Eiji Toyoda a former president and later chairman of Toyota died on the 17th of September 2013, a few days after his hundredth birthday
An informative interview was conducted for Milwaulkee Public Radio by Robert Siegel with Micheline Mayard who had written an obituary for Forbes “How Eiji Toyoda created the modern version of Toyota.” She talked of an incident when Eiji Toyoda visited the Ford plant in Michigan in the 1950s. Maynard picked up her story:
Back at the moment in time, the rouge operations were enormous. Henry Ford had this idea that you could actually start from Northern Michigan, from the mines up there, and move raw materials down the Great Lakes. And they would arrive at docks, and then Ford would be able to go, literally, from ground up to an automobile on its own. So what Eiji Toyoda saw when he got to Ford was this great process of raw materials to finished automobiles. But he also saw a lot of waste. He saw quality issues, and he saw workers that weren’t being listened to. And he took a lot of notes and took them back to Japan.
The quality movement
It was to be the start of the quality movement which changed production thinking and practice for the next half a century.
A recent production crisis made an excellent case study of the dilemmas of success and fast growth contributing to decline in quality standards.
The Toyoda dynasty
In 2010, LWD looked at the history of the company and its dynastic nature seen as a modern institutional form, retaining dynastic power internally. The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff from his father’s company Toyota Industries.
A year earlier we analyzed the fight for the company to preserve its global brand.
Earlier,  we had published from the work of the Japanese scholar Fangqi Xu and introduced the term Toyotaoism to capture the production system which had become hailed as the greatest process innovation in automobile manufacture since Henry Ford’s first production line gave rise to ‘Fordism’
Sometime in 2007, Toyota seems likely to become the World’s biggest auto manufacturer. In contrast, Ford workers face substantial job cuts. Toyota represents one of the outstanding illustrations of developments which have been gradually refining and replacing the production line processes and mentality of the 20th Century. The company has pioneered a fusion of Fordist methods with a more Eastern philosophy of respect towards the environment, customers, and employees. The fostering of empowered teamwork in Toyota is a central element of the philosophy, production system, and leadership style of the corporation.
Toyota reminds us that modern business methods can survive and be substantially improved within an ancient dynastic culture. A nice example of the dilemmas of leadership successfully resolved.