Volume 9 Number 6 - June 7, 2011

If you know a company — customer, supplier, friend, or your own — that could benefit
from improved operations, let us know.
Your best interest is our best interest.

The Finish Strong® monthly e-newsletter is for business leaders who recognize Operations as a strategic function that creates competitive advantage, profitability and brand loyalty to the marketplace.


As a proponent of the Toyota Business System, I have received numerous snide comments from traditionalists about Toyota's many "failures" in recent months. (One disadvantage of social media is the expansion in the number of ways and speed with which critics can comment!) A look at a few facts may have us all working to be such failures.

The global financial crisis that impacted most of your companies didn't ignore Toyota. The company reported quarterly losses for the first time in its modern history. As a result, family member Akio Toyoda stepped in to run the company in 2009.

Shortly after that leadership change, the unintended acceleration recalls began, involving over 24 million vehicles worldwide. The economic crisis coupled with rising fuel prices trampled demand for the company's new lines of profitable heavy duty trucks. In the past few months, the Yen has risen to historic levels, making Toyota vehicles relatively more expensive around the world, while earthquakes and tsunamis have destroyed power plants, supplier plants, and customers' and workers' lives.

But the company announced that fiscal year (3/31/11) operating income rose to $5.4 billion. While below target, that number doesn't suggest the catastrophe many projected. And by the way, NASA vindicated the company's claim that the unintended acceleration problem was a result of a few misbehaving floor mats and not the electrical control system as was claimed by many an expert and journalist. And despite the earthquakes/tsunami tragedies, Toyota expects to have all its plants back at capacity within another month.

It's not how many times you get knocked down; it's how you can retain focus, rely on your culture to analyze and solve problems, and count on your highly respected supply chain and employee base to help you get back up.

No bankruptcy protection, no government bailout. Just an ongoing commitment to being the best for its customers, its markets, its employees, its supply chain partners, and its communities. A long way from perfect, but a longer way from being a failure.


This basic tenet of the Toyota Business System ("lean") should really be pretty easy, but for some reason it is missing in many organizations.

Robert Fulghum's book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten was a poignant reminder of how easy respecting people should be. Test yourself on these few "workplace version" simple items. Do you:

  • include a clear purpose and agenda on every meeting request?

  • come to every meeting on time and prepared?

  • seek out and listen to ideas from the people who actually do the work?

Considering Fulghum's simplistic but powerful respect questions, do you:

  • put things back where you found them?

  • clean up your own messes?

  • play fair?

  • say you're sorry when you hurt somebody?

Fulghum's simple advice:

"no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together."

There are few goals in business that can't be more quickly attained with a strong, loyal team.


The Starting Pistol
Stephen Vincent Benet (Pulitzer Prize winner):
“We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.”

The Tape
Rebecca Morgan:
"But one does not require the other. We can each be right and wrong, we can each teach and learn. We can each have power over ourselves, which is much more difficult than having power over others."


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