On January 7, President Akio Toyoda delivered his New Year’s message to employees working at Toyota in Japan.
Five hundred employees who had requested to attend filled the Toyota Head Office venue in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. Others viewed Akio’s message online.
What is key to surviving an era in which it is hard to predict the future? Toyota Times presents the full text and video of Akio’s address, which he himself fretted over to the very last minute.
The pandemic and Akio’s message
Happy New Year, everyone! Although COVID-19 continues to impact our lives, it fills me with joy that we can welcome in the new year together.
It has been two years since I was last able to meet and talk with you in person at the beginning of the year.
Looking back over the past two years, the spread of COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work, including restricting freedom of movement and making online communication the new norm.
Even in these difficult times, I believe that each of you who work at Toyota, along with the others among the 5.5 million colleagues in Japan’s automotive industry, has supported people’s mobility and kept the economy going by doing your job.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone for their efforts. Thank you very much.
Making decisions and taking action is key
We are now living in a diversified world in an era in which it is hard to predict the future. What is important for surviving through these times? At the very least, we have to decide things and take action.
Take, for example, carbon neutrality. At the beginning of last year, I think the situation was that goals for achieving carbon neutrality were set but no one knew exactly what to do.
First, I said: “Let’s start by having a correct understanding”, followed by: “The goal is carbon neutrality” and “There is more than one way to climb the mountain of carbon neutrality.” “Carbon is the enemy, not the internal combustion engine.” “We don’t want to narrow down customers’ options from the start.”
While continuing to say such things, we decided to enter Super Taikyu races with a hydrogen engine to try and see what we could do.
As a result, by repeatedly taking on challenges, we have gradually increased the number of our colleagues who are sympathetic to our will, passion, and actions in the fields of making, transporting, and using (hydrogen). At first, I never dreamed that so many colleagues would come together for this.
I would like to thank all those who worked hard to increase the number of our colleagues, those who joined in our efforts to adopt agile development, and those who cooperated and helped to ensure that driving was safe. Thank you very much.
However, at the same time, the notion that Toyota was taking a less-than-active approach to battery EVs seemed to be getting louder and louder.
“We want to explore the possibilities of all technologies.”
“We want the work we’ve spent our lives doing to lead to the future.”
I was reminded that there is a world in which our sentiments don’t get through to others at all.
The only way to convey our sentiments is to display them through our actions. Our “actions” are our products. So we decided to unveil all of the battery EVs that we plan to introduce to the market.
That’s how we started planning the battery EV briefing we held at the end of last year. I think we were able to show the world just how serious Toyota is about battery EVs.
And we prepared the briefing within only 50 days. This was possible because there are people within Toyota who have been preparing for the commercialization of battery EVs first and foremost.
I would like to thank all the people who supported my decision and actions when I decided late last year to hold the briefing. Thank you.
3 pillars that Toyota must observe
When the right answer is unknown, I believe that the person at the top must make a decision and take action. But that doesn’t mean moving without aim. Three pillars must be observed.
First, there is Toyota’s philosophy. What is the purpose of Toyota’s existence? It is not to sell as many cars as possible. It is also not to earn profit. Toyota exists for the happiness of all.
Thinking of someone other than oneself, working for the sake of that person, and producing happiness together. We compiled such ideas, which we must pass on to the next generation, into the Toyota Philosophy.
Next, there are the skills for realizing this philosophy. They are collectively known as the Toyota Production System. And, finally, there is the behavior for acquiring the first two pillars. This behavior is summed up in the Toyota Way.
I would like everyone who works at Toyota to always keep these three pillars in mind while doing their work. This is because these should all be acquired at the genba through work.
You and I have now spent 12 years together. First came our company’s fall into the red after the global financial crisis, followed in succession by our recall crisis, the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the COVID-19 crisis. We have faced a true series of crises.
Every time that we encountered difficulties, I have tried to demonstrate Toyota’s philosophy, skills, and behavior to everyone through my actions at the genba. However, getting my message across was difficult and a big problem for me.
For the past several years, I have been taking on the challenge of conveying Toyota’s philosophy, skills, and behavior through my daily work.
The easiest to understand example is the development of our GR Yaris and hydrogen Corolla.
In the case of the GR Yaris, using genchi genbutsu, together we built a car, broke it, fixed it, and built it again. By repeating this process, the car became stronger and stronger.
We should think about why we can’t apply this kind of car-making to cars other than the GR Yaris.
As various projects get underway in 2022, I hope by all means that activities will be conducted in which all functions, from development, production, and sales to after-sales service, work in unison.
What digitalization should mean for Toyota
Furthermore, the way we relay information is also significantly changing. There is a meeting that I have been holding ever since I was appointed president. It is an executive meeting held on Tuesday mornings.
The advent of COVID-19 provided me with an opportunity to greatly revamp how this meeting is conducted.
Meetings that were previously limited to Japanese executives who could come to the conference room at our head office in Toyota City are now held online, allowing members overseas, such as regional chief officers, to participate.
And that’s not all. Making it possible for persons actually in charge of projects to also participate, regardless of their ranks, has resulted in the number of participants increasing from about 20 to more than 200.
There are two reasons why I started doing this.
One is that when information is conveyed through someone else, it becomes like a telephone game, and in the end, important points are left out and not conveyed.
Morning meetings are more than just a place for sharing information. They are where I can convey Toyota’s philosophy, skills, and behavior, which I, myself, have inherited.
That is precisely why I need to communicate directly with the people in charge of projects. And I believe that doing so will help develop our human assets.
The second reason is that the information conveyed at these meetings belongs to the company and not to your superiors.
In the past, I think there was a tendency at Toyota to think that the person who is in the know is greater. In an era in which it is hard to predict the future, we must end this tendency so that we can advance our “complete redesign” into a mobility company.
Information should be readily accessible to those who need it in the type needed and when needed. But I think that our current situation is one of trying to create a know-it-all Superman.
Rather, I would like us to take on the challenge of creating a situation in which the information that everyone has is put into an “information mailbox” that is accessible to everyone.
I sense that there are still many people who view the purpose of digitalization as being the use of digital tools. But I would like everyone to think about how to pool and use information.
Akio’s 3 requests
Lastly, I would like to make three requests to all of you as we begin the new year.
The first is to learn something new. It could be a new language, painting or music, sports, improving your driving skills, or whatever. Just make sure it’s something that you have never tried before.
The second is to connect with your Toyota colleagues in different parts of the world and learn what they are trying to do to meet the same challenges that face you.
haring each other’s experiences, supporting each other, and creating new colleagues can help us learn much and grow.
And last but not least, enjoy your time outside of work. Turn off your cell phone, close your computer, move your body, and enjoy yourself as much as you want.
Let’s make 2022 a year full of courage and happiness. Let’s make it a year of one good deed after another, as well as a year of good humor. And let’s live a fulfilling life with no regrets.
Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who work at Toyota.
I look forward to meeting you all at your genba soon. Please stay healthy and safe. Thank you very much.