The great canoe race

6a00d834958b7053ef010536a8051e970cA crazy friend sent this piece by e-mail. I tried to find the author. It’s too bad I couldn’t. I wanted to shake his hand and convince him to run for President.

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (General Motors) 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 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 the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 8 people steering an 1 person rowing.

Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consultingcompany and paid them a huge amount of money for a second opinion. They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat and not enough people rowing.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing teams management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant 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, free pens and scratch pads for the rower. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment and extra vacation days for practices, and bonuses.

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 the new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next years racing team was out-sourced to India.

(Sadly) The End


  1. …excellent
    …will be using this on Saturday for the first of several “Circle of Life” training days in 2009
    …and pointing people to your blog
    …was that you rowing? 🙂

  2. Not me in the canoe or in the water. I didn’t have water to fall into. I had asphalt. For some reason your comment page comes without an e-mail for response.

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