Applying Critical Biography Perspective to the Work of Frank Gilbreth

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Emerald Publishing Limited
Purpose – The purpose of this study is to examine the life and work of Frank Gilbreth using a critical biographical approach to draw connections between his life experiences and the major contributions he made to management history. Design/methodology/approach – The research design is critical biography. First, a biography is provided that reveals critical incidents from his childhood, his early career before marriage, his life after his marriage and his key personality traits. Gilbreth’s major contributions to management thought are then considered in context of his biography. Findings – Although Frank Gilbreth is recalled for his contributions to management history through his work in advancing efficiency through motion studies, he should likewise be credited for his foresight of management theories related to the human element in organizations. The major influences on Gilbreth’s career include Lillian Gilbreth and Frederick Taylor. Research limitations/implications – A limitation of critical biography is that researchers cannot address causality but, rather, are focused on drawing connections between life experiences and significant accomplishments. Originality/value – Critical biography can illuminate theory and practice by providing greater clarity by examining concepts in depth and in context. The authors situate Frank Gilbreth’s work in the context of his lived experiences.
Management history, Efficiency, Critical biography, Frank Gilbreth, Motion study
Gibson, J., Deem,. J., Einstein, J. & Humphreys, J. (2016). Applying critical biography perspective to the work of Frank Gilbreth. Journal of Management History, 22(4), 389-412.