Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Ass

By Ron Pereira Published on February 2nd, 2010

Man, oh man.  The lean and business blogosphere feels as if it’s about to explode.

Ever since everyone’s “model” of how to run a business (a.k.a. Toyota) has run into serious trouble people seem to be jumping off the TPS bandwagon faster than Brett Favre fans.

It goes something like this, and I am paraphrasing:

“Thank you Toyota for helping to get this lean thing started. We really appreciate it. But you obviously don’t follow your own system or perhaps your system actually sucks so I’m leaving you. After all, my company hasn’t recalled millions of widgets (lately). Oh, and good luck with that brake problem. It definitely sucks to be you.”

Or here’s another version of what people are saying, again paraphrased.

“I have told you all along that following Toyota was not the way. Sure they have some good tools that they stole from the Americans… but I think you’ll agree now is the time to stop following them. They’re washed up. They’re too big. I mean, come on, they can’t even design a floor mat! Let’s do this thing on our own. After all, we can design floor mats and brake pedals that don’t stick… right?”

Get Out

Again, I am paraphrasing here… but this is the general feeling I’m getting from around the web.

You know what I want to say to all these folks jumping off the Toyota bandwagon?

Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Failure is Inevitable

You see, what people seem to be forgetting is every one of us has or will fail.

It all started with an apple a long time ago.  We’ll all fail in business, in our personal lives, and in our spiritual lives.

To be sure, if there’s  a certainty in life it’s that failure is indeed inevitable. The question then becomes how do we respond to this failure?

Do we say we’re sorry for our mistakes and attempt to fix it as fast as possible while implementing countermeasures so it never occurs again?

Or do we point fingers and hide like cowards praying we don’t get sued since the “cost benefit analysis” says we’re better off waiting for law suits then we are fixing all those Pintos, I mean widgets.

Toyota is Not Infallible

Toyota never promised us they wouldn’t falter… especially since they’re operated by men and women.

And Toyota never asked us to write books about them or learn about how they operate their company.

No, we did that on our own. And I, for one, am glad since I’m a better person for it.

I’m Here For the Long Haul

So am I am jumping from the TPS bandwagon or trying to “separate” myself from Toyota in these hard times? No way.

I’m here for the long journey. I still have so much to learn from them as well as from my own personal failures and successes.

And, alas, I’m prepared for all the bandwagoner’s to come crawling back on their bellies as they attempt to climb back on board the TPS wagon once things settle down. And they will settle down. This, I’m sure of.

What about you?

Where do you stand? Are you prepared to fight through this problem with Toyota or are you jumping for cover?

  1. Matt Hahn

    February 2, 2010 - 10:29 am

    Well said. I’m not jumping although it is bumpier than I’d prefer.

  2. Bridget Clarke

    February 2, 2010 - 11:40 am

    I am new to the Lean world but have also been surprised by the cries of despair or doubt from many of the sites I visit. I also have no doubt the Toyota Corporation will come back stronger than before.

  3. Daniel

    February 2, 2010 - 1:44 pm

    Lean does not imply that there will be no more problems, mistakes or mix-ups. They SHOULD be reduced, though.

    It remains to be seen what Toyota knew, and when they knew it. Why did it take this long to pull the Andon cord? The failure may be expected in a part or process, but it should be stopped and fixed as soon as it is noticed.

    In any case, Toyota’s failing (or misfortune) has little to do with the value of Lean on its own. Just because they codified many of its practices, does not mean they lived perfectly within them. It could be argued that Toyota’s rapid expansion over the last few years hurt their quality, as their production outgrew their people.

  4. DonKy

    February 3, 2010 - 7:30 am

    The abandonment of this or any helpful process is simply evidence that the process was not completely understood.

  5. Ed

    February 3, 2010 - 8:16 am

    I have no doubt Toyota will bounce back. In fact, I hope the media makes it seem a lot worse than it really is so the stock goes down more, then I will buy as much as possible and sell when it bounces back.

