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Harrington Emerson – The Twelve Principles of Efficiency

Harrington Emerson’s earlier book “Efficiency as a Basis for Operation and Wages” appeared originally in 1908, and a third edition, revised and enlarged, is being reissued almost in parallel with this second and later work on “The Twelve Principles of Efficiency.” The relations between the first and second presentations of the subject thus become clear. The former sets forth a new view of the whole industrial problem and of the relations and proportions of the factors entering into it. It is the declaration of a philosophy. This latter work, stronger even than its predecessor, and more specific in statement, reduces the doctrine of efficiency to a code upon which to base rules of practice.

In the volume now published, the author defines twelve principles by which efficiency is determined. Five of these concern relations between men or, in the industrial problem, specifically between employer and employee. Seven of them concern methods or institutions and systems established in the manufacturing plant or in the operating and distributing company. These twelve principles are so definite, so constant, so true, that they may be used as gauges. Any industry, any establishment, any operation, may be tested thereby, and its inefficiency located and measured by the amount of its failure to conform to one or more of the twelve principles. Yet the twelve principles are not isolated and independent influences, but are interdependent and co-ordinated related to one another (in the author’s effective simile) as the stones of a dome. One or even several may be lacking; yet the structure, though weakened and imperfect, will stand.

From a wholly material, non-moral, and near-visioned point of view, indeed, the seven “practical” principles alone would be sufficient for the achievement of success. Even an evil purpose can be most effectively accomplished by their observance. When, however, these are interlocked with the five “altruistic” principles, purposes, as well as measures, are turned from lower temporary desires to the larger eternal desirabilities. The doctrines of efficiency therefore define something infinitely greater than a system of management. They set forth a morality, and provide practicable measures for its attainment. The method of treatment is simple and logical. An introductory chapter lays down the premise that the prime institutions for the attainment of efficiency are not men, materials, money, machines, methods, but theories of organization and principles, and that inefficiency prevails because the type of organization in general use does not lend itself to the application of efficiency principles. The second chapter discusses the type of organization under which efficiency principles can be successfully applied. The twelve following chapters take up each one a single principle:

1. Ideals;
2. Common-Sense and Judgment;
3. Competent Counsel;
4. Discipline;
5. The Fair Deal;
6. Reliable, Immediate and Accurate Records;
7. Planning and Despatching; 8. Standards and Schedules;
9. Standardized Conditions;
10. Standardized Operations;
11. Written Standard-Practice Instructions;
12. Efficiency Reward.

Two concluding chapters show how the principles are applied as a means of diagnosis of industrial conditions and correction of existing inefficiencies.”


Harrington Emerson
The Twelve Principles of Efficiency

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