Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Meet with Triumph and Disaster ….

Like many others I watched the BBC2 programme “Total Recall: The Toyota Story” last week. It made fascinating but sober viewing. Toyota, famous for quality, affordability and the ground breaking Prius, are now in the dock for allegedly preferring profits and growth to safety.

Rising to be the world’s largest car maker, and overtaking the mighty General Motors, the fourth generation Toyota family President might have felt that the company was invincible. It proved to be an illusion. The once text-book example of quality and just-in-time manufacturing is now the butt of jokes about brakes not working.

Whilst many are pouring over what we know of Toyota’s demise, what I think will be most interesting is what the company does next. It will take a lot to convince car owners that any amount of functionality, at any price, is worth more than safety. It will also take a lot to convince car owners that dealing with a manufacturer who is slow to respond to deaths caused by faults in their cars is a good bet. However, both are possible.

Toyota has been revolutionary and inspirational in so many ways. They made Kaizen part of business people’s everyday vocabulary. Let’s hope there is still more to learn from them in how to recover from their current plight.

Rudyard Kipling's "If" seems appropriate, so here it is:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man my son!

—Rudyard Kipling


  1. I was speaking to a Toyota owner yesterday.

    He said he wouldn't be deterred from buying Toyota because he knew it was a good brand.

    Personal experience counts for a lot - even in a disaster.

  2. I've got similar personal experiences - despite the shocking nature of The Money Programme. I hope they do realign their safety record with their brand image, and that in the long term this will be a "blip." It will be interesting to see whether sales keep pace with professed brand loyalty.