The Oxford versus Cambridge University boat race took place at the end of March and Oxford emerged as the victors. This is an historic event which has taken place every year since 1829 with the exception of the 2 World Wars and teams have contained many famous faces such as Matthew Pinsent the Olympian and Hugh – Dr House – Laurie although I prefer to remember the latter as a buffoon in Blackadder.
The race only involves a relatively small number of competitors but it is watched by thousands live and on TV. There have been dead heats, broken oars, sinkings and numerous controversies over the almost 200 years of racing. In 2012 we even saw the race stopped by a Neanderthal Nutter swimming between the boats.
Large crew squads train and compete to be selected in the final starting crews of 8 rowers plus a coxswain or cox for each team. After months of gruelling training and preparation the final cohesive and complementary team is selected. Eight tall, broad shouldered and muscle-bound crew members with sinews straining guided by a miniscule and necessarily lightweight cox battle it out along the Thames in London. There is also a men’s race.
From a standing start the boats strike out. The crews take their guidance from the cox and the leading stroke rower as they gain traction in the water and begin to move with increasing metronomic consistency. All oars break the water at exactly the same moment in order to propel the boat forward at the maximum speed their bodies will allow. Synchronisation of the power of 9 men or women is vital to ensure smooth movement through the water towards the finishing line.
Whether you are familiar with the race or not I hope you have this impressive team working image in your mind’s eye. What would happen if each of the team members did their own thing; made their own decisions? Eight oars crashing into the water at completely different moments. Oars hitting each other and even breaking into useless pieces. Rowers pulling muscles as they push against the water mass alone. The boat careering across the water in an undignified mess with the coxwain struggling to maintain a sensible course. And overall, not a hope of beating the completion and winning the race.
Does that sound like your current way your business operates? A host of different departments making decisions that may be right for their small area of responsibility but wholly wrong for the company? Damaging silo behaviour wasting resources and affecting your ability to win in the market place? Frustrated staff waking up with the prime objectives of protecting their own backsides and making sure they find fault in other departments rather than attacking the competition?
Image courtesy of Paul Martin Eldridge at freedigitalphotos.net