Saturday, 21 February 2009

Just a story, but worth learning a lesson from it

A Modern Parable......

A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford Motors) 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. The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people rowing. Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing. Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager. They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people 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 rowers. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses. The pension program was trimmed to 'equal the competition' and some of the resultant savings were channelled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid-off one rower, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and cancelled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated rower was unable to even finish the race (having no paddles,) so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India.

Sadly, the End.

Here's something else to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US, claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US. The last quarter's results: TOYOTA makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion in losses.

Ford folks are still scratching their heads, while collecting their bonuses... and now wants the Government to 'bail them out.'


cross posted to Corporate E-Learning


Vlad Dolezal said...

Ah, you've got to love good metaphors :)

You just reminded me of a story I heard some time ago. When the American automakers started making losses, and Toyota was overtaking them, Ford decided to figure out what was Toyota doing differently.

So they bought a Toyota, and then their engineers disassembled and re-assembled it to have a closer look at the manufacturing process.

They were absolutely stunned by how easily the car fit together. The Americans simply built the car, and then they stopped there, and tried tweaking their manufacturing process to put it together faster, even though it involved a bunch of screws in awkward places and such.

The Japanese, on the other hand, kept tweaking the design of the car, always asking "How can we make it even easier to manufacture?"

No wonder Toyota is overtaking Ford, with that kind of focus on constant improvement!

Albert Ip said...

Chinese proverb: 學如逆水行舟,不進則退。 [Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.] I suppose life too.

This is not only a lesson for the auto-industry. It should be a lesson for everyone.