I’ve been wondering (see post) how Toyota, the world-wide, benchmark manufacturing company for quality and a leader in promoting continuousimprovement (The Toyota Way), suddenly finds itself responsible for the recall of millions of cars, payer  of a major fine to the U.S. government, and the brunt of late-night TV humor. Izak Izak   Duenyas, writing in “The Business Thinker”, offers an explanation. He writes:

In the past, Toyota was very deliberate in adding new suppliers, developing a close working relationship with them, and ensuring they can meet Toyota’s stringent quality and on-time delivery requirements. One of the causes of the current quality issues is  that in the haste of meeting the objective of becoming the largest car company, Toyota did not allocate (nor did it have) sufficient internal resources to develop the kind of close working relationships with the new  suppliers that would have maintained the expected  quality performance.

It wasn’t a failure of “The Toyota Way” and its “lean” principles, Duenyas argues, but rather a failure of the company to apply its own dogma consistently over the long-term. The kind of culture that must be in place to support high performance and high quality is not something that, once in place, will continue indefinitely without constant attention and nurturing. Complacency will set in if the organization is not vigilant, especially, as in the case of Toyota, where the accolades and awards were flowing to them for several decades. This is a very important lesson for other companies aspiring to implement the lean approach, or any major culture change, for that matter.