Say it ain’t so! Toyota lay people off?

My friend Mark over at the Lean Blog posted a respect for people question from a question he saw on the Lean Insider blog.

For those new to this blog, respect for people is an extremely important aspect of lean.  In fact many would say it is the most important aspect.  I would agree.

However, I sometimes wonder if the whole respect for people aspect of lean gets carried away from time to time.  I blogged about this before when we discussed whether laying people off was really anti-lean.  Now, as I explained after posting that article laying people off as a result of “lean activity” is the surest way to kill the initiative.  I don’t think anyone in their right mind would argue that.

But what if Toyota offers to relocate its worker to another American city (e.g. San Antonio, Kentucky, etc.) instead of staying in California?  Would that be respectful enough?  What if they also offer, to those not wanting to relocate, a sweet severance package on top of 90 additional days on the payroll where the employee could search for another job with the help of Toyota Human Resources and career counselors.  Would that work?

For some I am sure the only move Toyota can make in order to be “respectful” is to stay in CA and work to become more competitive.  After all, they will claim, Toyota wrote the book on respecting people so how dare they let that silly “for profit” aspect of their business model get in the way.

Ah hell, I don’t know.  What do you think?

7 Comments

  1. Richard

    July 12, 2007 - 9:48 am

    I am with you on this. As someone said on the Lean blog what about respecting people in another city? Don’t they have the right to work for Toyota too? The key here is how Toyota handles the situation. if they whack people then they are jack asses. But if they help people make the move or help them find another job I am not sure what else can be done. Of course this all assumes they have done all they can in california to succeed which I imagine they have.

  2. Kevin

    July 12, 2007 - 1:25 pm

    Valuing people is not just being respectful of the employees, but to every stakeholder (customers – keeping prices reasonable, shareholders – providing return on invested capital, employees – providing decent, stable jobs in good workplaces).

    Sometimes business climates change beyond the control of the business; factors such as new legislation or soaring employment costs. Isn’t it only reasonable to expect a company to weigh all of those factors in addition to the employees?

    In my opinion, providing relocation opportunities or employment assistance when required is the mark of a great company.

  3. Ron Pereira

    July 12, 2007 - 2:09 pm

    Thanks for the comments Richard and Kevin.

  4. Matt Rutter

    July 13, 2007 - 1:10 am

    Excellent points and close to home as well.

    Help to relocate in a global market is normal to most of us in senior positions. For those with normal direct jobs moving is hard however we have moved all over the globe following fame anf fortune or just to feed our families. So really no change at all.

    I would comment – I am not aware of the ethnic background of the staff in CA however the philosophy is being applied by Americans and other Europeans and none Japanese cultures world wide! The essence of being respectful has so many edges (not just two) and if we thought about the effect to everyone we would soon go quite mad. TPS is bound to be “contaminated” (for want of a better word) with 100’s of years of traditional values from within the business culture it is transplanted too. Helping staff to come to terms with a business decision is good practice for western business, it appears to have been looked at differently within Toyota in that Toyota repects what it does and how it impacts those that work for Toyota.

    So I feel its not TPS that has become the harbinger of a none respectful ideology but the application of “normal” practice seeping into the Californian business and any business for that matter due to the people within the business having historical baggage and business practices.

    Every inducement stated are all really the same thing – appeasement of the soul for doing the wrong thing. The cost to transplant can surely be applied to the existing facility unless there are socioeconomic pressures to move a plant to regenerate an area and its possibly government interference that is the driver (little bit of politics there)

    Some food for thought there. Just as the ideas popped into my head to drive some really interesting debate

    Matt

  5. Ron Pereira

    July 13, 2007 - 7:34 am

    Excellent points Matt. This is a complicated topic indeed. Thanks for your views. Please come back to share your insight again!

  6. Martin Hickey

    September 3, 2007 - 8:29 am

    All very good points.

    No argument here. I do see that respect for people may also be to let them know some of the reasons for a move. I know they may not belive them but the communication also shows a level of respect you do not see in a majority of businesses.

    I understand you can not tell the average hourly and some of the salaried employees everything but what level of openness could be determined as respectfull? Where is the cutoff for being to much openness that it destroys the compettive edge?

    What is the end point for respect? Where will company presevation begin?

    Not easy questions. However in this subject they are realavent.

    Sorry for the spelling but it is labor day and my anniversary so I’m not being to careful here.

    Enjoy

  7. Ron Pereira

    September 3, 2007 - 2:39 pm

    Thanks for the great comments Martin.