  6. Angela

    February 3, 2010 - 8:24 am

    LOL – I’m glad there are others out there who feel the way I do. We had friends over to watch the basketball game last night (Go Cavs!) and started on this subject. My point of view silenced the room and no one wanted to talk anymore. My friend actually asked if I was “Anti-American” – how ridiculous! Of course I am Pro-American but I want a quality product. IMHO Toyota should be congratulated for shutting down production, for true root cause investigation and for taking responsibility… seems like we could use some of that in America.

  7. Charles LaPorte

    February 3, 2010 - 8:36 am

    Amen! Toyo will be just fine.

  8. John Hunter

    February 5, 2010 - 4:06 pm

    I agree completely. Toyota never was perfect. Toyota is still a very well managed company. They have experienced problems that sure seem to indicate systemic failures that they need to address. But I believe they will do so. Maybe I am wrong, but I still have more confidence in their management than almost anywhere else.

  9. Terry Eklund

    February 16, 2010 - 9:28 pm

    The tools that TPS provides will help identify and correct any future issues.
    I have faith that they will bounce back and be very productive,very quickly.
    I have used these tools for 15+ years so I know just how effective they are
    at problem solving and teaching you to find a better way.

  10. Mark Comeau

    February 24, 2010 - 4:52 pm

    Completely agreed. Likewise, all of the politicians crawling over one another for the best seat in front of a microphone and a television camera so that they may bask in the warm glow that comes from chastising those greedy Toyota executives for the benefit of those who find gratification in the tearing down of an icon makes for great theater. The heightened scrutiny on Toyota today will run its course – as it did for Bridgestone, Tylenol, and any number of high profile examples that have been splayed across the headlines for a time and subsequently forgotten.

    This time is different however, because the subject is Toyota. This is all too juicy for our remarkably inept and uneducated media and politicians. My goodness, Toyota is – after all – Japanese, and Number One. They were supposed to be The Benchmark of excellence and efficiency. It is far too easy for the critics wielding 20/20 hindsight to stab the wounded after the war, and for the echo chamber to radiate their criticisms for all the world to hear: Toyota Failed! One can almost hear the ozone-crackling glee in the air.

    Obviously these egregious failures must surely mean that the entire Toyota Production System is a sham; that Lean is a dead-end path to financial ruin and the clear-cut cause that drove an executive management team to put dollars ahead of sense. What is a constant among these many masters of popular opinion however is an incredible lack of curiosity and understanding. When all the smoke clears, what is inherently obvious (and likely allowing Team Toyota a knowing smile amongst themselves) is that these very failures are illustrative of what happens when TPS/Lean takes a nap.

    Lean – defined simply as the elimination of waste and the improvement of flow – is exactly what is needed here. Lean doesn’t cut corners. (That type of activity is often best identified as “value engineering.”) At the end of the day, Toyota will turn to its roots, go directly to Gemba, identify with painstaking precision the true causes for these errors, and eliminate them. To their credit, if that means slowing growth to better ensure precise execution of their strategy, they will do so. Even scrutiny as to failures to pull the Andon cord and react sooner qualify as waste-elimination projects. Toyota knows these things intrinsically and they will address them systematically. Toyota – a human enterprise – made mistakes. Perhaps all those lining up to throw stones are themselves infallible, but I tend to think instead that it just makes them feel better – even if only temporarily. All together now: lean eliminates waste – not value – and defects are waste.

  11. James

    March 24, 2010 - 7:21 am

    I agree with some of what you say and I disagree with some, but I do think Toyota will bounce back. I think one of the biggest things overlooked here is they did not practice what they preach, I am a big believer in the theory of stop the line when a problem arises and in this case I do not think they did so until it was way too far gone. I hope and think they will learn from that and realize next time that becoming the biggest car maker is not worth trying to sweep problems under the rug. I think they spent way too much time trying to hide the problem instead of stopping the line and truly try to fix this problem. I think it is very safe to say they put to much focus on becoming the largest car maker and briefly forgot or did not listen to what their customers were saying. But they will be back just give them time.

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