Categories: Agile, Christine Li, Dave Prior, drunken pm radio, drunkenpm, Frederick Taylor, Principles of Scientific Management, project management, reluctant agilist, Scientific Management, Spark Plug Agility, SparkPlug Agility, Taylorism, Waterfall
In this episode, I am joined by a very special guest, Christine Li, for a conversation I have been waiting to record for quite a while now.
I am closing in on 30 years of work in Project Management and for most of that time, I, like many of you, have been talking smack about Frederick Taylor. My opinions were based on the things I learned from others along the way and were (obviously) deeply informed by moving from traditional PM over to Agile. As far as I was concerned, this guy was the birth of work misery.
But over the past few years, I’ve started to develop this weird compulsion to stick up for the good bits that came out of his work. I mean, literally, no one working in project management or agile would have a job without this guy. You can also make an argument that without him the United States never would have made it through WWII.
Even though I was willing to have Taylor’s back in an argument, there was one thing missing…
I had never actually read his work.
CUE ALL THE PM SHAME!
So I did. I read The Principles of Scientific Management. And, to my shock, not only was it easy to read, but it was fun to read how this guy figured out the things he figured out. Yes, there are a few critical issues with his approach (and they are big issues), but there is a TON of good stuff in there that we all ignore because he’s such an easy target.
(And I really want to go back in time and get hired as SPEED BOSS)
After reading it, I was at a lunch and happened to mention my newfound Taylor Fanboy-ness and Christine Li showed up like Yoda, deep with the PM history geek. She took me to school and that is where this conversation starts.
My hope is that even if you think Frederick Taylor is the Sauron of Project Management, you’ll give this a listen. Maybe it will challenge your understanding of him and his work. Maybe it will (I hope) entice you to read his work. And even if you’ve read his work and can see the good in it, the things Christine shares will level up your understanding as well.
I am very grateful to her for making time for this. It was a really fun conversation.
drunkenpmradio · In Defense of Frederick Taylor w Christine Li
For Further Reading
The Principles of Scientific Management by Frederick Taylor https://bit.ly/3H8XtPG
Scientific Management; a History and Criticism by Horace Drury https://bit.ly/3QFhEIr
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