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OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE? Once upon a time, an American company and a Japanese company decided to have competitive boat race on the Bear River. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance. On the big day, they both felt as ready as they could be.The Japanese won by a mile! Afterwards the American Team became very discouraged by the losses and morale began to sag. Corporate management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. A The "Continuous Improvement Team" was established to investigate the problem and to recommend appropriate corrective action.THEIR CONCLUSION: The problem was that the Japanese Team had eight people rowing and one person steering, whereby the American Team had one person rowing and eight people steering.The American Corporate Steering Committee immediately hired a consulting firm to do a study on the management structure. After some time and millions of dollars, the consulting firm concluded that too many people were steering and not were rowing.To prevent losing to the Japanese again, the American Team's management structure was totally reorganized to three Steering Director, three Steering Managers, and two Steering Supervisors. Also a new performance system for the person rowing the boat was developed to give more incentive to work harder."We must give him empowerment and enrichment. That ought to do it."The next year the Japanese won by two miles.Humiliated, the American corporation laid off the rower to "cut costs, sold all of the paddles, canceled all capital investments for new equipment, halted development of a new canoe, gave a "Superior Performance" award to the consulting firm, and distributed the money saved as bonuses to the senior executives.