From The Archives of a Common Sensei – Volume 9: Characteristics of TOYOTA

In volume 8 we discussed The Dynamics of Japanese Management Techniques and a comparison of Eastern vs. Western business practices; in volume 9, I want to showcase an early document that I received as part of my exposure as the initial American to join Toyota Industrial Equipment (TIEM) in America.  What I gained from these early documents and experiences is what was transforming for me for the rest of my business career.  To fully appreciate what TIEM was/is, it helps to understand that this business was created as a joint venture between Toyoda Automatic Loom and Toyota Motor Corporation in 1989.  The site selection process that I was hired to perform took place in 1987 – 1988, but that is another story; interesting, but another story that involved immersing myself in understanding the differences in the business cultures and how we could build our new TIEM plant that capitalized on those traits that would catapult our new industrial equipment manufacturing operation.  With the joint venture, it is helpful to realize that there were differences between the two company cultures and history. As was explained to me, these differences grew out of prior historical business decisions as both organizations were/are involved in the automotive industry.  The only reason I am mentioning this is because it played a part in the early days of the TIEM culture creation.  While TMC was building a manufacturing plant in Georgetown Kentucky, TIEM was building a manufacturing plant in Columbus Indiana.  The only reason this was a problem is that we were encouraged to each do the development without communication between us.  If I recall correctly, the reason was to develop a plant specific culture that would work independently.  In the case of TIEM, we brought approximately 26 families from the Japanese industrial equipment operation to Columbus and acclimated them into the Columbus environment while we were also hiring the initial workforce from the Columbus area.  This combination of workforce engulfed themselves in the best of both East and West business cultures.  Occasionally we exchanged some thinking with the Georgetown TMC operation so we could maximize our joint learnings in culture and practices.  The attached early document (with some extraneous comments) is a display of the Characteristics of TOYOTA and fundamental beliefs that were a part of this learning.  The document highlights: the fundamental belief of Toyota, the company values, putting Toyota’s value into practice, and characteristics of Toyota’s way of business.

There are multiple articles out there that concentrate on Toyota Production Systems tools, but the focus here is on the culture of what makes TIEM and the other Toyota labeled businesses the leaders in their product markets.

Before tackling the “how” to implement the improvement tools so often attributed to TPS, take the time to understand “what” needs to be accomplished and “why” you want to accomplish it.  Focus on a long- term goal and create an integrated and iterative path of targets to achieve your goals.  Keep in mind while reading through the Characteristics of TOYOTA that the focus is on people, customers, mutual trust, cost consciousness, values, and fundamental principles.  Do not back away from the challenge that confronts you and your organization!  Apply the same/similar characteristics as discussed here and you will, over time, see beneficial results!  Oh, and by the way, TIEM leads the industrial equipment market sector!

Max Allway

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