Thanks for visiting. A key issue I address in my research is how productivity became the sole index of workplace success. To focus on this, my Imperial College PhD research examines work efficiency and incentive methods in industrial Britain from 1900-50. This was not only an important crucible for the forging of modern work methods but also offers the only adequate historical parallel with the tumultuous events of 2008 to date.
Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times (1934)
Many people will be familiar with the ideas underpinning work productivity through such concepts as scientific management, mass production, management consultancy, and Taylorism. I particularly examine such work incentivisation methods as the time and motion study, payment by results, functionalised management, and the human factor. More recent models of relevance are just in time, lean production, and agile manufacturing.
Of great interest to me are the utopian socio-economic and political models which contemporaries believed could be obtained by increasing work efficiency. Directly relevant contemporary novels and movies include Yevgeny Yamyatin's We (1921), À Nous La Liberté (1931), Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1934), and Cheaper By The Dozen (1950).
In particular, I am researching the Bedaux system, which, in easily outstripping the Ford assembly line, was the most successful industrial productivity system of the first half of the twentieth century. Described by one historian as 'one of history's most spectacular confidence tricks', Bedaux was used by such industrial giants as ICI, BP (then APOC), DuPont, Dow Chemicals, FIAT, and Kodak. I have also conducted much original research into the life, work, and murky death of its inventor, Charles E. Bedaux.
I am currently exploring six groups of individuals who frequently addressed these work optimisation methods:
i) Scientific managers explored the Bedaux system and industrial psychology, and conducted much significant research into these methods.
ii) Business leaders, particularly conservatives, frequently discussed the Bedaux system, scientific management and related work efficiency methods.
iii) Professional bodies engaged in such professions as production engineering, works accountancy, industrial administration, and personnel management.
iv) Liberal scientific organisations which researched industrial psychology, work processes, and management techniques.
v) Socialist societies such as the Fabian Society and unions like the ASE/AEU and TGWU, who engaged with worker productivity and management in interesting ways.
vi) The Communist Party of Great Britain and its RILU-affiliated red unions, which vigorously opposed the Bedaux system.