Bad American Influence on Toyota?

Evolving Excellence: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Drag ‘Em Down To Your Level

I thought of Bill Waddell when I read this article in the Wall St. Journal today. For all of Toyota’s good practices, the idea of adopting some American and Wall Street finance and accounting practices is troubling. It makes you wonder if this will steer the Toyota ship in the wrong direction.

Bill is much more passionate about this topic, so go visit his blog and read what he has to say, via the link above. I don’t always agree with Bill, but I do on this point.

However, Bill still really takes issue with Toyota not having any non-Japanese on board, he actually called them “racist”, which I disagree with.

Excerpts from the article:

“Toyota had long depended on Japanese experts to set up new North American factories. Recently, it asked American managers to set aside their work at Toyota plants in Georgetown, Ky., and Princeton, Ind., to help set up new factories in San Antonio.

Three years ago, when Toyota first promoted an American to managing officer, the level just below director, it outfitted the conference room at its Nagoya headquarters with booths for translators. Today, six non-Japanese attend meetings of Toyota’s 48 managing officers, including two Americans and executives from Canada, Australia, Britain and Greece.

Toyota’s 26-member board of directors, most of them lifetime Toyota employees, does not yet include any foreigners. Last June, at a news event to announce a board reshuffle, Toyota’s new president, Mr. Watanabe, was asked why a company earning so much from the U.S. didn’t include an American on its board. He responded that Toyota had decided that for the time being, there were no appropriate candidates.

But as overseas revenues grow, that may change. Senior executives say the top candidate is Jim Press, the 59-year-old president of Toyota’s U.S. operations, a 26-year Toyota veteran. “They said they haven’t found somebody worthy,” says Mr. Press, shrugging off Mr. Watanabe’s comment with a laugh.”

So, even with that laugh…. I would assume that Toyota is just slow in bringing Americans onto their board. As they trust Americans with more responsibility up the ranks and different areas, it will happen. Conservative? Yes. Racist? I still think not.


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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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