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Canoe race

A story of team management and cultural differences

A Japanese company and a California company decided to have a canoe race on the Columbia 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 California team became very discouraged and depressed. The management of the Californian company decided that they had to find a reason for the crushing defeat. A "Measurement Team" made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was that the Japanese company had eight people rowing and one person steering, while the Californians had one person rowing and eight people steering.

So the management of the California company hired a consulting company and paid them incredible amounts of money. They advised that too many people were steering the boat and not enough people were rowing.

To prevent losing to the Japanese again the next year, 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 Programme, with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rower. "We must give the rower empowerment and enrichment throughout this quality program".

The next year the Japanese won by 2 miles. Humiliated, the management of the Californian company laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles and cancelled all capital investments for new equipment. Then they used the money saved by giving a High Performance Award to the steering managers and distributed the rest of the money as bonuses to the senior executives.

Hmm! Couldn't happen. Could it?

This "snippet" was extracted from http://www.clasp.org.uk (with their permission!)