Toyota is receiving plenty of criticism now, much of it for good reason. There is also a large amount of psychology involved. From what I have seen, the insurance companies still see better claims history (fewer and lower cost claims) against Toyota than other manufacturers. And there is another strain that seems to enjoy criticizing what has been praised. Toyota does need to improve. But that is improvement of the existing management system, not a need to radically change the management of the company.
I think Toyota, even with the problems, is a fantastic example of a very well managed company. Yet even with all the study of lean manufacturing even basic ideas are overlooked. For example, the two main pillars of the Toyota way are “continuous improvement” and “respect for people.” For all of us, it is valuable to refocusing on core principles. We are too often looking for the next new idea.
This is one way of looking at the pillars of the Toyota Production System, from the Toyota Technical Center – Austrailia
There are three building blocks shaping our commitment to Continuous Improvement:
1. Challenge – we form a long term vision, meeting challenges with courage and creativity to realize our dreams;
2. Kaizen – we improve our business operations continuously, always driving for innovation and evolution
3. Genchi Genbutsu – we go to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus and achieve goals.
Respect For People refers to our own staff as well as the communities and stakeholder groups that surround us and we are part of. We respect our people and believe the success of our business is created by individual efforts and good teamwork.
Respect For People is translated in:
1. Respect – we respect others, make every effort to understand each other, take responsibility and do our best to build mutual trust
2. Teamwork – we stimulate personal and professional growth, share the opportunities of development and maximize individual and team performance.
These elements combined define our corporate DNA, provide a way of operating that is recognised by each and every Toyota-member around the globe and enables us to sustain our success in the future.
Back to Basics for Toyota by Akio Toyoda
While recent events show Toyota obviously needs to improve, that has been true all along (it is just more obvious lately). Some may see this as an indication that these lean manufacturing ideas based on Toyota’s practices are no better than other management practices. I don’t believe this. I feel just as strongly about the value of lean management as ever. I think that the recent events show you that no matter how well an organization in managed there is plenty of room to improve. Toyota never was close to perfection. They have much to improve, but they are still one of the best managed companies in the world.
And my comments in 2007:
That is exactly how I see it now. What Toyota needs to do is increase their focus on the principle of the Toyota Way. The biggest failure I see is what appears to be the all too common focus on hoping you can just keep going when indications of problems crop up and hope that things get better. Respect for people, as quoted above, is looking at respect for all people in Toyota. In many other places they show that they understand Toyota’s purpose extends to respect for people everywhere. If I were at Toyota I would make sure the long term responsibilities Toyota has to society are given more weight. That and a focus on improving the practices of the Toyota Production System will get them back to the continual improvement track they need to be on. Let growth come as an outcome of doing those things well. Don’t focus on growth.
Toyota, and every organization, needs to continuously maintain a focus on actually doing what is said to be important (following the Toyota Way, for example). This is not easy. It is something that has to be re-enforced every day. And re-enforced with systemic re-enforcers that re-enforce behavior in line with principles as well as systemic measures to make obvious deviations from the desired behavior and encourage a return to the desired behavior.
A similar view shows the Toyota Production System supported by the principles of jidoka and Just-in-Time (which can sometimes confuse people – since it is very similar, yet different, than the 2 pillars noted above), from Toyota Japan’s web site:
Challenge. This means not only embracing challenges, but also challenging what we know and do, and being prepared to change things to make improvements.
Respect. This means respecting the individuality of each person within the group, respecting their contributions, their ideas, as well as their cultural or personal beliefs. It also means respecting the natural environment.
At the heart of The Toyota Way is a core belief that our workforce is a critical asset and that all permanent employees should benefit from stable employment. We also believe that our success as a sustainable organisation depends on the commitment of employees who understand and work according to The Toyota Way.
This is why we invest in each Toyota employee – no matter their level of seniority – via on-the-job training and the Toyota Business Practices (a Toyota-developed problem solving methodology). In this way, we can nurture their development and maximise their contribution to the organisation longer-term.