James Treece of Automotive News has observed Toyota for years and distills what he sees as the culture flaws that produced its recall crisis. They are highly pertinent for clues to weaknesses in other organizations.
Treece lived in Japan for 22 years and was Automotive News' Asia editor in Tokyo from 1995 to 2007. His insights are especially important in coming from an industrial setting, Japan, that has been credited for being devoted to product quality.
As Treece sees it, the context for failure is twofold: Every automaker falls short of perfection (and has a recall) and Toyota was negligent in its push for growth (the hubris evidenced in "We can and we will").
- "Toyota has a deep preference for secrecy rather than openness," which produces "arrogance, complacency, and understaffing."
- "Toyota is woefully unprepared to be No. 1 in the world," including an inadequate PR department.
- "Toyota is more insular than international."
When traits like these are evident to a veteran observer, the question becomes why can't an organization involved pick up on them? The need for a mindset that sees inside from an outside perspective, too, has to be cultivated in all organizations. That's difficult, but it's the way to avoid disaster -- and a prime goal of effective PR.