A Japanese company and a North American company decided to have a canoe race on the St. Lawrence River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.
On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile. The North 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 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the North American team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing. So, North 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 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, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all capital investments in new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year’s racing team was outsourced to India.