IntroductionToyota Motor Vietnam (TMV) was established in September 5, 1995 and officially started operating as an affiliate of Toyota Motor Corporation (Japan) from October, 1996. TMV’s headquarter is located in Phuc Yen, Vinh Phuc province with two representative agencies in Hanoi and Hochiminh city. Its main operation is manufacturing and assembling cars with daily big volume of more than 100 cars. As a large company of more than 1000 workers, the issues of communication are extremely important to TMV.
The company itself is aware of communication importance, which is the most evident in its attempt to increasingly take advantages of innovative means of information dissemination. Notwithstanding, TMV has still encountered some obstacles of ineffective approaches to internally communicate. Especially, with a typical feature of factory, TMV operation depends mainly on 3 main divisions, composing of Production, Marketing, and Finance, which require a complicated system of internal communication generating various problems such as lack of two way communication; time consuming related issues, or being labor-intensive.
This paper aims at finding out common means of business communication used in TMV, especially focusing on their drawbacks and simultaneously making some recommendation. The research scope is conducted in Toyota factory in Phuc Yen, Vinh Phuc. The report’s main contents will be divided into two main parts, including brief explanation of internal communication channels within the organization, and further details of their downsides.
LITERATURE REVIEWAccording to Wikipedia, Communication is often defined as an exchange of information. True communication requires a two-way process (a dialogue, not a monologue). Internal communications including all communication within an organization may be oral or written, face to face or virtual, one-on-one or in a small group. Effective internal communication – which can be said to be “downward, upward, and horizontal” – is a vital means of addressing organizational concerns.
Good internal communication helps to establish formal roles and responsibilities for employees. Any organization failing to create an effective environment of communication will face the risks of declining performance. There exist numerous studies suggesting examples of effective communication inside corporate. However, it is hard to find out a research about existing ineffective communication in a specific organization and suggestive solutions to improve the situation. Clearly, there is room for more research in this aspect of business communication. METHODOLOGY
• Primary data:Primary data were collected by conducting both unstructured for administrative staff and structured interviews whose contents follow the questionnaires for Production Administration Department (PAD). The interviewees include some employees from Administrative staff (mainly from HR department with 2 people) and from production division (PAD with 8 people) and all of them completed the questionnaires before moving on interviews. ( Secondary data:
Firstly, some brief and general information on corporate or internal business communication was collected and synchronized through some academic books (see the reference list). Later on, a certain amount of information on Toyota Motor Corporation (the whole Toyota system) in general was found out on the Internet (http://moven.wordpress.com) and used as a basis for following flow of research.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION1. ResultsRaw data:+ Questionnaire reply: 10 respondents➢ 1st Q: 5 choose options # 4 and 5 (check information on Notice board >=1 per week) ➢ 2nd Q: All of them opted “No” for their answer (the information quoted is very necessary)
➢ 5th Q: 5 people revealed that they encountered spammed letters/notes. And 3 of the rest complained that Lotus Notes are not used on the intended purpose. ➢ 7th Q: there are 5 replies to the issue of time-consuming and 5 to pressure. And 1 respondent realizes that he faced language barrier when he communicated with their seniors.
+ Interview:Unstructured questions for Administrative staff: (See Appendix 03 for the list of questions)➢ There are 3 major means of communication including Written communications, meetings, and Visualization
➢ Their viewpoint of drawbacks of internal communication in TMV is discussed more specific in the discussion section. ➢ Specific case or situation revealed by interviewee is also mentioned in the discussion section.
➢ About their intention to improvement: they are planning for a project whose purpose is to foster physical contact between Administrative division and Production division.
2. Discussion1. Main means of communication in TMVAccording to both secondary and primary data gathered, there are many ways to communicate within Toyota in general and TMV in particular such as newsletters, memos, notice board, telephone, computer networks, meetings, to name just a few. However, to make it simple, the main communication channels that are often and widely used are written information including notice board and Lotus Notes; meetings and visualization. [pic]
Illustration 1: Notice Board: Training Control Board
Notice board is rather a conventional means of communication in this telecommunicating age. Nonetheless, until now, it seems hard to be replaced because according to a HR officer in TMV, it is a formal way to make announcement especially legal issues that need to be recorded and stored for further references. On TMV site, notice boards are placed very carefully at convenient places to ensure convenience for expected receivers, for instance, at the entrance gate, work site, dining hall. Formal announcement regarding policy, rules, legal issues or other essential information that all employees must be informed with are usually posted on notice boards.
Lotus Notes, another kind of written channel, is a programmed net works which is standardized for Toyota companies globally. It is built in every computer connecting TMV employees from different divisions (within company’s site, between factory in Vinh Phuc City and branches in Hanoi and Hochiminh City, and even between TMV and Toyota Thailand, Toyota Japan). So, they can use Lotus Notes to transfer information and announcements (both formal and informal) very quickly and efficiently.
