The Canoe Race

Once upon a time, a Japanese and an American Transit Company decided to have a boat race on a lake. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance. On the big day of the race, the Japanese won by a mile.

Afterwards, the American team became very discouraged and morale sagged. Their management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. An American team "Measurement Team" made up of middle and upper managers was formed. They would investigate and recommend appropriate action. Their conclusion was that the Japanese team had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 1 person rowing and 8 people steering. The American team's management hired an American efficiency consulting company and paid them a huge sum of money. The consulting company advised them that too many people are steering the boat and not enough people are rowing.

To prevent losing to the Japanese again the next year, the American rowing teams management structure was totally reorganized into 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager. America's team 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".

The next year, the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated American team 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. They then gave a "High Performance" award to the steering managers and distributed the money saved as bonuses to the senior executives.