Krazy Kaizen Kaput

Beware of the fanatics!

Toyota has experienced an extensive period of record recalls and a fall in status as a blue chip company. Apparently, the blue comes from bruises these days.

Toyota’s fanatical pursuit of kaizen, which they describe on their website as the “continuous pursuit of improvement in work procedures and equipment,” seems to ignore the obvious: what about the product?

Peter Drucker says the purpose of a business is to serve a customer and that economic reality is external to the company. Toyota thought they were an engineering company, in love with their micrometers, and forgot that the product had to make their customers happy and keep them safe.

Have you seen their advertisements that brag that they drilled holes in a screw head to save weight? Who let the engineers into the boardroom and in control of strategy?

We own a Toyota Highlander, purchased new in 2007, and I’ve owned five other Toyotas. I still remember my disbelief when I called the dealership and asked what I was supposed to do with my vehicle. The lady replied that she didn’t know and that I should contact the manufacturer. Fortunately, and purely due to luck, we had taken out the questionable floor mats and replaced them with all-season rubber mats that could handle kids, french fries, coffee and snow.

The major lessons for business owners:

  1. Keep focused on the customer, always.
  2. Don’t fall in love with your internal processes.
  3. Make sure your business strategy and focus are aimed at increasing value to your customer (as opposed to reducing costs).
  4. Nobody likes bad news. People rationalize. Make sure you can see and hear the truth.
  5. Accept responsibility quickly and communicate what you are doing about fixing the problem.
  6. Your ego is not a good decision-making tool.
  7. It’s OK to over-react to problems, because you’re taking action and can prevent the problem from growing.
  8. Have a trusted peer or advisor that will tell you the truth and is looking out for your best interest.
  9. Beware of fads, buzz-words and attempts to replace the hard work of strategy, thinking and customer satisfaction.
  10. Shop yourself.

Toyota was an excellent company and can likely regain its powerful position if it kaizen’s itself and realizes that it needs to kaput the kaizen.

P.S. We have a Toyota Highlander for sale.

Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved. Phil Symchych

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