THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION:

PROBLEMS and PERSPECTIVE

 

The industrial Revolution heralded a new age for civilization. The cultural rebirth had created new social, economic, and political conditions ripe for advances in science and technology.

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION IN GREAT BRITAIN

Industrial progess is always closely tied to advancements in science and technology. In the fifteenth century, Johannes Gutenberg (1400-1468) developed the first metallic movable type for a printing press and opened the door to an information revolution that continues today. The scientific revolution emphasized the spririt of observation and inquiry and established the foundation for the technological revolution that was to follow.

            Ever since humankind began to improve methods of tilling the soil, making weapons, and weaving cloth, there have been advancements in technology or the art and applied science of making and using tools and equipment. Technology has been evolving and advancing for thousands of years, but a revolution came in late-eighteenth-century England that market the beginning of an advance in technology more rapid than ever before. Deane, in pinpointing the emergence of the industrial revolution, illustrated the difference between preindustrialized and industrialized socities.

THE STEAM ENGINE

The two primary methods of production, the domestic system and the craft guilds. In both, the scale of production was small, the market limited, and the work was labor, rather than capital, intensive. Great Britain’s larger industry of this time was textile. John Kay began the mechanization of weaving with his flying shuttle in 1733; in 1765, James Hargreaves changed the position of the spinning wheel from vertical to horizontal, stacked the wheels on top of one another, and wove eight threads at once by turning them all with one pulley and belt.

            Despite these mechanical improvement, the heart of the Industrial Revolution was really the steam engine. In 1776, Watt’s first engine was sold to John Wilkinson for use in his ironworks. To set a price, an agreement was made that the steam engine would be rated at the equivalent of how many horses could do the same amount of work; hence the derivation of the word horse power for mechanical engines.

            Until 1782, however, Watt’s engines were used only to pump water and blow air for blast furnaces to smelt metals. The first cybernetic control device operated on a centrifugal principle:as the engine sped up, arms on a rotating shaft rose and the steam intake vents closed, reducing power intake; as the engine slowed, the arms dropped, allowing more power.

            The historian Arnold Toynbee noted that two men, Adam Smith and James Watt, were the most responsible for destroying the old Britain, building a new one, and lauching the world toward industrialization. The factory system proceed irregularly in various industries, but the new age industrialization was evident. A new power source was perfected, a greater capital intensity was required, the need for directing and coordinating efforts was paramount, and the fledgling factory system toddled forth to create an abundance such as the world had never seen.

MANAGEMENT: THE FOURTH FACTOR OF PRODUCTION

Before the Industrial Revolution, economic theory focused on two factors of production, land and labor, and recognized capital as an input factor only as Church bonds loosened. Cantillon’s Essay influenced the idea of Francois Quesnay, leader of the Physiocrats, who recognized a farmer-enterpreneur, but held that manufacturing and commerce were sterile and unable to produce a surplus. Writing after Adam Smith, Jean Baptise Say (1767-1832) provided a more definitive explanation of the entrepreneurial role.

            Say noted that some entrepreneurs owned the undertaking but more frequently than not they owned only a share, having borrowed from others or having formed a partnership. As the entrepreneurship expanded the organization and took on an increasing number of lower-level managers, many problems were to arise in the process of delegation.

MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS IN THE EARLY FACTORY

The emerging factory system posed management problems different from those ever encountered before. The industrial revolution spawned a number of industries, and the early 1800s were characterized by the growth of these firms in an increasingly competitive. The result was a dual line of advance for the factory system: on the one hand, technology made a larger size imperative; on the other hand, the enlargement of operations created a myriad of managerial problems.

THE LABOR PROBLEM

Once an entrepreneur decided to embark on a venture, capital had to.  be raised to buy the power source, machinery, buildings, tools, and so forth. Broadly conceived, the labor problem had three aspects: recruitment, training, and motivation. The transition from the farm to the factory was eased for some workers, however by the prospects of a steadier job and wage incentives. This demonstrated a “sensitivity of labor to wage incentives,”as the workers now had the opportunity to improve theor standard of life. Of course, not all workers responded to the cash stimulus, preferring their agrarian or craft pursuits.

