Decision of the Week

Great Decision #10: Toyota pursues zero defects

When Toyota made the decision to put quality first, the move wasn’t as obvious as it might seem today. The company was struggling. When it started shipping its first cars to the American market in the late 1950s, they were met with derision for their shoddy quality. In the midst of this crisis, president Taizo Ishida decided to do one of the hardest things for any company—especially a Japanese one—to do. Toyota adopted the ideas of an outsider—in this case the quality guru W. Edwards Deming—and turned its entire organization upside down in order to improve itself. Today the company’s quality system, known as the Toyota Way, has been adopted by manufacturers and, yes, even service firms around the world. The Toyota Way, for example, helped the company design cars faster than its competitors, proving that the process was just as important for “brain work” as it was “back work.” Executing this process, however, is a lot harder than it looks, and even Toyota in recent years has struggled with quality problems. By reapplying the Toyota Way with renewed vigor, the car maker is now getting back on track.