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This came across the ScrumDevelopment list today, and I had to share it.  Once more, it's not mine, but it's my life and one of the reasons that I am so passionate about Scrum (leveraging Lean principles, and XP practices).


Modern Parable

A Japanese company ( Toyota ) and an American company (General
Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River . Both teams
practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the

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 8 people steering and 1 person

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, 3 area steering
superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 1 person
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 rower. There was discussion of getting new paddles,
canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid off the rower for
poor performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles,
and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved
was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year's
racing team was out-sourced to India ... Sadly, the End.

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.

Posted on Thursday, October 4, 2007 2:59 PM Agile Development | Back to top

Comments on this post: My Life - A Modern Parable

# re: My Life - A Modern Parable
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As someone who works as an application developer in the automotive industry, that is so very very true.
Left by Chas Williams on Oct 06, 2007 3:17 PM

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