Two local businesses, an egg farm, and an Outdoor Catalog Company decided to have an annual canoe race on the Androscoggin River.
The egg farm utilized its strongest most athletic workers for their team, whereas the Catalog Company made its team up from it's most intellectual management staff. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance for the race.
On the big day the egg farm team won by a mile! The Catalog Company's team was understandably very upset at the outcome. The senior management of the Catalog Company decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, and a "measurement team" made up of senior management members was formed to investigate, and recommend appropriate action to correct the problem.
After 5 months of intense brainstorming, and endless meetings, their conclusion was that the egg farm had 8 people paddling and one person steering, while the Catalog team had 1 paddling and 8 steering! To confirm this conclusion the management of the Catalog Company hired an outside consulting company and paid them an incredible amount of money to study the problem. Their conclusion was that there were too many people steering the canoe, and not enough people paddling.
The Catalog Company, in their infinite corporate wisdom, decided that to prevent losing to the egg farm again the rowing team needed to be restructured. They reorganized the rowing team as follows: 5 steering managers, 2 steering team leaders, 1 steering administrator, and 1 paddler. They also implemented a new incentive system that would give the team greater incentive to work harder. The plan was dubbed "The Rowing Team Quality First Program". Months of rallies ensued, with meetings, dinners, free pens, t-shirts and uniforms for the team. The Catalog company said, " We must give the team empowerment and enrichment through this quality program and insure the Company's triumph over the egg farm!."
The catalog team again practiced long and hard and finally the day of the big race arrived. This time the egg farm won by TWO miles!
Humiliated, but unable to envision their mistake, the management of the catalog company fired the paddler for poor performance, halted development of a new racing canoe, sold the paddles, life vests and uniforms and cancelled all capital investments for the rowing team. They then used the money they saved to pay out a High Performance Award to the shareholders and distributed the rest of the money as bonuses to the senior executives.