The Toyota Way Back

According to the NY Times today, Toyota’s chief executive, Akio Toyoda, told investment analysts that communication was to blame for the crisis surrounding the company, not defects on its cars. Mr. Toyoda said the company had been the subject of “negative reporting”.

He has also pledged to have more communication with his dealers and has claimed to already taken ‘a number of important steps’ to improve communications with regulators and customers, who’s loyalty he believes, will help them through the situation.

Isn’t there a group he’s missing?

Given the recent safety problems, negative publicity and downward stock performance, it might also be an optimal time for Toyota to consider an internal employee communications campaign to reinvigorate the brand from the inside out.

Exactly 9 years ago, in April 2001, the Toyota Motor Corporation adopted the “Toyota Way” an expression of values and conduct guidelines that all Toyota employees should embrace.

Under the two headings, or “pillars,” of Respect for People and Continuous Improvement, Toyota sums up the values and conduct guidelines with the following five principles:
• Challenge
• Kaizen (improvement)
• Genchi Genbutsu (go and see)
• Respect
• Teamwork

A branding expert like myself, might consider these to be their brand pillars, and had they stayed true to them, they may have avoided the problems they face today.

For Toyota, finding internal support may not be initially easy. Consider 2 of the 14 Principles that are part of the Toyota Way:

Principle 1
• Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.

Principle 5
• Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.

With more than 50,000 employees in the US alone, Toyota needs to launch internal research to uncover the teams applying these principles, and then highlight the positive efforts on its business.

Through a solid communication campaign that shows the relevance of the Toyota Way in today’s troubled climate, and the recognitionof those embracing the Toyota Way, they can continue to build on the success of their strong culture.

It’s another case of a brand gone bad, but I believe that the Toyota Way can be their way back to the top.

Now can someone just tell Mr. Toyoda about BRANDEMiX?

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