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Scientific management is a variation on the theme of economic efficiency; it is a late 19th and early 20th century instance of the larger recurring theme in human life of increasing efficiency, decreasing waste, and using empirical methods to decide what matters, rather than uncritically accepting pre-existing ideas of what matters. Thus it is a chapter in a larger narrative that includes many ideas and fields, from the folk wisdom of thrift to a profusion of applied-science successors, including time and motion study, the Efficiency Movement (which was the broader cultural echo of scientific management's impact on business managers specifically), Fordism, operations management, operations research, industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, logistics, business process management, business process reengineering, lean manufacturing, and Six Sigma. There is a fluid continuum linking scientific management by that name with the later fields, and there is often no mutual exclusiveness when discussing the details of any one of these topics.
In management literature today, the greatest use of the term "scientific management" is with reference to the work of Taylor and his disciples ("classical", implying "no longer current, but still respected for its seminal value") in contrast to newer, improved iterations of efficiency-seeking methods. In political and sociological terms, Taylorism can be seen as the division of labor pushed to its logical extreme, with a consequent de-skilling of the worker and dehumanisation of the workers and the workplace. Taylorism is often mentioned along with Fordism, because it was closely associated with mass production methods in factories, which was its earliest application. Today, task-oriented optimization of work tasks is nearly ubiquitous in industry. The theory behind it has evolved greatly since Taylor's day, reducing the ill effects, although in the wrong hands it is sometimes implemented poorly even now.