Monthly Archives: December 2016


Picture: trishaw train at the November car free Sunday morning in the civic district, Singapore. Pulling together.

The American and the Japanese corporate offices for a large multi-national corporation decided to engage in a competitive boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance.

On the big day the Japanese team won by a mile.

The American team was discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged. Corporate management decided to find the reason for the crushing defeat. A consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommend a plan.

The finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering.

Too many people were steering and not enough rowers on the American team.

Next year, as race day neared, the American team reorganized the management structure completely. The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers and a new performance review system to incentivise the person rowing the boat.

At the race, the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated, the American steering managers started an investigation to find out who was responsible for the poor performance. The managers completed the report. It was the rower. He was laid-off and the managers given a bonus for discovering the problem.

Remove the terms “American” and “Japanese”. Ask, which type of organisation culture do you work in? One, where people pull in to help one another or one where word play, report writing is a substitute for actual performance?


Picture: roosters near Telok Blsngah

Two roosters, both thirsty, arrived at their usual water hole at the same time. They immediately began to argue who should satisfy their thirst first. The argument became heated, and each decided he would rather die than give up the privilege of being first to quench his thirst.

As they stubbornly confronted each other, their emotions turned to rage. Their cruel attacks on each other were suddenly interrupted. They both looked up. Circling overhead were vultures waiting for the loser to fall. Quietly, the two beasts turned and walked away. The thought of being devoured was all they needed to end their quarrel.

Consider President-elect Donald Trump’s overtures to China on tariffs and trade. China is not the worst enemy of the US. If the two giants were to enter into a trade war, there are vultures flying around, waiting to pick the bones.

This is a joke recently told to me by a senior management leader, about the need to check our assumptions.

No harm or malice intended towards the professions mentioned below:

An engineer, a physicist, and an accountant were interviewed for position of Chief Executive officer of a large corporation.

The engineer was interviewed first. He was asked a long list of questions, finally: “How much is two plus two?” The engineer excused himself, made a series of calculations and returned to the boardroom, declaring, “Four.”

The physicist was interviewed next. He was asked the same questions for consistency. Before answering the last question, he excused himself, went to the library, and did a great deal of research. After comsulting the United States Bureau of Standards, he also announced, “Four.”

The accountant was interviewed last, and was asked the same questions. At the end of his interview, before answering the last question, he drew the blinds in the room. Closed the door, and asked the interviewer, “How much do you want it to be?”

Our world view is often shaped by the culture we are from, national culture, organisation culture and even our professional culture.

Do your old assumptions still work in dealing with a new world ?
How do you know that the person you’re dealing with; works on the same assumptions or similar standards ?

How would you navigate in the “white rapid” world of work? How do you prepare yourself?


Photo taken at the Tongarino rapids in North Island, New Zealand.