United / SW rowing competition


Nov 27, 2001
Total Time
A Few
The Rowing Team...

Southwest Airlines and United Airlines 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.

Afterwards, the United team became very depressed and discouraged. United
management decided that a reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. A
"Measurement Team" made up of senior management was formed. They would
investigate and recommend appropriate action.

They concluded that Southwest had 8 people rowing and one person steering,
while United had 1 person rowing and 8 people steering. So United
hired a consulting company and paid them incredible amounts of money. They
advised 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 4 steering supervisors, 3
area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering
manager. United also implemented a new performance system that would give
the 1 rower a greater incentive to work harder.

The "Rowing Team Quality First Program" had meetings, dinners and included
free pens for the rower, "we will give the rower empowerment and enrichments
through this quality program," management said.

Next year, Southwest won by two miles.

Humiliated, United management laid off the rower for poor performance,
halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles and canceled all capital
investments for the new equipment. Then they gave a "High Performance"
to the steering management and distributed the money they save, as bonuses
the senior executives.