I was pondering the plight of Toyota for my editorial for March when I ran across this blog post from Bill Waddell at Emerging Excellence–the Lean proponent. In fact, what I was thinking was that Toyota got caught up in the race to be biggest and forgot its vision (or the vision of its founders) to be best. There’s a difference. Anyway, Bill wrote the same idea about the same time. I wonder if it’s a third generation thing. I used to know people at a number of family owned businesses. Seems the second generation can keep the business going and even improve it. But the third generation–that’s a problem. Ford has suffered a little of that–but also picked some really bad CEOs. The current Toyoda is grandson of the founder. I don’t think he inherited the vision. Maybe he got an MBA where they teach you that infinite growth in sales is the only goal. Of course, no one ever succeeded at that.

I like Waddell’s conclusion:

The moral of the GM versus Toyota story is that running the business by cutting the sales folks loose to grow by any means – the faster the better – then tasking the rest of the business with following them up the peaks and down into the valleys – is folly.  The objective is to seek the right size for the business you are in, and grow as you can and should, but to do so by adding muscle, not fat.

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