A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri river. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance before the race.
On the big day the Japanese won by a mile.
Afterwards, the American team became very discouraged and morally depressed. The American management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. A "Measurement Team" made up of senior management was formed. They would investigate and recommend appropriate action.
Their conclusion was that the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the Americans had 1 person rowing and 8 people steering.
So American management hired a consulting company and paid them incredible amounts of money. They, too, advised that too many people were steering the boat and not enough people were rowing.
To prevent losing to the Japanese again next year, 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. "We must give the rower empowerment and enrichments through this quality program."
The next year the Japanese won by 2 miles. Humiliated, the American management laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all capital investment in new equipment. Then they gave a High Performance Award to the steering managers and distributed the money saved as bonuses to the senior executives.
Last modified: 11/26/1997