I imagine a fair number of you read the cover story on Toyota's success (reg. required) in The New York Times Magazine this past Sunday. What I loved was that much of what was highlighted about the car manufacturer's success had to do with their management team's more whole-picture/holistic view.
Throughout Jon Gertner's article, you read how Toyota takes the longer term view of pretty much everything. Michael Robinet, a vice president at CSM Worldwide, a consulting firm that focuses on the global auto industry, is quoted, saying: "The company thinks in years and decades. They don't think in months or quarters." And, Gertner later points to the Toyota product making the biggest news lately: "The Prius was not about a fast return on investment. It was about a slow and long-lasting one."
Of course, this seems to be the exact opposite of what the big three American car manufacturers have been doing -in a rush to beat the competition with a short term whizz-bang of some sort, or a lot of ads during the Super Bowl.
A little later in the piece, the Gertner discusses Toyota's typically intense research methods - walking, talking and literally living a day in the lives of their Tundra truck or Sienna customers, for example. Here's just a part of the description of the level of research conducted by the Tundra's chief engineer, Yuichiro Obu, and its project manager, Mark Schrage:
"By asking them face to face about their needs, Obu and Schrage sought to understand preferences for towing capacity and power; by silently observing them at work, they learned things about the ideal placement of the gear shifter, for instance, or that the door handle and radio knobs should be extra large, because pickup owners often wear work gloves all day."
(...and it continues from there.)
Further along, we learn that Toyota's focus goes beyond improving the vehicles themselves, and into that even more valuable area - improving process/production system overall. (What? "Means" gets as much emphasis as "end?")
Do you ever notice how the more typically feminine brain traits (which includes this holistic thinking I can go on about) seem to be behind today's biggest business successes? I sure do.
Linear/status/buzz (& fashion shows) for hip new model vs. holistic/common ground/long term vision for keeping in line with how often customers really buy new cars and where their wants/needs will be when they buy their next one in 10 years (wanting a hybrid seems to be the big theme).
I loved the way Takahiro Fujimoto, University of Tokyo management professor and longtime Toyota observer, put it in Gertner's NYT Magazine piece:
"Since almost everything that happened to this company in the past several decades has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary, there have been few surprises."
With a nod to Faith Popcorn's book, perhaps we should all try to run our businesses and approach our marketing efforts in a more Eve-olutionary manner.
Continue reading "Toyota Wins Big: Think Evolution, Not Revolution" ... Read the full article
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