View Full Version : Canoe Race

03-28-2006, 03:47 PM
Toyota, a Japanese company and GM, an American company, decided to have
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
won by a mile.

Afterward, the American team became very discouraged and morally
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 appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had eight people rowing and one
steering, while the American team had eight people steering and one
rowing. So American management hired a consulting company and paid them
incredible amount of money.

After six months of hard work, they advised that too many people were
steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing. So the American
Team acted: To prevent losing to the Japanese again next year, the
rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to four
steering supervisors,
three area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent

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 and free pens for
rower. Even new paddles and medical benefit incentives were promised
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 canceled all capital investments for

The money saved was distributed to the senior executives in
a job well done.


03-28-2006, 03:58 PM
I think I was in that race... Rowing:(

03-28-2006, 05:59 PM
I see similar happening evey day. Luckily, my company was bought out by a German company a couple years ago. Things are a small bit better.

03-28-2006, 09:08 PM
Retired rower :mad:

03-29-2006, 02:43 AM
Hilarious!!! I can't believe that the US auto industry (and many others) still have not learned the lessons shown so long ago by Japan. I remember seeing my first Datsun in ~'62 and thinking, "We're doomed..." It was a crappy little ripoff of a BMC machine, but the craftsmanship was impeccable. I had recently left a GM dealership, so I knew the difference right away.

What I like best about the Japanese system is that the managers are only allowed to make 20 times the salary of the sweeper, ie, if the company succeeds, everyone succeeds very unAmerican, but check out the records of both systems!

03-29-2006, 02:18 PM
About 12 years ago, the story was about a racing shell, not a canoe, but the principal is the same. American industry is as top heavy with high paid managers and "Leaders" that it can't economically compete in the world market.
I worked on an auto company assembly line for almost 2 years before being downsized. It still amazes me how on one side, we were always being preached to to improve quality, but on the other hand, to save time, especially when JIT didn't provide screws and bolts, or well built subassemblies in time, how we were told to just pass it, or don't worry about it, just use half the screws, or bolts.
Americans make low quality products? Quality is decided by management! That's where we have the lowest quality.

03-30-2006, 03:09 AM
Man, ain't that the truth!!

A friend used to say, "A fish always rots from the head first", but my sister simplifed it even more with "S##t floats"...

Managers are "educated" in post-secondary institutions (wow, you want to talk to a guy who learned everything he knows in an "institution"?), and their jobs in between semesters has to do with anything but their chosen professions: engineers planting trees, accountants waiting tables, etc. In Europe, every engineer I met from there was working IN THEIR CHOSEN PROFESSION! Gee, ask me which engineer I would rather work for!!!

03-30-2006, 02:23 PM
Right. At least my company has a decent Co-op program with a number of good engineering schools. A Co-op who makes it through all 4 or 5 quarters has a good chance of getting a job with us. Basically, about 2 quarters are working on the bench as a product development technician seeing how things work in the real world before getting involved in actual design work.
Problem is, many engineering schools are teaching less actual engineering and more "Product Management".
As Scot Adams (Dilbert) said in one of his strips, Leadership is nature's way of getting the marginals out of the productive stream!
And that little vignette goes to show how many people get promoted to their highest level of incompetance.