way to make sure each single employee gives the best of himself, works more, and more, …and more.
This principle was also applied by agencies and clients. The history of the 20th century is all about incentives to the individuals. We reward people for what they do and give them incentives to get better at what they do, and only what they do.
We made sure each of the budgets were well separated. A trade budget. A marketing budget. An R&D budget… and so on.
Such a principle is exactly what we are trying to condemn when talking about IMC. Integration is all about collectivity. It is all about incentives for people to work together. It is all about breaking these individuality approaches. It is all about thinking as a whole, working as a whole and only collective incentives can allow to do so.
Taylor’s idea « Pay the worker, not the job » seems to be build in opposition to what IMC means. IMC is about rewarding for the Job (ultimately integration) and not the worker as an individual (e.g. the individual components).
What Taylorism has been driving to is no longer something we can live with and think with.
By applying the Scientific Management principles to what we do, we made things much more complicated than they should be. We made collaboration very difficult. We made it hard for people to follow the same unique goal, and we made media-neutrality hard (not to say impossible) to achieve.
It is time to change. It is time to stop doing what we have been doing for 100 years because we thought it was more efficient. In today’s world, it is not. Sorry Frederik!