NY Times Magazine on Toyota – Part 2


From 0 to 60 to World Domination – New York Times

More from Sunday's long NY Times piece…

We're used to Jeff Liker saying good things about Toyota, but also Bill Gates?

“It's influencing just about every major company in the world, in that they're asking the question: What can we learn from Toyota?” says Jeff Liker, an engineering professor at the University of Michigan who has written several books on the company. Indeed, what you can learn from Toyota is something that even Bill Gates has pondered publicly.

Through some Google searches, I am having trouble finding a reference to Gates praising Toyota. Has anyone seen this?

The second part of the article is titled, “Kaizen Means Never Being Satisfied“, which talks about Toyota's “long view”:

Toyota's overarching principle, [Jim] Press told me, is “to enrich society through the building of cars and trucks.” This phrase should be cause for skepticism, especially coming from a company so adept at marketing and public relations. I lost count of how many times Toyota executives, during the course of my reporting, repeated it and how often I had to keep from recoiling at its hollow peculiarity. And yet, the catch phrase — to enrich and serve society — was not intended, at least originally, to function as a P.R. motto. Historically the idea has meant offering car customers reliability and mobility while investing profits in new plants, technologies and employees. It has also captured an obsessive obligation to build better cars, which reflects the Toyota belief in kaizen, or continuous improvement. Finally, the phrase carries with it the responsibility to plan for the long term — financially, technically, imaginatively. “The company thinks in years and decades,” Michael Robinet, a vice president at CSM Worldwide, a consulting firm that focuses on the global auto industry, told me. “They don't think in months or quarters.”

Are you skeptical about Toyota's goals being sincere or is it just a marketing ploy?

Toyota certainly aims high when it comes to “big hairy audacious goals”:

Toyota's president, Katsuaki Watanabe, who like all of the company's top executives is based in Japan, recently declared that his dream for Toyota is to build a car that does not hurt anyone and cleans the air when it's running. This is not quite as fantastical as it sounds. Several automakers are developing cars with sensors that literally prevent them from crashing (though not from being crashed into). And in the heavy intersections in Tokyo where air quality is poor, Takahiro Fujimoto told me, part of Watanabe's vision is already real: “The emission gas of some advanced cars is in fact cleaner than the intake air.”

Amazing, huh?

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

  1. Anonymous says

    The NYT article was pretty solid, and being published in the NYT will generate a lot more visibility than being in the usual industry trade rags. They did a better job than I might have expected. I passed it on to all of my staff. We are engaged in our own Lean Journey, and really enjoy stories and examples from other companies. Toyota of course gets a lot of attention from nearly everyone interested in Lean.

  2. David Carlton says

    Googling “gates microsoft toyota” turned up an article where he says:

    “And if you look at what Toyota has done in terms of thinking through the work process, how their engineers spend time, what counts, it’s a very disciplined kind of innovation, it’s not this wacky, totally off the wall type innovation, which has its place, but they’ve done an absolutely fantastic job of doing that innovation.”

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