Many of you are surely familiar with the legendary John Wooden, one of the greatest teachers, coaches and mentors of all time. While he made his name in basketball, he has often been cited for his principles on leadership and success both personally and in business. One of his most famous quotes is “Be quick, but don’t hurry”. This quote is one that I often use as a reminder in my professional life, but I also believe it applies very directly to the situation facing Toyota Motor Corporation today.
Faced with the daunting task of responding to harsh criticism from current customers who are fearful for their lives, prospective customers who have lost faith in Toyota’s reputation for quality, the U.S. Transportation Secretary quoted as saying, “My advice to anyone who owns one of these vehicles is stop driving it,” thus fueling a traditional and emerging media that thrives on sensationalism, Toyota must indeed “be quick, but don’t hurry,” as they sort out how to repair upwards of 8 million automobiles.
Toyota must "be quick" in order to stem the tide to prevent the backlash from overwhelming them. Current estimates suggest that they may have already lost $2 billion either in repair costs or lost sales, and the longer the story lingers as headline news, the greater these losses become.
However, at the same time, Toyota cannot "hurry" with the repairs or sweep this under the rug, as they should be very aware that people’s lives are at stake here. While solutions have been posed to drivers who experience a stuck accelerator, another serious injury or death related to this issue could cause irrevocable damage. However, even worse, if repairs are supposedly completed by dealerships, but haven’t corrected the problem, or cause other unintended issues, it could strike a critical blow to Toyota’s credibility in the eyes of all involved.
I’m an owner of a Toyota, and I do have faith in the products that they make, but their reputation is at stake, and how they respond to the feedback received will lay the foundation for how they are seen post-crisis. Perception truly is reality, and there is no better time for Toyota to begin proving themselves again than today. So, I do hope that Toyota will be quick, but don’t hurry. There’s too much at risk not to be.
Vice President, Consulting Services