In the Wall Street Journal, an article highlights the “secretive” culture of Toyota in relation to a series of recalls.
“Toyota is still very much run by its Japan headquarters, despite being active in the U.S. since 1957. Top leadership doesn’t include U.S. executives. The Toyota officials who run the recall process are in Japan.”
Because of this, Toyota’s US operations have not been able to react swiftly to safety issues that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified.
According to a person familiar with the matter, “what has really happened is a breakdown in communications within Toyota” between its D.C. office and Japan headquarters. “The Washington office didn’t have the information it needed to provide to the government.”
Around 130,000 Toyota Prius cars are involved in a global recall because of its braking system.
Why is this? While many of the facts are missing, a comment about cultural norms would shed some light on this issue. Communication in Japanese culture is quite indirect, and very hierarchical, which creates an obvious gap in understanding, e.g. when an American team is working remotely with a Japanese team. Certain information may be only for privileged executives, thus leaving a foreign team of less senior individuals out of the loop. Mistakes are viewed in a more negative light by collectivistic or group-oriented cultures, as in Japan, thus people will strive to avoid giving bad news or making direct confrontations to save face and to maintain harmony.
It will be interesting to see where exactly communication broke down for Toyota. Where do you think is may have occurred?
Click here to jump to the article.