Toyota: Forgotten Principles

Toyota: Forgotten Principles

Last week Toyota’s president, Mr. Akio Toyota, testified before U.S. Congress regarding the company’s global recall.  Mr. Toyota repeatedly apologized for the recall of millions of cars, offering to take personal responsibility for what had happened.  As part of his testimony, Mr. Toyota stated that the company lost sight of its priorities, growing too large too fast.  He claimed the company’s original priorities were safety first, quality second and volume third.  However, over the years these priorities became scrambled, resulting in volume toppling safety.

This situation is a reminder that during times of growth organizations should continually review their founding principles and mission.  This can help to ensure that an organization’s current strategy does not lead it down a path it does intend nor desire.   Such an exercise may have helped Toyota keep its priorities in proper order.

Published on the Toyota Worldwide website is a set of  “7 Guiding Principles.” Principle #3 states: Dedicate ourselves to providing clean and safe products and to enhancing the quality of life everywhere through all our activities. Interestingly, none of the principles mention anything to the tune of “sell more cars than anyone else.”  Additionally, Toyota North America’s mission statement reads: To attract and attain customers with high-valued products and services and the most satisfying ownership experience in America. Again, the mission is not about volume—rather it is about value and customer satisfaction.

While I do not intend to over-simplify Toyota’s situation, it may have benefited the company to revisit its mission and principles, making sure that its actions aligned with their words. Unfortunately, Toyota is not the first, nor will it be the last organization, to lose sight of its founding intentions due to growth.  Company mission statements and principles serve minimal value if they are not upheld.

Does your organization’s current strategy and actions align with its mission?

Courtney Zegarski is an experienced research and communications professional with a passion for corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship. Courtney holds a B.A. in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis and a M.B.A in Leadership & Business Ethics from DePaul, and writes extensively for the Social Endeavors Blog.