Creating Roadblocks: Secretive Org at Toyota

With all the buzz about Toyota cars, I couldn’t help but think about how something like this could have happened to the world’s largest automaker—an automaker known for its dedication to quality and attention to detail. However, the cause of the problem may not be the important part or even the most interesting. Recalls happen all the time, engineers make mistakes. On a machine with thousands of components and tens of thousands of moving parts, it is reasonable to expect that not everything will be perfect. Rather I think the interesting and possible more problematic tid bit to come out of this fiasco is the corporate culture of the organization–an organization that allowed this incident with faulty accelerators to balloon out of control.

I was reading an article on the Wall Street Journal website today that pointed to the secretive culture of the Toyota corporation as the primary cause behind the public relations nightmare the company is currently facing. According to the WSJ, Toyota knew about a potential problem as far back as 2004. Toyota, however, kept refuting the claims and refused to look further into the issue until more data was available to prove that there were problems with its cars. The decision making process engaged by top Toyota management is still a mystery as Toyota, as an organization, tends to keep to itself and has had a history of clashing with government regulators.

I think two things are going on here. First, I think that Toyota was hoping that it could handle the problem in house and find a fix quietly without going public and taking a public relations hit. Second, I think that their secretive handling of the crisis has further strained relations with the NHSTA and could trigger some serious repercussions. Thoughts?


The Importance of Conflict

Organizations and society are both significantly influenced by the conflicts that take place within their respective systems. No system is spared from conflict between individuals or collective groups of people. As Davis and Scott state ” conflict and change are a part of organizational life no less than consensus and stability.”(82) As a result, to gain a better understanding of the functioning of a system, removed form the ideal of how it should operate, the conflicts that occur must be examined. Furthermore, conflict can inspire innovation that reshapes systems and society.

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