Management standard

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Picture: trishaw train at the November car free Sunday morning in the civic district, Singapore. Pulling together.

The American and the Japanese corporate offices for a large multi-national corporation decided to engage in a competitive boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance.

On the big day the Japanese team won by a mile.

The American team was discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged. Corporate management decided to find the reason for the crushing defeat. A consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommend a plan.

The finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering.

Too many people were steering and not enough rowers on the American team.

Next year, as race day neared, the American team reorganized the management structure completely. The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers and a new performance review system to incentivise the person rowing the boat.

At the race, the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated, the American steering managers started an investigation to find out who was responsible for the poor performance. The managers completed the report. It was the rower. He was laid-off and the managers given a bonus for discovering the problem.

Remove the terms “American” and “Japanese”. Ask, which type of organisation culture do you work in? One, where people pull in to help one another or one where word play, report writing is a substitute for actual performance?

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