            Particularly vexing to employees, however, was the shortage of skilled labor. Some skilled labor did exist in small, scattered guilds and workshops, but these workers were more resistant to factory life. In brief, it was difficult to recruit a workforce that had the necessary skills. Labor mobility was enhanced by wage incentives, but traditions bound some to their trades and others to their agrarian life.

TRAINING

The second major problem was that of training. One the personnel were recruited, they had to be taught the new skills of an industrial life. The workers, accustomed to individualizing their work, resisted the standardization of parts, methods, and tools required by the interchangeable-parts method of production. The haphazard acquisition of knowledge from coworkers or inept supervisors, the lack of standard methods of work, and worker resistance to new methods posed serious problems for efficient factory operation.

DISCIPLINE AND MOTIVATION

The third problem, and by no means the least considerable, was that of discipline and motivation. Accustomed to the craft traditions of independence and the agrarian more of self-suffeciency, workers had to develop habits of industry,such as punctuality, regular attendance, the acceptance of a new regime of supervision, and the mechanical pacing of work effort. Machine smashing, although sporadic, was another disciplinary problem. The machine-breaking era packed in 1811-1812, and the movement gained a label for the machine smashers, the luddites, which originated because a youth in Luddites, which originated because a youth in Ludlam had smashed his knitting frame when his father had been too hars with him.

            The Luddite movement never had a united purpose nor a single leader. One Luddite, named Mellor, assassinated a mill owner, and he and his followers were hanged in York (1812). Public fears of further violence led to more hangings of Luddities, and the movement soon died for lack of leadership.

            Effort to motivate people fell into three categories and, on close inspection, appear to have changed only application, not theory, up to the present day. Positive inducements (the carrot), ngative sanctions (the stick), and efforts to build a new factory ethos became the methods for providing motivation and discipline.

            This pre-Industrial Revolution of view that the hungriest worker was the best worker justified keeping wages low to ensure an abundant, motivated workforce. With an appeal to moderation in application, the classical economics of Adam Smith disagreed with the tradition that the worker must be kept at the subsistence level and that the best worker was the hungriest one. The factory system continued the domestic system practice of payment based on output.

            The stick, negative sanctions, was a practice for which the early industrial system is frequently critized. Graduated fines were more common methods of discipline: one plant fined thirty cents for being absent Monday morning and seventy cents for singing. The third method of motivation was a general concept oriented toward creating a new factory ethos. The goal was to use religious morals and values to create the proper attitudes toward work.

            This pre-industrial Revolution point of view that the hungriest worker was the best worker justified keeping wages low to ensure an abundant, motivated workforce. With an appeal to moderation in application, the classical economics of Adam Smith disagreed with the tradition that the worker must be kept at the subsistence level and that the best worker was the hungriest one. The factory system continued the domestic system practice of payment based on output. The stick, negative samctions, was a practice for which the early industrial system is frequently critized.

            Graduated fines were more common methods of discipline: one plant fined workers thirty cents for being absent Monday morning and seventy cents for singing, swearing, or being drunk. The third method of motivation was a general concept oriented toward creating a new factory ethos. The goal was to use religious morals and values to create the proper attitudes toward work.

THE SEARCH FOR MANAGERIAL TALENT

In addition to the problems of finding, training, and motivating workers, there was also a problem finding qualified managers. On the job experience was relied on to furnish recruits with the necessary knowledge for morning.

            The transformation of great Britain from an agrarian to an industrial society meant that there was no managerial class,or,in modern terms, no group of professional managers. First, there was no common body of knowledge about how to manage. Second, there was no common code of management behavior, no universal set of expectations about how a manager should act.

            James Montgomery of Glasgow,Scotland, prepared what were most probably the first management text. Montgomery’s managerial advice was lagerly technical in nature; he advised how to discern quality and quantity of work, how to adjust and repair machinery, how to keep costs down, and how to “avoid unnecessary severity” in disciplining subordinates. Montgomery was so highly regarded as a manager that he was brought to the United States in 1836 to become superintendent of the York Mills in Saco, Maine.

            Early managerial salaries left much to be desired. The first-line supervisors, or overlookers, were paid little more than the workers. In history we find the seeds of incentives for nonowning salaried managers to tie their efforts more closely to the performance of the firm. In great Britain, but not in France or Italy, the status of the entrepreneur was rising, inducing many young people to seek their fortunes in commerce, or least to become a junior partner in a large firm. There were no business schools for recruiting and no systematic programs developing people into managers, and managerial skill was judged a localized, idiosyncratic matter.

