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Tumbling Down the Slippery Slope

by BILL WADDELL

The task of the die hard Toyota defenders just got tougher. The company just sold out sixty plus years of being able to assure job security at a level no one else could. To save one tenth of one percent of their global payroll they sent the message to all 317,000 of their employees that their long-standing pledge to keep them on the job no matter how tough things got was no longer part of the culture.

Toyota has announced the layoff of 350 employees at their Altona Australia plant. For this paltry savings they sold out a vital part of their culture. The hand of Fujio Cho is at work here. The leader of the gang of outsiders who have spent the last ten years 'Americanizing' Toyota with disastrous results thus far, Cho has pursued growth for growth's sake and is deeply imbued with the sort of thinking one can get at the likes of Wharton business school.

As I have pointed out in the past, Toyota's abandonment of their culture in no way detracts from the credibility of lean thinking. It is way past that. If Toyota were to be wildly successful in their pursuit of imitating GM and less like their heritage, that would repudiate lean, but the odds of that happening are almost nil.

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4 Responses to "Tumbling Down the Slippery Slope"

  • Steve H
    23 January 2012 - 6:43 am

    This sounds like it was a regional decision by Toyota Australia. Didn’t they just get over some contract bargaining?

    Either way, with the real issues that are killing their profit, I can’t see them sitting around a table in Japan worrying about the “1 tenth of 1 percent”. But who knows. Maybe it is the start of a global strategy, as they say in corporate speak.

  • Bill Waddell
    23 January 2012 - 6:53 am

    Steve, I am pretty sure Toyota Australia doesn’t violate 60 years of policy and culture without checking in with the home office.

  • Steve H
    23 January 2012 - 7:41 am

    I see what your saying and it’s a poor move. Now, employees in other plants will think, “Am I next?” all because of cuts to 350 peoples jobs in Australia.

    That was also my other point. The company is losing so much money over a high Yen while still plowing on with innovation and job preservation in Japan that it seems silly for them to worry over 350 jobs in Australia. That is what made me think it was something that might have just been done there. Who knows? They are giving regional areas more autonomy – maybe this is one area of that.

    Either way, I hope those 350 people find work soon.

  • John Buzolic
    23 January 2012 - 5:12 pm

    Most opinion is that those 350 will walk out of toyota and straight into ford. Ford and GM have just been given huge grants from the Aust. Govt. to continue manufacturing here. Toyota have grants for the hybrid camry plant so they couldn’t screw any more. Car manufacturing in Australia doesn’t exist without grants. Each time they run out the car companies threaten plant closures and the government hands over millions and calls it a win for the workers.
    Does this fit the definition of blackmail?