Tag: Crisis Management

Toyota #1 for a Reason

Experience is often gained by making mistakes, however, we don’t have to repeat them for the sake of experience.  This is one of the reasons I decided to read “Toyota Under Fire” by Jeffrey K. Liker and Timothy N. Ogden.  Aside from the many positive reviews this book has already received, it claims to present “The definitive inside account of Toyota’s greatest crisis – and lesson you can apply to your own company.”

Just as interesting though are two very strong statements or “subtitles” that appear on the front cover.  At first I thought these statements were quite bold considering that Toyota’s most troubling times are not that far behind us:

  1. Lessons For Turning Crisis Into Opportunity, and
  2. How Toyota Faced the Challenges of the Recall and the Recession to Come Out Stronger

I don’t think any company would savor the opportunity to experience the crises that Toyota has been subjected to over the past few years.  It is certainly easier and much cheaper to learn from the experiences and “mistakes” of others.  Each crisis that Toyota faced was compounded by the presence of new ones,  namely,

  1. Sudden Acceleration concerns and the recall of over 10 million vehicles,
  2. Enduring significant media and government scrutiny while being subject to the most intensive investigation in many years,
  3. Defamation of the Toyota brand and loss of consumer confidence in the company and it’s products, and
  4. An economic downturn that affected every manufacturer around the world.

These were certainly very difficult times and the lessons to be learned from them are sure to be of value to every business.  In the typical Toyota style, they once again have opened the doors to share their lessons learned – an opportunity that few companies dare to offer.

Endorsements

The statements supporting this book imply that successes have already been realized.  I, like you, would be more than a little concerned if these were Self-Proclaimed statements issued by Toyota’s leadership.  The good news is they aren’t.

An article published in the Toronto Star, “Toyota Bags 3rd Consecutive Reader’s Digest ‘Most Trusted Brand’ Award“, presents the best endorsement of all – it’s from us – the consumer.  The Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands program awarded Toyota ‘Most Trusted Passenger Car Brand” for the third year in a row and the 2011 Most Trusted Hybrid Brand.

Toyota is the number selling car brand in Canada and is recognized for having the most fuel-efficient car fleet and providing the greatest value to customers.  I was surprised to learn that 80% of Toyota’s sold in the past 20 years are still on the road.

Respect is Earned

As the expression goes, “Respect is Earned”.  I contend that the same is true for Trust.  Perhaps the realization that Toyota is as concerned about people, employees and customers alike, that the very culture that defines the company has extended to its customers as well.

As such, Toyota’s resilience and sustainability through these crises is further evidence of the unique and powerful culture upon which the company itself was founded.  I’m excited by the opportunity to learn more about this amazing company.  Toyota Under Fire will certainly prove to be a good read.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter:  @Versalytics
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Contingency Plans – Crisis Management in Lean Organizations

Contingency Planning For Lean Organizations – Part IV – Crisis Management

In a previous post we eluded that lean organizations are likely to be more susceptible to disruptions or adverse conditions and may even have a greater impact on the business.  To some degree this may be true, however, in reality, Lean has positioned these organizations to be more agile and extremely responsive to crisis situations to mitigate losses.

True lean organizations have learned to manage change as normal course of operation.  A crisis only presents a disruption of larger scale.  Chapter 10 of Steven J. Spear’s book, “Chasing the Rabbit”, exemplifies how high velocity, or lean, organizations have managed to overcome significant crisis situations that would typically cripple most organizations.

Problem solving is intrinsic at all levels of a lean organization and, in the case of Toyota, problem solving skills extend beyond the walls of the organization itself.  It is clear that an infrastructure of people having well developed problem solving skills is a key component to managing the unexpected.    The events presented in this chapter demonstrate the agility that is present in a lean organization, namely Toyota in this case and it’s supplier base.

Training is a Contingency

Toyota has clearly been the leader in Lean manufacturing and even more so in developing problem solving skills at all levels of the organization company-wide.  The primary reason for this is the investment that Toyota puts into the development of people and their problem solving skills at the onset of their employment with the company.  The ability to see problems, correct them in real time, and share the results (company-wide) is a testament to the system and it’s effectiveness has been proven on many occassions.

Prevention, preparation, and training (which is also a form of prevention) are as much an integral part of  contingency planning as are the actual steps that must be executed when a crisis situation occurs.  Toyota has developed a rapid response reflex that is inherent in the organization’s infrastructure to rapidly regain it’s capabilities when a crisis strikes.

Crisis Culture

We highly recommend reading Steven J. Spear’s “Chasing the Rabbit” to learn and appreciate the four capabilities that distinguish “High Velocity” organizations.  The key to lean is creating a cultural climate that is driven by the relentless pursuit of improvement and elimination of waste.  Learning to recognize waste and correcting the condition as it occurs requires keen observation and sharp problem solving skills.

Creating a culture of this nature is an evolutionary process – not revolutionary.  In many ways the simplicity of the four capabilities is it’s greatest ally.  Instilling these principles and capabilities into the organization demands time and effort, but the results are well worth it.  Lean was not intended to be complex and the principles demonstrated and exemplified in Chasing the Rabbit confirm this to be true.  This is not to be construed as saying that the challenges are easy … but with the right team they are certainly easier.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

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Contingency Planning For Lean Organizations – H1N1 (Swine Flu) – Reference

In our first post on Contingency Planning For Lean Organizations, we made reference to the current situation regarding the H1N1 virus or Swine Flu. We also suggested that history may provide relevant information that can be used to aid in future crisis event planning.

Michael A. Roberto, author of “Know What You Don’t Know” copyright 2009 by Pearson Education Inc., presents a case surrounding the 1976 “swine flu” incident to exemplify how faulty analogies can have devastating effects. In his book, Michael Roberto cites research of Richard Neustadt and Ernest May.

An excerpt from the book, reference pages 77-78, reads as follows:

“In that situation, President Gerald Ford and his advisors drew an erroneous analogy to the infamous flu epidemic of 1918. The faulty analogy led them to dramatically overestimate the seriousness of the problem they faced. As a result, they embarked on a very comprehensive and unnecessary immunization program. Roughly five hundred people experienced a serious side effect that was linked to the immunizations, and twenty five people died.”

This may explain the slow, seemingly uncoordinated, pace of the government to address the current H1N1 outbreak. Many people remain skeptical as to whether the immunization process is safe. This skepticism may be warranted. Again, referencing Michael Roberto’s book “Know What You Don’t Know” (page 78), “More people died from the immunization than from the flu itself.”

The experts of the day advised that this could be another epidemic. Two prior non-swine flu outbreaks, one in 1957 and the other in 1968, caught the government off guard. It is more than noteworthy that an estimated twenty million people were killed world-wide by the virus during the epidemic of 1918.

With mounting pressure from the Centers for Disease Control to avoid history repeating itself and in an effort to be pro-active, immunizations were ordered and given to an estimated forty million people. What would you have done?

For more information we recommend reading “Knowing What You Don’t Know – How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen” by Michael A. Roberto, copyright 2009 by Pearson Education Inc., publishing as Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458 (ISBN: 0-13-156815-9), Pages 202.

Also see Warner, J. “The Sky Is Falling: An analysis of the Swine Flu Affair of 1976.” http://www.harverford.edu/biology/edwards/disease/viral_essays/warnervirus.htm

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!