Making the Most of the Management Theory of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Frank Gilbreth and his wife Lillian worked as a team to contribute to the field of scientific management in the late 19th and early ...

Frank Gilbreth and his wife Lillian worked as a team to contribute to the field of scientific management in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With a family of 12 children, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth practiced their theories of time and motion management in their everyday lives.

Growing out of the industrial revolution and unionization of labor, Gilbreth management theory and other scientific management theories are highly focused on efficiency. While standardized efficiency models have become less popular in today's workplace, the time and motion studies developed by Frank Gilbert continue to offer opportunities for application when evaluating work processes.

Use the following steps for making the most of the management theory of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth in today's work environment:

  1. Get to know the writings of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and their contributions to theory.
  2. Use "therbligs," the unit of activity in the Gilbreths' theory, to subdivide tasks.
  3. Draw inspiration from Lillian Gilbreth, a famous woman in science.

Understand Lillian and Frank Gilbreth management theory in historical and current context

Lillian and Frank Gilbreth management theory is one of the historic theories contributing to the formation of scientific management philosophies. These industrialization philosophies characterized management within an efficiency model and attempted to find the best, most efficient way of completing a task. Understanding the context of the Gilbreths' theory is important for using their ideas today.

Apply Gilbreth theory using the "therblig" to subdivide your tasks

A fundamental component of Gilbreth theory is the "therblig," a unit invented by the Gilbreths to describe a discrete unit of activity. Some examples of actions that the Gilbreths included were planning, positioning, assembling and disassembling. You can use these units or come up with your own units to analyze how many activities make up a certain task and eliminate unnecessary steps.

Celebrate Lillian Gilbreth's contributions to Gilbreth theory

One of the best uses of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth management theory in today's workplace is teaching men and women about Lillian Gilbreth's unique role in the development of the Gilbreths' management theory. By teaching information about Lillian Gilbreth and her contributions to science and business, you can ensure that her influence and importance are reinterpreted in today's contexts.
San Diego Supercomputer Center, both of which advocate teaching about Lillian's contributions to Gilbreth theory and to science in general. Lillian Gilbreth is considered the "Mother of Management," so share this biographical information about her with your company's managers and with women interested in leadership roles.
  • Because the theories the Gilbreths developed pertain to an industrialized labor context, rather than to the information-age tasks of the contemporary workplace, it is unlikely that you will choose to adopt the Frank and Lillian Gilbreth management system in its entirety. You can, however, use some of their ideas in your own context by creatively interpreting the concepts of time and motion management.

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