Series on Adapting to Change: The Race

The Race, is a simple story about a race. A mirror on business and how change in itself is meaningless if not focused in the right direction.


Some time ago, a boat race was organized between two competing organizations. One was a Swiss company – let’s name it Cow Co. Ltd, and the other one was Sempuma from Malaysia. Both teams worked very hard to get to top level. When the day finally came where they could measure their strength, both were very optimistic.

But the race was short and came to a surprising end, where the team from Malaysia won by more than one kilometre!

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The morale was low at the Headquarters of Cow & Co in Switzerland. Nobody understood such a huge difference. Top Management decided that the causes MUST be identified. A project team was set up, to identify the cause and to suggest corrective measures if needed

After weeks of discussions, the project team came to the following findings:

• The Malaysian team included seven rowing officers and one steering executive

• In the Swiss team there was one single rowing officer and seven steering executives

The top Management reacted immediately and hired external Consultants to conduct an in-depth analysis on the Swiss team‘s structure

Some months and many Swiss Francs later, the Consultants came to following conclusion:

• Too many team-members had been steering

• Too few of them had been involved in moving the boat

The Top Management reacted in a radical way and restructured the whole team as follows:

• Four steering executives

• Two senior steering managers

• One steering directors

• One rowing officer

Additionally, they implemented a sophisticated Performance evaluation system to motivate the one rower. The top Management said: We must enrich his responsibilities to make his job more interesting and therefore get the best out of him.

The next year came and a second race was organized. The result was cruel. The Asian team won again- this time by TWO Kilometers.

The consequence of such a heavy blow that the top management sacked the one rower because of bad performance! The equipment was all sold and all new related investments were frozen. The Consultants were praised for doing a great job. The money that was not invested was distributed among the top management and the steering committee.