Over time, two words have changed least: I and who. These are the cornerstones of what makes a successful brand i.e. creating “I want” from your customer and knowing “who you are” as a brand. In Toyota's pursuit of manufacturing excellence (“Monozukuri”), these two critical brand building blocks have been defenestrated.
Trait 3: Intransigence
Crisis begs bold and virtuous action, not soggy corporatism. Toyota now faces a litany of complaints, a morass of stories, customers, dealerships, and Congress have only just begun to vent their spleen. Prior to the current crisis, Toyota's intransigence has not been imperceptible e.g., making essential design changes without informing customers with existing models of those changes! This potent combination to combat crisis without ossifying their customers and the short-term myopia that has plagued Toyota's recalcitrant board, tainted by the belief that nothing matters more than the next profit announcement or Monday's share price, has opened them to a volley of imprecations. Punch Lehman's ex-CEO, Richard Fuld, and he'll make this crystal clear.
Trait 4: Expect v. Inspect
Execution is essential - you've got to be in it to win it. The unconscionable reaction Toyota demonstrated revealed impotence within their management approach to crisis, along with a lack of effective decentralized decision-making. Lengthy company procedures are less important than the ability to marshal a crisis team and take action to calm people's fear. In a global crisis trust is essential and Toyota's “stop the line” manufacturing philosophy should have been applied immediately to the crisis. After weeks of ruminations and preceding the reluctant CEOs statement on February 9, there was some wisdom from Toyota's spokesman, James Wiseman, on February 7. He said, “we acknowledge that we could have communicated better as a company.” Really James.
Dean Crutchfield is chief engagement officer at Method.