Rowing And Steering

By Mick Comley

Originally published in EUG #16

A British company and a Japanese company decided to hold a competitive staff boat race on the River Thames. The Japanese won the first race by a mile. The British became discouraged and morale at the company sagged. Senior Managers decided the reasons for this defeat had to be found, so an internal project team was set up to investigate the cause and recommend appropriate action.

The subsequent report identified that the Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering. The British company in contrast, had one person rowing and eight people steering. Senior Management at the British company hired a consultant to study the British team's structure. Several months later they concluded in a leatherbound report, that "Too many people were steering and not enough were rowing".

An action plan was immediately put into place to prevent the Japanese from winning again. The British team structure was changed to four 'Rowing Managers', three 'Senior Rowing Managers' and one 'Executive Rowing Manager'. A performance and appraisal system was set up to give the person rowing the boat more incentive to work harder and become a 'Key Performer'.

The next race was won by the Japanese by an increased margin of two miles. The British company reacted by laying off the rower due to his poor performance, selling off the oars, cancelling all captial investment for the new team equipment and halting development work on a new boat. They gave a high performance award to the consultant and distributed the rest of the money saved to the Senior Management.

Sounds very much like a firm I know.

Mick Comley, EUG #16