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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Hubris is a dangerous enemy

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

Here’s another posting that builds on those by Jeff and Steve:

“As Jeff Liker writes, an iconic company, synonymous with safety and
quality, has been brought low by plaintiff lawyers and an opportunistic
government.

My sense is Toyota’s reputation will recover quicker than expected, whereas
the government’s has suffered yet another heavy blow.

Harpers February 2011 issue has an interesting piece entitled “A Super Bowl
Spot for Uncle Sam — Can Madison Avenue Make Us Love Our Government?”
http://www.harpers.org/archive/2011/02/0083294.  Short answer: not if they
keep doing this sort of thing…

In any event, I believe there are valuable lessons here.

Hubris — excessive pride or self-confidence, arrogance — is a dangerous
enemy.

“He who the gods would destroy, they first hold high” Euripides tells us.
Has Toyota displayed signs of hubris the past decade?  Did hubris contribute
to the breakdown in communication with regulators and in public relations,
that Steven talks about?

Toyota’s business system, as I understand it, is designed to make problems
visible — problems in the Design, Make and Sell “loops” — so that skilled
problem solvers can a) get to root cause and fix it, and b) share the
learning gained thereby.  If so, somewhere the system indeed broke down.

My chums at the company’s North American plants have often worried that
“we’re becoming just another North American car company.”  They lament the
increasing use of the “iron fist” of the North American management style.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire — or at least a flickering ember or two.

I don’t want to be misunderstood.  I’ve no doubt Toyota will get to root
cause & share the learning gained.  I’m confident Toyota will regain its
lustre and become a paragon again.  But Toyota, and all great companies need
eternal vigilance against their eternal antagonist.

What’s the countermeasure to hubris?  Humility — the extreme awareness of
limits, of standards, of all that we are not.

Visual management, 5 S, standardized work and all the other elements of the
Lean business system are designed to keep us humble.

Our old Toyota plant in Cambridge Ontario won many awards.  “How could they
give us an award?” we’d wonder.  “We’re so screwed up…”

We need great companies — they show us what’s possible.  And great
companies need humility — for the same reason.”

Best regards,

Pascal

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