Is There An Ethical Dimension To Lean/TPS?

In Toyota’s Guiding Principles, last revised in 1997, Michael Ballé sees more than “goal-oriented efficiency.” While I would not use a phrase like “goal-oriented efficiency,” the principles do not strike me as anything beyond strategic guidelines to ensure the long-term, worldwide viability of the company. If they serve this purpose, great, but a car manufacturer is the wrong place to look for philosophical enlightenment.

Let’s consider the guiding principles one by one:

  1. Honor the language and spirit of the law of every nation and undertake open and fair business activities to be a good corporate citizen of the world.

    Comments: The laws of many nations enshrine ethnic and gender discrimination, as well as religious bigotry. Honoring the spirit of these laws may be a condition for doing business in these countries, but may disqualify a company as “a good corporate citizen of the world.”

  2. Respect the culture and customs of every nation and contribute to economic and social development through corporate activities in their respective communities.

    Comments: Again, corporate self-interest may dictate showing respect for the “culture and customs of every nation,” not all of which are respectable.

  3. Dedicate our business to providing clean and safe products and to enhancing the quality of life everywhere through all of our activities.

    Comments: Putting 10 million new cars and trucks on the world’s roads every year is a livelihood, but can it enhance the quality of life everywhere? Cars are a great means of transportation on an isolated farm, but in cities, they gridlock streets, pollute the air, and cause accidents. The best a car company can aim for is for its products to do less damage than its competitors’.

  4. Create and develop advanced technologies and provide outstanding products and services that fulfill the needs of customers worldwide.

    Comments: This is needed for long-term survival, whatever you are selling

  5. Foster a corporate culture that enhances both individual creativity and the value of teamwork, while honoring mutual trust and respect between labor and management.

    Comments: This is enlightened self-interest. It is what a company has to do to last, and it’s not industry-specific.

  6. Pursue growth through harmony with the global community via innovative management.

    Comments: “Harmony” here is most likely used as a translation of the Japanese Wa (和), and, in this context, could be taken to mean putting the interests of the “global community” ahead of the company’s, as a strategy to grow it. In other words, the company’s best interest is to subordinate its best interest to that of the “global community,” whatever that may be.

  7. Work with business partners in research and manufacture to achieve stable, long-term growth and mutual benefits, while keeping ourselves open to new partnerships.

    Comments: Playing well with others in each market is not only good business, but also key to defusing nationalism and making Toyota a “Beloved Company,” as Fujio Cho directed in the US in 1997.

#Lean, #Toyota, #ToyotaGuidingPrinciples

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