I can’t find the link to an article I read a few weeks ago about the current head of Toyota, Akio Toyoda–grandson of founder, and how he delayed taking action at the beginning of this crisis. Here is an article in Huffington Post and another from the Chicago Tribune about his apology. I saw a tweet from Automation World’s Managing Editor Wes Iversen referring to his beloved Wall Street Journal (its site is behind a paywall–and I don’t pay) wondering if Lean manufacturing could be the cause. “Tweets” are ephemeral and designed either for conversations, or more recently, for driving clicks to Websites. So I can’t refer you to his tweet. But if Lean is an excuse for poor quality or poor design–it’s a weak excuse and a poor adoption of Lean.
Lean doesn’t mean “make it cheap,” it means “take out waste.” In its classic implementation, any worker can stop any process if quality is not up to par. In its classic implementation, leadership accepts responsibility for falling down on the job by not enforcing and promoting high standards, offers sincere apologies promptly, and charts a clear path forward. It certainly appears that Toyoda failed on all three counts (although it appears that the problems began before he was CEO). He’d better get more aggressive about fixing this, or we’ll start to think we’ll have to buy American for good quality.