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On Management

Does this parable remind you of any particular organization?

Once upon a time, the Australians and the Japanese decided to have a competitive boat race on the Brisbane River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance. On the big day, they were as ready as they could be. The Japanese won by a mile.

Afterwards, the Australian team became very discouraged by the loss and morale sagged. Senior management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found and a project team was set up to investigate the problem and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion: the Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering. The Australian team had eight people steering and one person rowing.

Senior management immediately decided to hire a consultant to conduct a study of the teams structure. Tenders were advertised, and a contract awarded for one million dollars. After six months the consultant advised that too many people were steering and not enough people rowing.

To prevent lowing to the Japanese next year, the team structure was changed to four "steering managers", three "senior steering managers" and one "executive steering manager". The three tiers of "steering manager" held a workshop and set up a performance and appraisal system to give the rower more incentive to work harder and to become a key performer. The declared "We must give him empowerment and job enrichment".

Next year the Japanese won by two miles. The Australian team dismissed the rower, sold both oars, cancelled all capital investment in new equipment and halted research into a revolutionary rowing shell.

The savings of budgeted resources were then distributed to management as incentives.