Scientific Management

The History of Modern Organizations — PART II.

Patrick Heller
8 min readJun 30, 2023

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People have been working since the dawn of our time. Whether it was hunting or gathering, farming or nursing, warring, or leading, work has always been there. But, work has changed over time. With the discovery of fire, the creation of tools, and the ever-increasing complexities of our human societies, labor has evolved for most humans.

Understanding the Why

If we would focus solely on today’s modern workplace — the one you are probably familiar with — we would be missing out on why things came to be as they currently are. To better understand the current, it definitely helps to understand the past. Thus, a brief dive into history, similar to the previous articles about psychology, will aid in comprehending psychological insights into the way things happen in your work environment today.

Let me be frank about the scope of this all-too-brief overview of the history of work. No doubt I will be skipping numerous significant influential persons as well as events, but these articles are not intended as an all-encompassing encyclopedia of sorts. I will touch on topics that I see as highly influential still to this day, and therefore important to understand.

Industrial Revolutions

From the dusk of the East India Companies, we see the dawn of the First Industrial Revolution, which started around 1760 in Britain. During this period, there was a huge transition from manual to machine production methods, aided by the use of steam and water power. This changed almost every aspect of the way people worked and lived in those days.

The Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technical Revolution, started around 1870. While the First Revolution heralded concepts like interchangeable parts and mass production, the Second Revolution was characterized by the increased production of railroads, large-scale iron and steel production, the widespread use of machinery in manufacturing, increased use of steam power, the widespread use of the telegraph, use of petroleum and the beginning of electrification. It was also the period during which modern organizational methods for operating large-scale businesses came into use.

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