Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Modern Day Parable

A Japanese company and an American company 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 channeled 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 canceled 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.

Now here's the question:

How does this modern day parable fit into World-Systems theory?

1 comment:

  1. You could say that each individual person on the American canoe was linked to a core, semi-peripfery, and periphery: The 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager, and the rowers itself. The rowers indeed ARE the periphery, as their only need is to do the dirty work and row. You could say the superintendents are the semi-peripfery, as they have greater authority than the rowers, but not enough to make drastic decisions. Finally, the steering supervisors, and the managers behing the scenes are the core. The Japanese team had only one supervisor and everyone else was a rower. In the end, you can say that America is not a team player. We'd rather have other, non-important, people do the dirty work, and spend billions of dollars trying to fix the problems. Ahh, America the beautiful!