In the early years of the 20th century, Alford was a practitioner of systematic management and an advocate of this management style within the ASME. His views came to clash with the scientific management approach advocated by Frederick Winslow Taylor. In 1912, Alford published a critique of scientific management that undermined Taylor's claims of success. Alford argued that labor efficiency improvements at the Philadelphia plant of the Link-Belt Company were due to the personality of company's president, James Mapes Dodge. Dodge had won much respect and trust from the workers because of arrangements and incentives he offered so that they would accept Taylor's changes.
Later in 1912, Alford sat on the ASME committee that was considering whether or not to publish Taylor's book, The Principles of Scientific Management. Alford's criticisms of Taylor and his management techniques moderated the committee's position on the text. Because the committee's report was ambivalent about the merits of Scientific Management, the ASME declined to publish Taylor's book.
Alford published his own management text, Industrial Management. He advocated a reformist approach to labor and to unionism. In 1920, he co-founded the Management Division within the ASME. Alford advocated flexibility in "industrial relations" and "human engineering" and rejected fixed and rigid approaches to labor management such as scientific management. His approach to labor soon became the dominant accepted practice of corporate liberal management. Because of this approach, the Management Division soon became the largest division within the ASME.
In 1929, Herbert Hoover appointed a president's commission to investigate the current state of the economy. Alford served on this panel and was the principle co-author of the committee's report, Recent Economic Changes (1929).
Alford, Leon P. "Scientific Management in Use." American Machinist 36 (April 4, 1912): 550.
Alford, L. P., and A. H. Church. "Principles of Management." American Machinist 36 (May 30, 1912): 857-862.
Jaffe, William J. L. P. Alford and the Evolution of Modern Industrial Management. New York: 1957
Nelson, Daniel. Frederick W. Taylor and the Rise of Scientific Management. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980.
Noble, David F. America by Design: Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.