Toyota Loves France!

Or so the full page ad taken out by the French government in the Otober 31, 2005 issue of BusinessWeek would have you believe. The ad takes no chances that the reader might not get the point, using the tag line “The New France. Where the Smart Money Goes.”
With softball questions like “Are the French hard to work with?” or “What do you find attractive about doing business in France?” and “Haven’t you ever felt any difficulty doing business here?” the ad misses no opportunity to tout the new France. Obviously Toyota likes what France has had to offer, since Vice Chairman Fujio Cho takes question after question and makes with a ringing endorsement of The New France.
A quarter of the page is taken up by a sketch of Vice Chairman Cho and his quote “We’ve had fantastic support from the French. Great teamwork and a real understanding of the concept of ‘continuous improvement’.” A true student of Taiichi Ohno, Vice Chairman Cho misses no opportunity to put kaizen front and center.
The first question is “Has it been difficult adapting to the French way of doing things?” which Cho answers “We have had no difficulty at all. At Toyota, our management philosophy is based on two pillars: mutual respect and what we Japanese call ‘Kaizen’, which means continuous improvement…[] Because inventiveness comes naturally to the French we’ve had no difficulty adapting the spirit of Kaizen to France.”
It’s a great paragraph. But I wonder what the answer would have been if the question were reversed: “Has it been difficult for the French to adapt to the Toyota way of doing things?”
This is the real question that we all face as we attempt to emulate the best of the Toyota management philosophy of kaizen and respect for people in our countries, companies and cultures, without the help of a patient and persistent Toyota management team to lead us.