Provided by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida
The author of this story is unknown.
An American Company and a Japanese Company decided to engage in a boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance levels. On the big day they felt ready. The Japanese won by a mile. The American team was discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged. Corporate management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, so a consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommend corrective action.
The consultant's finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering.
After a year of study and millions spent analyzing the problem, the consultant firm concluded that too many people were steering and not enough were rowing on the American team.
So as race day neared again the following year, the American team's management structure was completely reorganized.
The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers, and a new performance review system for the person rowing the boat to provide a work incentive.
The next year, the Japanese won by TWO miles!!! Humiliated, the American corporation laid off the rower for poor performance and gave the managers a bonus for discovering the problem.