Long-time colleague Bob Hill sent this to me and I felt it had to be shared.
A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a canoe race
on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their
peak performance before the race. On the big day, the Japanese won by a
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 the Japanese had eight people rowing and one person
steering, while the American team had eight people steering and one person
So American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large
amount of money for a second opinion. They 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 four steering supervisors, three area
steering superintendents, and one assistant superintendent steering
manager. They also implemented a new performance system that would give
the one 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, and extra vacation days for practices
The next year the Japanese won by two 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 investments
for new equipment.
The money saved was distributed to the senior executives as bonuses, and
the next year’s racing team was outsourced to India.