Akio Toyoda – Toyota’s plan to repair its public image – washingtonpost.com

5 Jun 2010 Sandeep Mehta
In an article in the Washington Post,  Mr. Akio Toyoda laid out
Toyota’s plan to repair its public image.  Within this article, he lays out four steps to fix the R&D and quality processes (Review existing ops; Improve quality control; Listen to customers; Share data):
First, I have launched a top-to-bottom review of our global operations to ensure that problems of this magnitude do not happen again and that we not only meet but exceed the high safety standards that have defined our long history. As part of this, we will establish an Automotive Center of Quality Excellence in the United States, where a team of our top engineers will focus on strengthening our quality management and quality control across North America. 
Second, to ensure that our quality-control operations are in line with best industry practices, we will ask a blue-ribbon safety advisory group composed of respected outside experts in quality management to independently review our operations and make sure that we have eliminated any deficiencies in our processes. The findings of these experts will be made available to the public, as will Toyota’s responses to these findings. 
Third, we fully understand that we need to more aggressively investigate complaints we hear directly from consumers and move more quickly to address any safety issues we identify. That is what we are doing by addressing customer concerns about the Prius and Lexus HS250h anti-lock brake systems. 
We also are putting in place steps to do a better job within Toyota of sharing important quality and safety information across our global operations. This shortcoming contributed to the current situation. With respect to sticking accelerator pedals, we failed to connect the dots between problems in Europe and problems in the United States because the European situation related primarily to right-hand-drive vehicles

It is an interesting plan, however, I am not sure how easy it is to implement.  There are fundamental cultural traits that drive behavior (both R&D culture and national/ethnic culture).  I once consulted with a Japanese multinational with operations in the US.  There was significant conflict between the two operations and the engineers in the US felt powerless to do anything to customize products for local demand.  I have heard about how difficult it was for the Japanese to understand the US pick-up truck market.
Reviews are only useful if there is a concrete plan and metrics to implement the changes identified.  Quality control has to be tied to R&D in the first place to actually deliver.  In a multiorganizational complex automotive development, it is extremely difficult to get a handle on all the R&D and communicate it effectively to quality.  Finally, it is easy to say that we will share information, but very difficult to do.  More information is not necessarily better – one needs ability to drill down to the necessary information and context for what the information means.
How would you try to change R&D management to drive change?

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