If you’ve ever worked in corporate America, you’ll identify with this story. Yes, it is fiction, but at the same time it contains more than a few grains of truth.
A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a canoe race on the Colorado river. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.
They all gave their best, but on the big day… the Japanese won by a mile.
The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat.
A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action. Their conclusion was that the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing.
So, the American management hired a consulting firm and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion. The consulting firm advised that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.
To prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team’s management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.
They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 1 person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder.
It was called the “Rowing Team Quality First Program“, with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rower. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices, and bonuses.
The next year the Japanese won by two miles.
Humiliated, the North American management laid off the rower for poor performance… but the Senior Executives got a big bonus as appreciation for their efforts.
The consulting firm conducted a new analysis, and came to the conclusion that the right strategy was already in place, the only thing lacking was better equipment.
The American company is currently developing a new canoe.
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