In April 2001, after 10 years of drafting under the lead of Fujio Cho (CEO from 1999 to 2005) Toyota published The Toyota Way 2001.
After 19 years, under the lead of Akio Toyoda, it was changed to something quite different.
My question is why?
2019 labor-management discussions
On January 13th, 2023 Akio Toyoda gave a lecture to 200 corporate managers and executives during the general meeting of the NPS Management Institute.
This lecture contained a video that may hold a clue. It was introduced as a chapter about communication with employees. The video shares parts of speeches Akio Toyoda gave during Toyota’s discussion with the unions in the spring of 2019. In the third round of these discussions this is what he had to say:
I’ve always attended these labor-management discussions, and though we have honest discussions, I’ve never felt so far apart, as I have this time.
We’re not seeing eye to eye.
I’ve always faced up to employees however bad the situation was, but why did I bother? There’re people who want to do their best in this company. But they just don’t know how. I want to give those people a safety net.
On March 13, 2019, during the 4th round of the Toyota Labor-Management Negotiations, Toyoda spoke again:
I would first like for us to reflect on the Five Main Principles of Toyoda, the basics that everyone at the Toyota Group should go back to.
The first is to be faithful to your duties to contribute to the company and to the overall good.
This spirit of contributing to the overall good is the origin of Toyota and must never change.
The fourth is to strive to build a homelike atmosphere at work that is warm and friendly.
Kiichiro once said employees are family.
In this meeting, have we truly been a family?
In a family discussion, the family listens to each other’s concerns, acknowledges what happened, and then, for issues without easy answers, takes time to explore ways to overcome together.
I’ve shared my interpretation of our origin, the Five Main Principles of Toyoda because I feel that we at Toyota have started to forget the spirit of the principles.
If these principles are our origin at Toyota, then the Toyota Production System (TPS), reducing costs, and manufacturing costs should be embraced by everyone at Toyota.
In the negotiations, I didn’t feel our founding spirit or the practices that should be ingrained in us. That’s what I meant by my comment of feeling so far apart.
I know there are people working hard behind the scenes at Toyota. But in this meeting, I didn’t hear a single word about their efforts or struggles. I made that comment because I felt a significant gap with what I’ve felt at the genba.
Back to basics
For Akio Toyoda to say he never felt so far apart, after all the hardships he had already endured, is just incredible. (See I am the president nobody wanted.) It shows that something was seriously wrong in 2019.
Apparently, having The Toyota Way 2001 as guidance for 18 years did not do much good.
Akio Toyoda clearly wanted to go back to the origins and to hold up the principles of his great-grandfather. The fact that they changed to The Toyota Way 2020 and that they stopped communicating about the Toyota Way in their annual reports is a strong indication that Akio Toyoda took the helm and changed course.
Comparing Toyoda’s Principles with The Toyota Way 2020
In the table below I put the Five Main Principles of Toyoda side by side with the 10 parts of The Toyota Way 2020. What do you think when you see this?
Number of topics
The first thing I noticed was the double number of topics that went from 5 to 10.
Note that The Toyota Way 2001 had 5 keywords and the 2024 vision for the Toyota Group has 5 attitudes.
I like 5 better than 10, just for ease of remembering.
The second thing I noticed was the word count.
You can see that The Toyota Way 2020 needs the most words in its message. Apparently, there was a need to be more explicit.
Seeing the Five Main Principles of Toyoda with the 10 parts of The Toyota Way 2020 side by side shows it is not a one-on-one match but it is pretty close. It is almost as if The Toyota Way 2020 is a contemporary deepening of the Five Main Principles of Toyoda.
What do you think?
Did we find some answers?
So, back to the main question:
Why was The Toyota Way 2001 changed in 2020?
Akio Toyoda clearly wanted to go back to the origins and to hold up the principles of his great-grandfather. The need for that was never as strong as in 2019.
The message of The Toyota Way 2001 is not so clearly linked with the Five Main Principles of Toyoda. The Toyota Way 2020 has a much clearer link.
Why did Toyota stop referencing The Toyota Way?
Maybe we can now also answer the question of why Toyota stopped communicating about the Toyota Way in their annual reports.
If you see The Toyota Way 2020 as a contemporary deepening of the Five Main Principles of Toyoda then the answer becomes quite obvious: it became obsolete.