"I was shipwrecked before I got aboard!"
from an Unknown Author*
Corporate humor, sound familiar?
The Americans and the Japanese decided to engage in a competitive boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance.
On the big day everyone felt ready. The Japanese won by a mile. Afterward, the American team was discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged. Corporate management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, so a consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommended corrective action.
The consultant's finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering.
After a year of study and millions spent analyzing the problem, the consultant firm concluded that too many people were steering and not enough were rowing on the American team.
So as race day neared again the following year, the American team's management structure was completely reorganized. The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers and a new performance review system for the person rowing the boat to provide work incentive.
That year, the Japanese won again by two miles. Humiliated, the American corporation laid off the rower for poor performance and gave the managers a bonus for discovering the problem.
* For what it's worth, the first online appearance of this story (known to Cupola) appeared on May 5, 1996. User Rich Payne posted it in the UseNet alt.feminism group, now archived at Google.
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