I don’t know how many of you went to business school, or reviewed case studies in classes there, but I did and I can’t consider the whole Toyota melt-down without thinking about how it’s going to be covered in future B-school curricula.
The case studies are probably being written as you read this.
It’s a remarkable story, really, and it’s been fascinating and appalling to watch as a car company slides from being a watchword for quality to become something like a demon-mobile maker.
Talk about diluting your brand.
But I think the Toyota story has lessons for individuals, as well as corporations, and here are a few:
Don’t believe your own B.S. – Toyota told itself it was the best for so long it seemed to just accept it. Just as businesses need to be careful about falling for their own marketing, individuals need to make sure they have the substance to back up the bullet points on their resumes.
Don’t rest on your laurels – Doesn’t it seem like Toyota paid a lot of attention to quality for years and then decided to coast? Unfortunately, it’s not possible to reach a certain level of achievement and then stay there without ongoing effort. That’s because neither businesses nor people can just be a something. You have to do a something. If you’re presenting yourself as the best at anything, get out there and prove it. Every day.
Shoddy work will show – Ultimately, things went wrong at Toyota because people – at a variety of levels – weren’t doing their jobs. Make sure you do a good job, no matter what your level of responsibility is.
Face the truth when things go wrong – “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up,” is often said about politicians in trouble, but the saying holds true for individuals in any sector. Ignoring problems, or trying to bury them, is almost always a bad idea. It probably won’t even buy you time, because trouble tends to get bigger and bigger, the more you try to avoid it.
The buck stops, or the car doesn’t – It’s important to take responsibility, even if all of it doesn’t really belong to you. If someone, somewhere, at Toyota had taken a stand and said these problems with their vehicles need to be addressed well, maybe Ford wouldn’t be having such a good year. No matter how much we’d rather not do it, it’s usually pretty clear when someone needs to draw a line in the sand. Be that person. You might not save lives, or a major multinational company’s reputation, but you’ll have done the right thing.
by Danielle Dresden