From The New Ruthless Economy, by Simon Head, loc 630-647. Taylor’s experience of industrial resistance to his methods led him to replace this participatory aspect with an elaborate system of inspection and control:
But perhaps the most important portant contribution of Japanese manufacturers to the theory and practice tice of scientific management has been to develop what can be called its participatory side. Taylor himself envisaged that workers themselves could suggest ways of adding to the speed and efficiency of their routines, tines, provided that management always had the final say in deciding whether an employee’s suggestion was acceptable and exactly how the design and timing of tasks should then be altered. In the The Principles of Scientific Management Taylor wrote:
Every encouragement … should be given him [the worker] to suggest improvements, both in methods and in implements. And whenever a workman proposes an improvement, it should be the policy of the management to make a careful analysis of the new method, and if necessary essary conduct a series of experiments to determine accurately the relative tive merit of the new suggestion and of the old standards. And whenever the new method is found to be markedly superior to the old, it should be adopted as the standard for the whole establishment. The workman should be given the full credit for the improvement, and should be paid a cash payment as a reward for his ingenuity.’
In Taylor’s lifetime the fierce resistance of the skilled machinist to scientific entific management so poisoned Taylor’s own view of the workforce that this participatory aspect of his doctrine was largely ignored by Taylor lor and his disciples. Their view was that improvements to the “one best way” were decided by management and then had to be imposed on a reluctant workforce: Thus Taylor’s elaborate burueacracy of planners and supervisors. It has been left to modern Japanese corporations such as a Toyota and Nissan to develop the participatory side of scientific management. To best understand how participatory Taylorism works at a company like Nissan, one must first describe the corporation’s unending ending campaign to improve productivity by speeding up the pace of operations.
But as Head notes, there’s a paradox here. Under the Japanese model, workers make suggestions which contribute to the acceleration of their own work: why voluntarily make your own job harder? In part this reflects the lack of institutional structures through which the demands of participatory Taylorism could be resisted. From loc 665:
It was puzzling to me why employees at a place like Nissan should willingly collaborate in speeding up their work routines, particularly since it was and is company policy not to reward workers who come forward ward with suggestions that are acted upon. It was clear that employees on the line were already working under great pressure. At the time I visited ited the Nissan plant there was a story going around about a visiting delegation of managers and trade unionists from BMW’s Munich base. After being shown the line, the visiting Germans were asked what they thought. After an awkward silence, one of the unionists remarked “Well, some of our people are over fifty.” It was indeed hard to see how anyone much over forty, let alone fifty, could long survive the pace at Nissan. So why should Nissan employees be thinking of ways to make the line even faster?
One obvious explanation was that there has been no strong union at Nissan to place checks on management’s drive for “speed-up.” In auto assembly plants, resistance to speed up has been the a chief task of unions since the 1930s. It was the cause of the UAW’s first great strikes against Ford and GM in the 1930s and a leading cause of the UAW’s strikes against GM in the winter of 1997-1998. But the “big three” Japanese autornakers-Toyota, Honda, and Nissan-have kept the UAW out of their U.S. plants, and Toyota and Honda have kept their British-based European plants union-free. At its Sunderland plant, Nissan san deals with a weak union, the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical trical Union (AEEU), once Margaret Thatcher’s favorite union. Representing about a third of the shop floor workforce, the AEEU at Nissan acts much like a company union that has given management carte blanche to run the plant as it sees fit.
However Head offers a further explanation in terms of the time horizons of the worker suggesting improvements, from loc 684:
For the worker, therefore, this participatory Taylorism involves a trade-off between tween the convenience of doing the job in a simpler, less burdensome way, and the inconvenience with speed up, of also having to do the job just a little bit faster. From the perspective of the assembly line, this saving ing of effort through kaizan can easily loom larger than the price to be paid with the seconds, or fractions of seconds, of speed up. However, over time these seconds and fractions of seconds can pile up.