Question number 1: Read the Toyota case study and answer the following question: Consider the vision articulated by Toyota and its alignment with the company’s image among external stakeholders and the company’s internal culture. Is there sufficient alignment between vision, culture and image? What gaps emerged and how can Toyota address these gaps?
When examining the values of a company, one must take into account the different metrics which make up the way that a company is perceived. Vision, Image, and Culture of a company must be aligned in order for a company to achieve an optimal result. When there is a gap in the cohesiveness of these aspects, a company will experience setbacks or worse, a crisis. In the beginning of 2009, Toyota realized their goal of overtaking General Motors in 2008 as the world’s largest automaker. This was a goal they had been chasing for over a decade.
The year before, in 2007, their share of the market was only different by about 3,000 vehicles, with GM remaining the leader. It was an environment that Toyota had been working to create for many years. Then the calendar turned to 2010 and a crisis broke. The vehicles Toyota marketed as reliable, safe, and efficient had a major problem. The company had to react. Before we visit the way that the company reacted, we must first ask ourselves the question. How did we get here?
The answer for Toyota is quite simple, but the reasons behind it are more construed. Obviously, working to overtake a giant in the automotive world, a proper strategy must be created and followed. Toyota tried to spread its Vision through the metaphore of the tree, a strong and always growing and flourishing organism, that is set in an human environment and reminds the importance of the customers, for whom the company work for. The roots represent the core values of Toyota, that are the basis and the motivation of its work.
The fruits of the tree are the basic principles that make up its vision. They claime to alwasys have better cars, developing vehicles which exceed customers expectations and they try to enrich lives in communities, contributing to their development and to the future of mobility. They strongly believe in sustainable growth and profitability under long term perspective. The Image is the impression that outside stakeholders have of the organization. They has always be considered among the top automotive brands in terms of reliability, quality and long term duration.
Toyota has always put the needs of the customers first and made the constant improvement of their vehicles a top priority. But after they announced that has come after a series of products recalls and after recalling 2.3 million vehicles with faults in the accelerator paedal, the image was ruined and the stakeholders were not trusting anymore Toyota's values. Toyota's Culture contemplate that every worker, from executive to shop floor, can have the possibility to use its initiative and creativity to experiment and learn.
Each team member is a quality inspector, at any during the production process any of them who spot a problem can stop by pulling the “Andon Cord”, which stops the entire assembly line. They try to work with endlless creativity, inquisitiveness and pursuit of improvement, to be practical and avoid frivolity. They strongly believe in the concept of “Kaizen”, the importance of change and improvement, as well as “Keiretsu”, the japanese concept of keeping a close knit network of vendors that continuously learn, improve and prospere, along with their parents companies. Finally they try to contribute to the development and welfare of the country in which they are set by working together, regardless of position, fullfilling their duties.
The notions mentioned above may have affected each other in a climate of change based on rapid expansion. That is what happened to Toyota. The company expanded rapidly in the late 90's and the 2000's, and the result was a gap between Vision and Image. From what we have seen in the advertisements posted in YouTube there isn't a gap between vision and culture because the employees seem working in a safe environment where the culture of lean production, andon cord and kaisen are respected by everybody. But it's necessary to consider that those videos were made by Toyota, so we can't be sure that inside the factory everything is really working in this way.
Based on the fact that Toyota had to face so many problems, must have been a gap at that time of the crisis. They claimed to build the best cars in the market but there was a low quality level and they were not able to ensure the safety of their cars. Regarding the gap between Image and Culture it is necessary to specify some considerations. Before the crisis stakeholders were satisfied about the quality-price relation, safety and environmental commitment of Toyota. After all the before mentioned problems appeared, stakeholders lost their trustworthy and the reputation was damaged.
When Toyota started its F1 experience, it was able to invite stakeholders such as dealers, suppliers and sales personnel to the events, to watch the spectacle and in the meanwhile talking about business and enriching its relationship with them. Employees care about what stakeholders think because they are deeply involved in the manufacturing process, and if the cars are not performing as customers' expectations they can lose their job. Mr. Toyoda, the current President, in fact, has challenged his company's engineers to make less dull cars. With this and other measures, mainly regarding the communication field, they are starting the path towards their reputation's recovering. It has been created also a gap between Image and Vision.
After the crisis Toyota's relationship with its main stakeholders (suppliers, national and international customers, employees, dealers and investors) was not so strong as before, because it was loosing its reputation. The investors and the suppliers were complaining because recalling million of vehicles, and the customers were disappointed because they were not receiving what they expected.
Question number 2: Read the Toyota case study and answer the following question: Consider the overall communication strategy of Toyota, including its strategic intent and positioning, the themed messages and message styles in Toyota’s communications. Given the challenges ahead for Toyota, how would you change the communication strategy in terms of strategic intent, themes messages and message styles?
Toyota has always stressed the importance of environmental care and the reliability on their safe and quality cars. Since 1992 adopted a set of Guiding Principles, focused on “providing clean and safe products and towards enhancing the quality of life everywhere” through their activities. In 1998 Toyota created the Environmental Division under the direct supervision of the President. In the same year, thanks to the production of Prius, powered by a hybrid power train system, the company won the US Environmental Protection Agency's Global Climate Protection Award. Other prizes linked to environmental sustainablity followed the winning of this award.
An other important strategy adopted by Toyota was developing a project among its stakeholders to be seen as a leader in global regeneration and in the application of IT in automobiles for better and safer motoring. Toyota enphasised the importance of technological develpoment through two fundamental concepts: ”zeronize” and ”maximize”. Zeronize aims to minimize the negative aspects such as environmental impact, traffic congestion and traffic accidents. Maximize consists of concentrating the efforts on the positive aspects of cars, such as comfort and convenince.
In 2007 Toyota's President at that time articulated the challenge to the car industry in terms of “the increasing demand for corporate social responsibility and to take on global environmental problems such as global warming, depletion of natural resources and hire pollution”. Toyota's style of communication has been both product-led, around specific cars, and corporate-led, around themes identified in its Global Vision document. They try to convey their values through different types of canals: campaigns around their environmental technologies and achievements, specific products adverts, social networks (Facebook and Twitter), YouTube videos, shareholders meetings and special occasions such as watching the F1, when they were partecipating, with some stakeholders to enrich their relationship with them.
They are still insisting on the eco-friendly purpose, but now they focus more on emotional fun and enjoyment of riding Toyota cars. Before the reputation crisis their attention was also centered in reliable and safe cars at affordable prices, while nowadays they use more emotional criteria, such as the design, styling and experience of driving a Toyota car. We personally appreciate their YouTube videos (“This is my Toyota”) showing to the public the way they manufacture the cars and the methods they use to preserve safety during the production process (for instance the andon cord system). For recovering their reputation they shoud also extend their presence on social networks and enlarge their advertising campaigns with sponsorship in events, to be more in contact with their public.