Quality First

A Japanese company and an American company 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.

Afterward, the American team was very discouraged and depressed. The American management decided the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend the appropriate action. Their conclusion was that the Japanese had eight people rowing and one person steering, while the American team had eight people steering and one person rowing.

So American management hired a consulting company and paid them an incredible amount of money. Their finding: Too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing. To prevent losing to the Japanese again the next year, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to four steering supervisors, three area steering superintendents and one assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the one 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. Even new paddles and medical benefit incentives were promised for a winner. "We must give the rower the empowerment and enrichments through this quality program."

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 cancelled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the senior executives as bonuses.

This page created and maintained by Dave Palmer
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