Lillian Gilbreth

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Lillian Gilbreth in 1921

Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth (May 24, 1878 – January 2, 1972) was an American psychologist and industrial engineer. One of the first working female engineers holding a Ph.D., she is held to be the first true industrial/organizational psychologist.


  • The things which concerned him more than anything else were the what and the why--the what because he felt it was necessary to know absolutely what you were questioning and what you were doing or what concerned you, and then the why, the depth type of thinking which showed you the reason for doing the thing and would perhaps indicate clearly whether you should maintain what was being done or should change what was being done.
    • Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1962) Conference and Convention Proceedings American Institute of Industrial Engineers. p. 21.

Psychology of management, 1914


Gilbreth, L. (1914). Psychology of management. New York: Sturgis and Walton.

  • Psychology of Management, as here used, means, the effect of the mind that is directing work upon that work which is directed, and the effect of this undirected and directed work upon the mind of the worker.
    • p. 1
  • ... what is there in the subject of psychology to demand the attention of the manager?
Psychology, in the popular phrase, is " the study of the mind." It has for years been included in the training of all teachers, and has been one of the first steps for the student of philosophy; but it has not, usually, been included among the studies of the young scientific or engineering student, or of any students in other lines than Philosophy and Education. This, not because its value as a " culture subject " was not understood, but because the course of the average student is so crowded with technical preparation necessary to his life work, and because the practical value of psychology has not been recognized. It is well recognized that the teacher must understand the working of the mind in order best to impart his information in that way that will enable the student to grasp it most readily. It was not recognized that every man going out into the world needs all the knowledge that he can get as to the working of the human mind in order not only to give but to receive information with the least waste and expenditure of energy, nor was it recognized that in the industrial, as well as the academic world, almost every man is a teacher.
  • p. 1-2
  • Of what value is the study of management?
The study of management has been omitted from the student's training until comparatively recently, for a very different reason than was psychology. It was never doubted that a knowledge of management would be of great value to anyone and everyone, and many were the queer schemes for obtaining that knowledge after graduation. It was doubted that management could be studied otherwise than by observation and practice. Few teachers, if any, believed in the existence, or possibility, of a teaching science of management. Management was assumed by many to be an art, by even more it was thought to be a divinely bestowed gift or talent, rather than an acquired accomplishment. It was common belief that one could learn to manage only by going out on the work and watching other managers, or by trying to manage, and not by studying about management in a class room or in a text book; that watching a good manager might help one, but no one could hope really to succeed who had not " the knack born in him."
  • p. 2-3

Measurement of the human factor in industry (1917)

See: Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.#Measurement of the human factor in industry (1917)

Process charts (1921)

See Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.#Process charts (1921)

Quotes about Lillian Gilbreth

  • Management practitioners today largely ignore Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, possibly because the principles of motion study they pioneered are now very unfashionable. Motion study entailed the detailed examination of the movements individual workers made in the process of carrying out their work. It was, however, just one of the concepts the Gilbreths developed. Through Frank's concerns that the efficiency of employees should be balanced by an economy of effort and a minimisation of stress, and Lillian's interest in the psychology of management, their work laid the foundations for the development of the modern concepts of job simplification, meaningful work standards and incentive wage plans.
    • Editors Of Perseus Publishing (2002) Business: the ultimate resource. p. 994.
  • One of the undesirable by-products of the factory system was the frequent abuse of unskilled workers, including children, who were often subjected to unhealthy working conditions, long hours, and low pay. The appalling conditions spurred a national anti-factory campaign. Led by Mary Parker Follett and Lillian Gilbreth, the campaign gave rise to the “human relations movement" advocating more humane working. Among other things, the human relations movement provided a more complex and realistic understanding of workers as people, instead of merely cogs in a factory machine.
    • Jon M. Werner, ‎Randy L. DeSimone (2011), Human Resource Development, p. 7

See also

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