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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Aug 27, 2021

This week, Dan Neumann is joined by two Agile colleagues, Sam Falco and M.C. Moore. In today’s episode, they are taking a little trip back in time to explore the impact Frederick Winslow Taylor had on modern work. Taylor has been called the father of Scientific Management and his thinking pervades the way teams work today.


In this episode, the book The Principles of Scientific Management and its principles are explored in comparison to the Agile modern ways. You will hear about effectiveness, interactions, trust, productivity, creativity, and accountability, among other valuable concepts that today are seen and approached in significantly different manners as a result of the evolution and progress in this field.


Key Takeaways

  • The Principles of Scientific Management was written by Frederick Winslow Taylor and published in 1911
    • Taylor had a special disdain for working people that showed in his writings.
    • How is Taylorism showing up today in modern management?
      •  Overemphasizing Agile metrics
      • The use of certain nomenclature
      • Work smarter and harder.
      • Productivity depends on the company to manage not the people who are actually doing the work.
  • What motivates people?
    • The ability to be autonomous about the work
    • To have mastery and purpose
    • Give people the goal and let them figure out the “how.”
    • Trust in workers is crucial and they need to be motivated by their managers; if they receive fulfilling work to do they will have the way to get it done
  • Agility vs. Taylorism
    • Agile considers interactions more important than processes and tools, while in Taylorism the system is all that matters and must be first.
    • M.C. More shares a real Agile example where an individual was very motivated to grow and expand in a company that didn’t offer an opportunity for that at that point, so instead of letting him leave, the organization created a new space for that worker to thrive.
    • Decentralizing decision-making down to the level of the Agile Team is a break away from Scientific Management.
    • Taylorism wants to separate people from decision-making as much as possible, exactly the opposite of what Agile teams aim for.
    • Companies are supposed to attack the system when it is broken, not to try to manage the individuals.
    • It is really hard to be creative when you are being micromanaged.
    • Taylorism uses results for accountability while in an Agile team everyone is holding each other accountable for the work as one of the Agile principles says: Build projects around motivated individuals, give them the environment, support their needs, and trust them to get the job done.
  • How does an Agile Team manage innovation and new ideas?
    • The biggest challenge in knowledge work is that you are doing something that has never been done before
    • New good ideas should diffuse across the team; that does not mean everyone should be doing the same but they should try them and see if they make sense with each team’s local context.


Mentioned in this Episode:

The Principles of Scientific Management, by Frederick Winslow Taylor

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink

Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them, by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini

Project Gutenberg: Books by Frederick Winslow Taylor


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