A Fable on How the World Sees HR….and Change Management

Men’s eight rowing team at the 1900 Olympic Ga...

The red team in training – timing all wrong!

Once upon a time there was a Red rowing team.  This Red team agreed to hold an annual rowing race with a Green team. Each team would contain 8 men.

Both teams worked really hard to get in the best shape. On the day of the first race, both teams were ready to win.

The Green team won by a mile!

The Red team was crushed in their defeat, but they were determined to win the race next year. So they established a panel of analysts to observe the situation and ascertain if there were any differences between the teams.

After several weeks of detailed intelligence gathering, the analysts could find only one difference; the Green team had 7 rowers and 1 captain…

… and the Red team had 7 captains and 1 rower!

Unperplexed by the raw data, upper management showed unexpected wisdom: they hired a consulting company to analyze the data and suggest a solution that would enable the Red team to win next year.

After several months the consultants came to the conclusion that the ratio of captains to rowers was the problem in the Red team. Based on this analysis a solution was proposed: the structure of the Red team has to be changed!

Like sharks getting the scent of reorganization blood, upper management wasted no time in restructuring the Red team into 4 Captains, led by 2 Managers, reporting to 1 Senior Director with a dotted line to the rower. Besides that, in a blaze of unrestricted inspiration, they suggested they might be inclined to improve the rower’s working environment by a non-monetary reward and recognition scheme if there was improved performance by the rower.

The next year, the Green team won by 2 miles…….

The Red team upper management immediately fired the rower based on his unsatisfactory performance.

A bonus was paid to the Captains, Directors and Managers for the strong leadership and motivation they showed during the preparation phase and as an incentive for them to find a better rower for the next race.

The consulting company prepared a new analysis of the restructuring activity, which showed that the strategy was good, the motivation was great, the restructuring was executed correctly, but the tool used (which was not included in the original data) was sub-standard and had to be improved.

Currently the Red team management is having a new boat designed; and to demonstrate fiscal and HR dexterity for stockholders they also contracted a recruitment agency to advertise in other countries for a new (temporary, non-direct employee) rower. They are also considering outsourcing.

Ring any bells?


During a discussion on LinkedIn, someone posted this amusing story:

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a woman down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts, “Excuse me. Can you help me? I promised my friend I would meet him half an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

She says, “Yes, you are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 40 feet above this field. You are between 46 & 48 degrees N latitude and between 52 & 56 degrees W. longitude.”

“You must be an engineer,” says the balloonist.

“I am,” replies the woman. “How did you know?”

“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct but useless. You haven’t been much help because I don’t know how to use that information to help myself. So, I’m still lost.”

The woman says, “You must be a Consultant”

“I am,” replies the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“You made a promise you don’t know how to keep. You’ve gotten this far by dint of hot air. You don’t know where you are or how to get to where you want to be; and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met but now it is somehow somebody else’s fault.”

This entry was posted in Coaching and Training, Leadership and Management, Managing Change, Strategy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s