Toyota Management at the top — Is it anything more than listening to your mom and your school teacher?

The recent news of the run away Toyota cars and the “denial by Toyota management of the problems” and their attempts to recall and fix such problems …… are well known. There are plenty of news links on these topics. I have posted one link at the bottom of this message. What is intriguing to me, is all the analysis that goes with these news clips and the basics that seem to be missed in these comments. For example:

          Toyota became a profiteering corporation ……………..  Aren’t all corporations set up to make profit? Is there any company that is set up to loose money? Is there any investor, who wishes to hold stocks in a company, where a single penny is not added to its bottom line when it can? So, the issue is not making profits, but profiteering. How many know the difference between the two, unless they paid close attention in the English class? The word, Profiteer means to exploit or abuse. Frankly speaking, I had to look up the dictionary to get the correct meaning and the difference between the two words!

          Toyota denied problems to investigators at the NHSTA ………. Why did Toyota do this? If you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, don’t lie and try to get away with it. Lying will catch up with you, sooner than later. It is also a reflection of low self-esteem. To make a mistake is not a crime. But knowingly do that is not a mistake – not a chance event. Don’t the senior managers of large corporations learn this from their moms? Also, why is there a fear of “authority”? NHSTA and all such Government agencies are set up, to help address the safety issues in the interest of public good. Safe customer is always a better customer for Toyota or any other company. Then why do we treat such Government agencies either with awe or reverence or fear and contempt with intent to avoid? This requires faith in a larger order and the systems established to foster such faith in common good. Isn’t this what you learn in your high school class on social civics?

          To lose face in Japan is punishable …………… In Japanese culture this is a grave sin. To lose face in the culture is to lose respectability and social value. The Japanese culture indicates it must always be attended to by the individual to maintain respect.

I think, Japan and Japanese companies got caught up in this false pretence. Ok, don’t jump up and shout, “What do you mean? Are you insulting the Japanese and their culture?” Not really. Think about it, there is no legal punishment in Japan for loosing face. It is a moral and ethical code of conduct not to lie and cheat Tell me why we make so much news about Tiger Woods and Mark Sanford? Surely you loose face weather you lie about a safety issue to NHSTA or about infidelity to your wife and the public. Don’t lie and cheat – aren’t they the simple rules that your mom taught, when you were young?

             and there are ways to cheat the system …… Comments like this are at the crux of the modern management. In fact it is at the crux of many aspects of the competitive society we live in. Any “system” is only as good as we define its constraints. If it is accepted that it is OK to cheat until you are caught, then there are ways to cheat. This goes for being truthful in your tax return or pushing the edges – to “cheat” – as much as it goes for compliance with NHSTA reviews. We accept pushing such limits in sports activities, since there is a referee to “call them as we see them”. All such sport activities have a clearly defined space, within which the athletes push the limits – cheat – and pay the price, when the referee catches them. But real life is not a competitive sport. To get ahead and score points is not the only goal in life. But, egged on by the pressures of modern society and its norms, we seem to care more about pushing the limits, with clear intent to cheat until you are caught.

My mom always told me, “it is OK for you to make mistakes, when you are young. I am around to guide you. But, there will come a time, when you will be grown up and I will be gone. At that time, you will be responsible on your own” She also told me, “Pay attention to your school teacher. You will find what you learn at school very useful some day”. These may be the lessons for the senior management of any large company, Toyota included.

Reference:   Can Toyota Recover?

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