This is a good, short summary of the main thinking behind scientific management and its core flaws. Scientific management (treating people like robots rather than people) is relevant to us today because it shows exactly how not to treat people. From Treat People Right!: How Organizations and Employees Can Create a Win/Win Relationship to Achieve High Performance at All Levels:
Scientific management called for standardized, specialized, and machine-paced jobs in the name of efficiency and low labor costs. People were expected to add little value beyond their manual labor. Two carrots were used: financial incentives and the threat of being fired. A key assumption was that in return for having a job, people should be willing to act like machines for eight hours a day.
Scientific management has been shown to be highly flawed. Its use in large organizations for decades caused low intrinsic motivation on the part of employees and high rates of turnover and absenteeism, and a strong inclination to solve workplace problems through unionization. Sometimes employees would engage in counterproductive behaviors and even sabotage. Ultimately all of this opened the door to foreign competitors [note what happened to the American automobile manufacturers, beginning back in the 1970s].