Akio Toyoda spoke to the U.S. Congress last week and apologized for his company’s failures to perform. (As an aside, it is interesting that Charlie Rangel has no problem holding Mr. Toyoda responsible for the failures of people who work for him [Mr. Toyoda], while simultaneously suggesting that he [Mr. Rangel] should not be held responsible for errors by his own staff. But I digress.)
Toyota Motor Company is in deep trouble because of the highly publicized problems that have been headlines for weeks. Much has been made of what happened within Toyota to allow such problems to occur. Is this a failure of the Toyota Way? Did Toyota grow to fast, as Mr. Toyoda suggested? I submit there is another, more likely cause.
In all of my years in dealing with Japanese customers and vendors, since my very first job out of college as a Product Engineer, I have found the Japanese companies and their people to be “annoyingly” focused on finding the root cause of all reported problems. They have frustrated the heck out of me (and my co-workers) by their single-minded insistence on knowing for certain what caused what we would often consider to be an anomaly. Virtually every time their insistence forced us to get better.
To this day Toyota does not seem to know what caused their myriad of problems. And, surprisingly at least to me, they didn’t seem to be focused on finding out. People died because of apparent problems with their vehicles and they did not look to find the root cause. Why not? What changed within this company that permitted root cause analysis to be over-looked?
I doubt that growth is the problem. Something else is afoot and until they figure that out, their problems will continue.