Management Theory of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were a husband-and-wife team who worked as engineers in the early part of the 20th century. Lillian carried ...

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were a husband-and-wife team who worked as engineers in the early part of the 20th century. Lillian carried on this work after the death of Frank in 1924. Their main focus was on the fields of motion study and time study, combined with an interest on the psychology of efficiency and work.

The Gilbreth theory held that there was a “one best way” to do any task. Efficiency, according to the Gilbreth business management theory, could therefore be improved by finding this “one best way” and replicating it throughout the manufacturing process. The Gilbreths used new technologies such as film to break motions down into incremental parts, which they called “therbligs.” By reducing the number of “therbligs” for any task, one could increase the efficiency of the worker.

The management theory of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth can be summed up by the following:

1. Reduce the number of motions in a task to increase efficiency.

2. Focus on the incremental study of motions and time to understand an entire task.

3. The goal of increased efficiency is both increased profit and greater worker satisfaction.

Look into the technical aspects of the Lillian and Frank Gilbreth management theory

As famous early engineers and experts in the field of motion study, the Gilbreths have several websites devoted to them. Most of these websites give a good overview of the Gilbreth management theory. The technical details of the Gilbreth business management theory are the key to the understanding and implementation of this theory in work situations. By familiarizing yourself with this theory, you can take advantage of its benefits.
biography of Lillian, with some technical details about her work, is available from the San Diego Supercomputer Center. A brief biography and look at the Lillian and Frank Gilbreth management theory is provided by Accel-Team. One major aspect of the Gilbreth theory, the concept of therbligs, is explained in an article on the Gilbreth Network. The Internet Archive offers an edited version of the Gilbreths’ original films of their motion study techniques.

Get details on the Frank and Lillian Gilbreth management system from books and articles

Throughout their lifetimes, Lillian and Frank Gilbreth published a large number of articles and books about the Gilbreth theory.
Purdue University gives a listing of all papers and articles by the Gilbreths in their collection.

Check out ways to implement the Gilbreth theory in a work environment

The Gilbreth management theory is rarely applied directly in today's workplace. However, certain aspects of the theory, especially time-study and motion-study, can be implemented in a variety of workplace situations. One of the major implementations of the Gilbreth theory is in methods-time management (MTM), which is widely used in engineering.
  • Keep in mind that many aspects of the Gilbreth management theory have been heavily modified over the past decades and may be mentioned under other names in documents.

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