Detroit News: Toyota is Fallible, but…

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Toyota recalls prove auto juggernaut is fallible, but fixable – 08/28/06 – The Detroit News Online

Here is a Detroit News column on Toyota's recent quality problems. It's always interesting to see how the Detroit papers write for what is mainly a Big 2 readership (white and blue collar both).

After some momentary gloating, some “bulletin board” material for the GM and Ford folks, the columnist writes:

“And if the general public and Toyota's boosters didn't spend so much energy hyping the myth of Toyota invincibility, which will be harder to propagate as the empire expands, the product line grows, the quality glitches mount and success breeds complacency.

Here's a news flash: Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe has basically conceded in two separate news conference in two months that the myth isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Which doesn't mean Toyota won't fix the problem, because it will. You can bet on that.”

Am I a “Toyota Booster?” Sure, you bet. I'm convinced that the Toyota system is superior to older “mass production” methods or most Western top-down command-and-control management ideas. Lean and TPS can apply in any factory, and especially can apply in healthcare settings.

But, I've never told anyone that Toyota is infallible. If anything, the scary part about Toyota's performance is about how they fix things, they eventually get it right. The first Toyota pickup design last lacking? They're figuring it out. They'll figure out how to grow quickly while maintaining quality.

We know Toyota is faillible. Why? Because Toyota's own leaders tell us so. It's GM and Ford leadership who are full of excuses.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Toyota never said they were infallible. And the large number of “boosters” don’t think they are either. That myth is a creation of the media, the same media that is now in the business of debunking the myth.

  2. Every company has problems. The question is how do they handle them?

    First by denial, followed by attributing blame?

    Or by realizing that “no problem is a problem”, since no problems means no improvements.

    Now that Toyota has identified the problem, let’s see how quickly they identify the root cause and improve their business to prevent it from happening again.

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