10.2. Employee Complacency

On several occasions during the course of our interviews, we encountered employees who spoke of the Toyota Way as reality written in stone rather than the evolving system of values it is meant to be. These individuals tended to sideline or even ignore new ideas that did not fit their dogmatic viewpoint. The delusion that outsiders do not understand Toyota and will always be proved wrong when they disagree with the Toyota Way is evidence of a mindset of complacency developing in the ranks since the mid-1990s that is clearly harmful to continued growth. While there is no harm in showing pride in past accomplishments, when the staff at the head office start to believe their own press, business planning becomes routine, stale, and ineffective.

"The two things I fear most are arrogance and contentment," said President Katsuaki Watanabe.[] He said that he has continuously reminded his managers during 2007 that contentment always precedes decline, that even the strongest fortress can collapse from a tiny crack made by a single ant, and that they should plug any leaks to ensure management is watertight.

To combat complacency, Watanabe initiated the "80,000 People Communication" program in 2007, requesting that all Japan-based employees communicate with coworkers across organizational boundaries to quickly identify and solve any problems affecting daily operations. If the problem could not be permanently fixed in short order, they had to designate a leader and ...

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