Philosophers, MBA Graduates and Taylorism

My point of view on

The Management Myth by Stewart

About the Author

Matthew Stewart has a doctoral degree in philosophy and had a successful career “telling managers of large corporations things that they arguably should have known already. His intent = communicate his view of having “philosophers reclaim their rightful place as the educators of management.”


Management consulting is lucrative. But Stewart questioned the basis of founding principles due to his Harvard MBA colleagues problem solving in cookie cutter ways and his hunch was right.

A Quick Timeline

  • 1899: Case Study of # of pig iron bars that can be loaded into a railcar (Taylor)

  • 1901: Bethlehem fired Taylor and threw out his various systems

  • 1908: Harvard opened the 1st grad school to offer a master’s degree in business.

  • first-year curriculum based on Taylor’s scientific management

  • 1911: Frederick Taylor published the book, “The Principles of Scientific Management”

Why there’s little science to it

  • “Taylor produced propositions that were falsifiable—and, indeed, were often falsified”

  • Taylor had to testify in front of Congress to explain his use of rounding and estimates when coming up with figures for productivity.

Who found out? Carl Barth, “one of Taylor’s devotees, who took over the work at Bethlehem Steel, found Taylor’s data to be unusable.”

Why does it exist:

“Taylorism and its modern variants are often just a way of putting labor in its place”

A new Guru named Mayo

A researcher named Homer Hibarger used Taylor’s “plums” to incentivize his research group and was still debunked at the results. Mayo from Australia pushed aside the results of productivity and electricity and said women going through an experiment together builds bonds strong enough to commit to a shared mission.

The Battle of MBA vs Philosophy

  • MBA: Problem-Solving "In physical reality—how many tons can a worker lift?" (Taylor)

  • Philosophers: "How much of a worker’s sense of identity and well-being does a business have a right to harness for its purposes? " (Mayo)

A final quote from the jaded consultant that sums it all:

“first it’s efficiency, then quality, next it’s customer satisfaction, then supplier satisfaction, then self-satisfaction, and finally, at some point, it’s efficiency all over again” - Matthew Stweart

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