The Great AA-SW Canoe Race

Steve Cosgrove, Dynamic Travel andCruises, Southlake, Texas Here’s a little ditty sent to me from someone at AA: The two Dallas-based airlines Southwest and American decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race. O

By: Steve Cosgrove, Dynamic Travel andCruises, Southlake, Texas

Here’s a little ditty sent to me from someone at AA: The two Dallas-based airlines Southwest and American 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, Southwest won by a mile. Afterward, the American team became very depressed and discouraged. American Airlines management decided that a reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. A “Measurement TeAAm” made up of senior management was formed. They concluded that Southwest had eight people rowing and one person steering, while American had one person rowing and eight people steering. So, American management hired a consulting company and paid them incredible amounts of money. They advised American that too many people were steering the boat and not enough people were rowing.

To prevent losing to Southwest next year, the rowing team’s management structure was totally reorganized. There would be four steering supervisors, three area steering superintendents and one assistant superintendent steering manager. American also implemented a new performance system that would give the one rower a greater incentive to work harder. The next year, Southwest won by two miles.

Humiliated, American management laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled capital investments for new equipment. Then, they distributed the money they saved as bonuses to the senior executives, who hailed the project as “another victory for total quality management.”

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