Management Theory of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Key Terms

Key elements in Motion Studies and the contributions of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth

There are very few leaders in the world of sociology and work place management studies that made contributions together like Frank and Lillian Gilbreth. Through their development of Motion Studies, a spin on Frederick Taylor's Time Studies, the business-like management of their 12 children, and their contributions to the world of engineering, the Gilbreth's spent their lives trying to make things easier for the common man.

Motion studies

The Gilbreths were most successful in the development of motion studies, as opposed to time studies. This development studies the physical motions necessary for completing a task and how the elements and work environment affect motions.


Look closely and you will notice that "therblig" is Gilbreth spelled backwards. This is the term that Frank and Lillian Gilbreth coined for the basic units of measurement for motion and activity. The Gilbreth system originally consisted of 15 therbligs, but now there are 18.

Field System

Field System is the first book written by Frank Gilbreth, published in 1908. The first of its kind, Field Study is a compilation of interviews and day-in-the-life scenarios for common industrial workers, providing an insight for how employees get things done in the workforce.


Frank Gilbreth believed in the standardization of the workforce. As a bricklayer, Gilbreth noticed there was no defined system for how the employees carried out the job. Everyone did things differently, which resulted in inconsistent work and time management. Frank Gilbreth sought to change that.

Cheaper by the Dozen

Cheaper by the Dozen is a book written by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey depicting the life of his parents and their 12 children. While this famous book may not seem significant to Frank and Lillian Gilbreth's management theories, if you read the book it reveals that the Gilbreth's readily applied their management theories to the function of their family life as well, with a tendency to treat their 12 children more as a workforce in order to prevent chaos.
Webster University's section on Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society offers a biography of Lillian Gilbreth that discusses how the Gilbreth household was more like a business.


Lillian Gilbreth pioneered ergonomics as part of her contribution to motion studies. Mrs. Gilbreth believed that part of producing successful employees was fitting the workplace to their size and capabilities. Among her many accomplishments in this field, Lillian worked to improve kitchen designs as an industrial engineer for General Electric.
On, learn about Lillian Gilbreth's study of the benefits of ergonomics.