MANAGEMENT FUNCTIONS IN THE EARLY FACTORY

In addition to the difficulties of staffing the factory, the task of acquiring competent submanagers, and the avoidance of the Luddities, early managers faced planning, organizing, and controlling problems similar to those faced by managers today. Factory technology demanded the planning of power sources and connections, the arrangement of machinery and space for a smooth flow through of work, and the reduction of confusion through bins and well-placed stores of material. Standard parts also eased repairs for the customer and reduced both the company’s and the customer’s inventory of spare parts, thus simplying the stock control system.

            In organizing, managers were limited to a large extent by the caliber of the subordinate managers. These small firms were typically family owned and managed, staff personnel were little more than clerks, and the firms were rarely fully integarated; for example, a cotton mill spun cloth, but relied on other firms or agents to finish the process and sell the merchandise.

            There is evidence in the textile industry that technology played an important role in how activities and relationships were structured in the emergencing factory system. As`new applications of steam power were made, another technology emerged as more efficient. The new strategy was to arrange the power-driven machines in a line sequence to flow toward completion of the product. Early batch production methods allowed more informality; however, the application of steam-driven led to a new factory technology, which required more formality in organizational design.

            In controlling performance, entrepreneurs faced numerous problems. Needing to delegate authority to cope with larger enterprises since they could no longer personally oversee all operations, they found that the shortage of trained and trusted submanagers posed problems of accountability. Through trial-and-error experience, early entrepreneurs attempted to cope with the problems of managing a factory and a workforce.

CULTURAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

The revolution was not only technological but cultural. The new machines, the new factories, and the new cities shook people’s tradition-based roots and demanded participation in a new era.

THE CONDITION OF THE WORKER

Economic earned its sobriquet, the dismal science, during the early nineteenth century. Thomas Malthus set out to disprove the optimism of Adam Smith and Liberal economics with his famous population argument. His was a hopeless view of people as no more than commodities in the marketplace of life, basically powerless to overcome their advantage.

            David Ricardo did not appear much more optimistic; his “iron law of wages” said that in the long run real wages would tend to stabilize at some minimum level tat would provide the worker with just enough means to subsist. Were people powerless and exploited to the poverty level by capitalism? The subsistence level for the masses was not new; they had spent the previous thousand or more years in essentially the same status but as agrarian peasants tied to a feudal landlord. The increasing use of incentive payment plans held out a promise of economic betterment for people; no longer tied to remitting a tithe to the feudal lord, workers could, through effort, enhance their own well-being.

            Working conditions and the need for time thrift have also been cited by critics as examples of how the agrarian golden life was lost.

CHILD AND FEMALE LABOR

Child and female labor were not inventions of the Industrial Revolution, The domestic system and agricultural life required the participation of all and were built on the family as the basic economic units. Industrialization created more jobs and better jobs; as workers’ wages and their real wages rose, child labor declined.

            Female workers were attracted to the factory for the wages to build a dowry, for the opportunity of finding a husband, or to supplement the family income. One observer, Mantoux, felt that the entrepreneurs were “tyrannical, hard, sometimes cruel, their passions and greeds were those of upstarts. Evidence concerning child and female labor is contradictory; most testimony hints at the moral degradation of factory life, but the hard statistics are lacking. As for legislation and government bodies, it was the Poor Law Authorities, a government office, that sent the paupers into the factories! The paupers were poor or deserted children legally in the care of the state; to relieve the state of the burdens of maintenance, they were sent to whomever would accept their care and feeding.

            To understand the critics of the factory system, it is necessary to consider the Victorian Value System that was in operation, There is evidence that factory system led to a general rise in the standard of living, to falling urban death rates and decreasing infant mortality. Great Britain of that period was characterized by a surging interest in rights and justice and in political reform; the populace had a critical temper of mind before which any economic system would have suffered censure. This criticism was directed at the entrepreneurs, not because they were to blame, but because they were a convenient symbol of change. The factory system inherited child and female labor, poverty, and long working hours from the past, it did not create them; the new age of industrial capitalism was creating through the factory a method for people to gain leverage for a better life.

source : The History of Management Thought (Daniel A. Wren)

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