Meeting is a type of face-to-face communication which is also useful to discuss, inform and enhance relations. In TMV, meetings can happen on daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis on different purposes. For example, line workers and their team leaders, group leaders meet every morning to talk about the work and performance of the previous day. But, for office staff, they seem to have fewer meetings like one per week.
Last but not least, in manufacturing sectors of TMV, visualization is an important way of communication during the workflow. Through Visualization tools, line workers conduct their performance by reading the information of working stages. The information transmitted on visual tools tells them what their continual tasks are, how to conduct them etc (See the annex?).
There are two widespread forms of visualization, including board and light system. Despite the fact that this communication channel is described as the most suitable and popular way to follow the workflow, there still exist some downsides in accordance with each form of visualization. However, due to limited scope of research, in this paper, only the former will be dealt with further details. TMV seems good in utilizing these communication channels to disseminate information all around. Nonetheless, there are still some shortcomings underlying which will be discussed in the next part of this report.
[pic]Illustration 2: Visualization in Logistic shop: “flow of work”
2.2 Discussion of drawbacks2.2.1. Written communicationThe results of our survey showed that most employees have little complaint about Lotus Notes despite some small trouble with spam or junk mails. Generally speaking, this network proves to be a good program: powerful capacity, user-friendly. On the other hand, notice board is considered pretty ineffective to some extend by both senders and receivers. Normally, information distributed through notice boards by administrative staff, and they admitted that it is hard for them to control the outcome: whether the information is updated or whether the information is decoded as what it is intended to mean.
According to an HR officer, that is because they lack measurement to check, facilities to enhance feedback from line workers and also, workers are not somehow actively make themselves well-informed. This type of communication is not suitable for every receivers, for example, line workers are those who are more concerned with work and payment rather than a piece of announcement, subsequently, they may think it is time-consuming issue. It is the most evident in the survey, one half of respondents quoted that they often check the notice board once a week or even longer.
2.2.2 Meetings:As mentioned above, meetings are hold so frequently in TMV for many purposes. Discussing this point, many respondents to our survey, especially those working in the production division revealed that so frequent meetings may take them a lot of time. Meanwhile their time is so strictly associated with working calendar, they still have to spend about twenty to thirty minutes every day even when there are little significant issues. The negative effect of this formal communication channel is to interrupt their job progress and somehow badly impact their productivity.
Moreover, this form of TMV internal communication is likely to result in pu\tting employees under high pressure. As interviewed, some people responded that usually after each meeting, they are delivered some additional tasks beyond their scheduled job responsibility. This point indicates that they may catch with overload status or stress due to speeding up their work performance.
2.2.3. VisualizationFirstly, in terms of board displaying job information, in order to catch up with the flow of work, workers have to physically access to the board which happens so frequently (every hour, every minute). Each task conducted requires at least one time of accessing. This means that overall working performance requires a lot of manpower and according to people working in the actual line site, there is a joke that in TMV, work is mainly done by Robots eating rice. Another significant negative effect is that any error happens at a single stage during the workflow, the overall job will be interrupted. This is because there is no device to defect mistakes before the actual work is done
. If there is any error related to working information like wrong part code (used to identify which part to assemble a car), or wrong following phrase, that error can only be realized when a worker actually perform the task. It is serious that such kind of error will lead to reduction in working pace and productivity due to delay for correction (or as saying in Toyota Corporation: MUDA).
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONIn a nutshell, TMV exploits a variety of communication channels to facilitate information dissemination within their organization. Among many of them, the most commonly used are written communication, meetings and visualization. The first type is often in form of announcement on notice boards that are located around the plant and Lotus Notes, a computerized network. The problem underlying here is lack of measure to ensure the final result of information distribution and limitation of interactive communication between two divisions:
Production and Administrative (marketing and finance). Regarding meetings, it is a necessary activity which happens so frequently at many levels, in every departments and divisions. However, it will be better if the folks will be more flexible in terms of timing and scheduling. The last type is specifically a distinctive feature of a manufacturing company. But to some extend, low standardization and manual work may slow down and somehow badly affect the workflow and quality of work. In stead of visualization, electronic system of information flow through the actual assembly line structure could be a better solution because such system may help operators with work inspection before conducting their tasks.
HR department in TMV now are aware of the problem of mismatch between staff and line workers and are trying to improve the relationship. The proposed idea is spending time to walk around and observe how people at the line site behave, what they are looking for from company policy, etc. From our point of view, this method if management by walking around (MBWA) which is likely a good treatment. By doing this, HR office workers can understand the actual condition that line workers are working in to make improvement, visually observe the quality of work to make proper compensation plan, and employee development plan.
Moreover, TMV should encourage an open-door policy meaning subordinates can go to any manager and leader to give feedback, complain and make request, which is presently restricted. That mechanism gives workers the confidence and rights to speak up and also enables quick, direct and so more accurate communication among different level. Furthermore, because in many cases, face-to-face meetings are time-consuming and ineffective, it can be replaced by virtual meetings or using other communication channels when it is not necessary. For instance, some tasks that are regular and formalized can be assigned through computer networks to different groups instead of an unnecessary gathering.