Ed Driscoll

Toto, We're Not In Taylorite America Anymore

On his spiffy new Weblog, Michael Barone compares and contrasts the hiring practices of Wal-Mart and General Motors. He finds Wal-Mart coming out ahead because it’s not stuck in a 1930s-era labor model:

[Back in the 1930s] management micromanaged workers according to the work-study principles of Frederick W. Taylor, who saw workers as mechanical cogs who should have zero initiative and instead should perform their jobs in the way that time-study experts determined was most efficient. (On Taylor, see the excellent biography by Robert Kanigel, The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency.) Workers and union representatives argued, plausibly, that these experts were demanding too much work per hour or minute. The workers, union leaders argued, again plausibly, needed someone to represent their interests against the demands of the efficiency experts.

But as Wal-Mart executives might argue, Toto, we’re not in Taylorite America anymore. Wal-Mart certainly isn’t. Wal-Mart does a superb job of keeping track of inventory and sales and putting on its shelves products consumers want. But it also encourages employees to go out of their way to help customers