What can we learn from the Toyota crisis?

The Toyota crisis is now several months old and there has been time for the dust to settle and for Toyota, and the rest of the world, to stop and assess and try to figure out what happened here? As of the last report I read over 8 million Toyotas had been recalled. The question as to whether or not Toyota will recover from this crisis still remains to be seen but quality experts have taken a cold hard look at this and tried to figure out how to make sure these massive manufacturing recalls never happen again, or at least become more rare than more common. Can you imagine if these kinds of quality issues and recalls happened in the airline industry? Wouldn’t we all be afraid to fly?

So what are some of the things Toyota is doing to recover from this crisis?

  • Toyota has made a commitment to hire more staff to oversee the quality process;
  • Toyota will be appointing a chief quality officer to each geographic region;
  • Toyota will establish a committee for global quality which will be led by the president. The goal of the committee will be to oversee quality improvement activities.
  • Toyota will inspect facilities when a product malfunction or nonconformance is identified within 24 hours of notification.
Let’s look at some of the obvious lessons learned from these events that we can all learn from.

Lessons Learned:

  • Senior leadership should never be so far removed from the day-to-day operation that they are not aware of serious problems going on.
  • No organization should take for granted their quality processes and systems. Even the best (Toyota) of them can fail if not managed within a strong quality management system.
  • When issues are first identified, they need to be dealt with immediately and should not be “hidden” from the general public and the government. It makes you wonder how different this would be if Toyota had acted on the first sign of these issues.
  • When the first complaint of an issue of this magnitude is made, production should be stopped until an investigation is made, a solution is identified and production changes are made.
  • Customer feedback should be taken seriously and improvement plans should be developed based on customer satisfaction surveys. It is also important to incorporate customer feedback into the quality process and product development.
  • Corporate priorities should never get confused. Toyota at one time had a goal to be the quality leader and over time those priorities shifted to be the largest car manufacturer. It can be difficult to do both. I think by now Toyota has learned that hard lesson.
  • The management of quality needs to be taken seriously and quality systems should be overseen by the highest levels of an organization. Quality measures should be one of they key organizational success factors.
  • Businesses who develop and produce products sold to the public need to understand their responsibility for the safety and risks to users of those products.
  • When products and services are in the developmental stages, quality systems, checks and balances need to be developed and managed.
  • Quality training should be incorporated into all quality processes.
This will be an interesting transition to follow as Toyota attempts to regain the consumer confidence they once had and reestablish themselves as the quality leader in the manufacturing of automobiles.


Patricia Lotich is an MBA who is passionate about helping churches, nonprofits and small business owners see their vision come to life by creating infrastructures that support business development and growth through strategic customer focus. She writes for The Thriving Small Business and Smart Church Management  which provides church and small business ...

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