When I worked at Toyota, I was instructed to memorize the company’s 10 Attitudes. Even now that I have moved on to another company, I find myself drawn to these core values. The following examines which each of these Attitudes means to me personally.
1. Customer First – Always provide satisfactory products and services
It is no coincidence that this attitude comes first – without customers, our business does not exist. We should ask the question “How does this benefit or impact our customer?” when considering improvements or other process changes. Look beyond pursuing just ‘customer satisfaction’ and aim for ‘customer delight’.
2. Challenge – Aim at high target with brave and creative spirit
It take courage to face goals that are higher than we have ever achieved. Frame these challenges as not inconvenient obstacles but rather as opportunities to adapt, improve, and innovate. A creative approach is imperative – we should not limit ourselves by only considering incremental improvement, but also by seeking way to transform how we do business.
3. Kaizen – Continuously pursue evolution and innovation
A willingness to adapt to changing conditions and a thirst for continuous improvement are hallmarks of a sustainable business. We are never more in danger than when we think we are good enough. Like the motto for Lexus, we should never stop ‘pursuing perfection’. Kaizen is the vehicle on the journey to our destination of True North.
4. Genchi Genbutsu – ‘Go and see’ reality, and ‘attempt’ to know the truth
As a quality engineer at Toyota, if I had not gone to see a quality issue with my own eyes, I lost credibility to speak about it. You cannot understand the situation based on second-hand knowledge, but must go and see yourself, with the mindset of question and discovery.
This was evidenced to me when I was working on an issue where a supplier had repeatedly neglected to weld a bracket onto a sheet metal part that was a critical sensor mount. Curious, I went to the assembly line to see where the bracket was used, only to discover that it was not. It turned out that Engineering had moved the sensor to a different location on the vehicle. Instead of investing in a costly countermeasure, we were able to change the specification and remove the bracket entirely. This was all due to the firsthand knowledge gained by going to the gemba.
5. Shitsujitsu Goken – Be time & cost efficient, and work with sincerity
We function as stewards of our company’s resources, and we should use them judiciously. For example, when I book my travel, I try to do so as cost-effectively as possible. I don’t need to stay in a 5-star hotel when a 3-star is perfectly adequate. The money spent may not be mine personally, but I strive to treat it as if it is.
As for sincerity, our motives must be honest and transparent. This builds trust with our coworkers, suppliers, and customers. There is no room for hidden agendas in a company committed to building a culture of continuous improvement.
6. Team Work – Priority is on your team’s performance – not only yours. By helping each other, strive to achieve the team’s target.
This value particularly resonates with me, as I used to be focused primarily on my individual performance. Over time, I learned both the value and fulfillment that comes by emphasizing ‘we’ over ‘me’. As iron sharpens iron, my team mates made me stronger, and partnering with them helped to mitigate my weaknesses. The sum of our efforts is indeed greater than our individual parts.
7. Ownership & Responsibility – Be considerate for all what you do and speak.
If the collective good is our highest priority, then we must take ownership of our personal part. Showing responsibility for your ‘stuff’ is a reflection of your character and integrity, and shows respect to our coworkers and customers. As my father used to tell me, “Your word is your bond.”
8. Humility & Gratitude – Do not forget that you are always supported by others. Always listen to others, and appreciate their comments.
Everything that I have become has been built with help from others. I believe that there is no such thing as a ‘self-made man’ – we are made by the investments made in us by both ourselves and those around us.
With the humility that comes with the knowledge of others’ contributions to our success, we open ourselves to learning from different perspectives. When I listen to others with a spirit of humility and curiosity, I find that everyone that I interact with has the capacity to teach me something.
9. Integrity – Always communicate the fact in sincere manner.
It’s tempting to put ‘spin’ on difficult or unpopular messages, whether to soften the impact or to protect ourselves from the reaction. But this is dishonesty, and does us all a disservice. No matter how painful the truth might be, we can only react appropriately if we understand it fully. Attempting to mask or suppress the truth indicates a lack of integrity. It takes courage to speak the truth, but it must be done with sincerity and respect.
10. We love Toyota! – Create more Toyota fans around you, by supporting production of high quality cars at affordable prices.
Although I still remain grateful for all that Toyota has given me, I have replaced ‘Toyota’ with the name of my current company. I consider myself an ambassador to my organization to those within and outside of it. I was proud to work for Toyota, and I am now proud to work for WestRock, and the company’s values of Respect, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence resonate with me as the 10 Attitudes of Toyota still do.