What does a stroke of the oars have to do with efficiency?
A rowing stroke is a rhythmically repeated movement process, characterized by dipping, pulling and lifting of the rudder.
At what point of this three-stage process is the boat moving the fastest? Please think for a few seconds.
This is what I often ask my clients in the water, and the following explanation always brings a lot of clarity about the effectiveness within a team structure, respectively about the boat speed (= SUCCESS).
The boat is actually the fastest just before the rudder blades are put back into the water for the next oar stroke. From this fact, we come to interesting conclusions that can also apply to business:
- The boat is fastest when it is NOT actively driven forward.
- A high effort only makes sense when it is combined with a conscious resting phase without active use of force.
- An accelerating movement in the front with the motivation to increase the boat speed leads to the contrary.
In leading-edge rowing, as well as in working life, there is an efficiency approach, which can convey a lot of serenity and tranquility.
I would like to draw a succinct analogy to art here.
Michelangelo, the creator of the famous David statue, is said to have answered the question how he created this unique work of art, this way:
“I have left out everything that was not David”
In top teams and services, the question is no longer about making a measurable increase, but rather about avoiding that which could slow the system down.
Especially in boat racing, there is a highly fragile relationship between man and machine: due to the long lever ratios of the overall system, even the smallest movements always affect the total moving system that should float as fast as possible. Another variable or level of complexity is when this system has to carry more people as well.
Physical force or pulling of the oars leads to speed and thus to success, only if this use of force is in the right dose and at the right time in the moving system. The entire system must always be considered and reflected upon, since every movement affects all other follow-up movements.
One can recognize very good boats at first glance by the fact that even at high paddle frequencies (number of strokes per minute), they have a relatively stable and regular boat run. Here all team members can do their very best for the team.
Workplace parallels are obvious
- It revolves around a common agreement on what to do and when to do it
- There should be a common philosophy on cooperation
- The right people need to be on the right positions to make the whole system run smoothly
- In order to have success, business depends on doing the right things with the right focus at the right time, in order to ensure an optimum ratio between input and output
And this is what we call efficiency
This can be experienced physically while rowing immediately even by beginners. Everyone in the boat immediately senses when “it isn’t not working” and there are brakes at some point. Especially beginners should pay attention from the very outset that they are working on common efficiency and not on extra effort.
For this purpose, a common philosophy of rowing is necessary that can be shared by beginners from the start. Therefor honesty, trust and patience are a must. Teams can’t be developed in a linear scheme. But there is a development present in any case. In fact, at the beginning of rowing, force is far less important than empathy for the team, sense of rhythm and joint coordination, thus this training method is also suitable for everyone.
The different seats in the boat also reflect the different positions in cooperative work. We work with the so-called seat characteristics that the team members identify with individually and collectively before the training.
Efficiency can’t be simply prescribed. Therefore, team members need to know each other, to have a discussion and debate culture, accept interdependence, be willing to learn and subordinate especially their own success to the common success.