Toyota’s All-Out Drive To Stay Toyota


Business Week Article

I have a number of “Toyota is struggling” articles in the backlog to work through. Maybe I'll dump the rest of those later in a single post. This was a good article from BusinessWeek (actually a weekly publication, unlike IndustryWeek), thanks to Mike T. for sending it my way.

Is Toyota sitting idly by? Not at all, they are stepping up training:

“…management has launched a slew of education initiatives, and even uses a business school in Tokyo to teach Toyota to be, well, more like Toyota. “We are making every effort not to lose our DNA,” says Shigeru Hayakawa, president of Toyota Motor North America.”

The hypergrowth is a challenge, to be sure:

“And in the past three years, Toyota has hired 40,000 workers new to the company's culture. “It isn't an immediate problem; it's like a metabolic disease you don't know you have before it's too late,” says Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst at UBS in Tokyo.”

When I was at Dell, we were growing at 30 to 35% a year, which was a frantic pace to keep up, in terms of building new factories and hiring new people. I came on board in 1999, just after the company had starting hiring lots of experienced managers from other companies. which compared to the go-go culture of Dell, that was like hiring GM people into Toyota. Not necessarily the same culture and that led to some culture clashes, with those who had been brought up in the Dell system and the new people who didn't want some of those “old company” cultures seeping in.

Nothing against GM people, lots of talented, hardworking people there… so what does Toyota do when they hire an experience GM leader? Send them to training!

“When Steve St. Angelo was hired from General Motors in 2005, the executive immediately found himself back on the assembly line for several weeks. It didn't matter that he had spent almost 10 years at a plant in Fremont, Calif., jointly owned by GM and Toyota, where the Toyota Way has been alive and well for decades. The company figured an outsider hired to a management job—a rarity at Toyota—would need schooling in the basics. “They assumed I knew nothing about Toyota's production system,” says St. Angelo, who in June was promoted to North American manufacturing boss.”

I don't remember Dell having any formal “this is our culture” training.

Does it seem, to anyone, that Toyota is standing still, not trying furiously to improve, even though everyone anoints them the #1 and the leader? “Continuous improvement in the pursuit of perfection,” that's the phrase right? Not “continuous improvement until you're #1 and then rest on your laurels.” That attitude is probably the toughest aspect of the Toyota Way culture for other companies to copy, don't you think?

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Mark Graban
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.


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