I have been working closely with President Toyoda for more than 30 years, from not long after he joined the company until now. Around the time that he joined the company, I was his “devil” boss. He worked like mad, I reprimanded him at times, and we discussed things along the way.
Thinking back, I would say that President Toyoda wanted to learn about (Toyota) work quickly and wanted to become a full-fledged Toyota person as soon as possible, because he had been a knight-errant (so to speak) working for a non-Japanese company, and he later joined Toyota in the middle of his career. As such, we worked together on weekdays until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., and on weekends, too.
There is another thing, although it’s one that he doesn’t talk about much. But, if I am to provide full disclosure, I will add that, even after getting married, he has mostly lived alone away from home. At our company, such is unprecedented. Married employees always live with their spouses together somewhere and only live away from home from time to time.
And I have watched President Toyoda for a long time.
Thanks to all of you, Toyota has become a major corporation. But, rather than being the president of a major corporation, I feel that President Toyoda has the mind of an entrepreneur of a venture business. As you know, venture companies are those that are formed with its members sharing the same sense of values and the same aspirations and with everyone working together. Thanks to all of you, Toyota, including the Toyota Group, has been able to come this far. We have been able to grow to become a major corporation in the world, with operations on a large scale. However, when talking about the state of our cultivation of human resources, I think things have fallen behind. I feel a sense of unfulfilled obligation to my predecessors.
In other words, I think we might be lacking part of the strict development that enables people to bear the burden of the next generation. Even so, I think we have been unaware of the problem, including even among us (sitting here). Also, companies with success stories are not fond of change. There are many negative influences, such as a sense of being elite due to being well-versed in what we’re doing. That also goes for our executives, including the operating officers sitting here and most of our mid-level employees as well.
I feel that Akio Toyoda the entrepreneur is constantly fighting against “big Japan corporation Toyota”. I think that’s what President Toyoda just said in a much simpler way. He’s all alone. We are facing a crisis that comes but once a century. We can’t read what lies ahead. For President Toyoda, who is trying to change the future, it’s like being hobbled.
As I have been watching closely with him, there are people who don’t even bother to try to understand the thinking of President Toyoda. Furthermore, there are people who are resisting attempts to try to change the way they are doing things. He has held discussions with such people, he has had meetings with them, and, at times, he has even become impatient with them and walked out on meetings that were only halfway through.
And, as for my thinking…