Frederick Winslow Taylor is known as the pioneer of scientific management. Scientific management is a theory of management that analyzes and synthesizes workflows. Its main objective is improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management.

In the year 1900, Taylor recreated a small portion of his Pennsylvania steel factory at the Paris Exposition Universelle. He wanted to show off his genius and innovation. He did. And he inspired people to reimagine what was possible in the world of industrial manufacturing.

At the time, steel cutting machines could cut nine feet of steel per minute, but after years of meticulous measurements and adjustments, Taylor made a machine that could cut fifty feet per minute! People were amazed. They likened his work to that of Edison’s light bulb and long lines formed around his tent to see his “magic.”

Taylor was a very smart man. He loved experimentation and measurement. He spent years timing every aspect of his workflow in hopes of making it the most efficient that anyone had ever seen. And he did. As General Stanley McCrystal noted, “Taylor made more, faster, with less.”

As smart as he was, Taylor was not perfect. His major flaw? He got so concerned with numbers and efficiency that he forgot how important people are. He became so concerned with the science of his work, the process, that it drove him to resent the very people that were working with him. He called them idiots and “mentally sluggish.” Just look at how he talks about his laborers in his book, The Principles of Scientific Management:

[The laborer] shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type … Therefore the workman who is best suited to handling pig iron is unable to understand the real science of doing this class of work. He is so stupid that the word ‘percentage’ has no meaning to him, and he must consequently be trained by a man more intelligent than himself into the habit of working in accordance with the laws of this science before he can be successful…

So stupid. Like an ox. Unable to understand. Must be trained by a man more intelligent than himself.

Is this somebody that you would want to work with?! I don’t think so.

As artists and entrepreneurs we have to make sure that we never get so concerned with the “science” of our work that we forgot about the most important thing: the people. We can do nothing and we can be nothing without others. We can’t care more about our work than we do about the people we work with or the people who work for us.

The most successful people I know are the ones who are good at what they do–they are efficient and effective–but are also loved by those around them. What good is it to build a successful business and yet end up alone? What good is it to be considered an innovator but also be disliked? For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

While talking with a friend who tours with a Grammy-winning artist, I asked how they determine who goes on tour with them in the band. I’ll never forget his answer, “It’s all about the person. The music is easy; anyone can play this pop stuff. What you have to think is, ‘Do I want to spend every waking moment with this person for weeks?'”

The lesson? It will be much easier to find work if people want to work with you! If we treat people right, we network and make connections that lead us to more opportunity. If we treat people bad, our phone stops ringing.

Over a hundred years after Taylor gained his stardom, Taylor is still considered a genius innovator, however, the nasty words he spoke about laborers have never been forgotten.

No matter what we do or how we do it, we cannot forgot the most important thing: the people around us.

Never get so good at cutting steel that you start to cut ties.

You need people.

Treat them right.


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Inspiration and Encouragement for Artists and Entrepreneurs