Soundview Executive Book Summaries


An Acceleration in Accountability

Today should be an eventful session on Capitol Hill. I’ve been keenly following the news reports about the investigation into Toyota’s mysterious acceleration problems with a number of its vehicles. I’m a bit of a nervous driver and although I don’t personally drive a Toyota, the thought of this same problem occurring with my car is enough to keep me tuned in to any news about the issue.

Toyota’s President and CEO Akio Toyoda will testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform via a prepared statement. It is expected that Toyoda will accept full responsibility for his company’s safety issue. While this type of statement is what we would expect of a CEO in the midst of a crisis, it raises an obvious question, one which was also raised by the authors of a recent Soundview summary: How Did That Happen?

There have been media reports that describe Toyota’s troubles as a negative outcome of the company’s recent success. The business grew quickly and needed to keep pace with the rapidly increasing demand for its product. In the race to produce more cars, commentators argue, corners were cut and safety was sacrificed. In my opinion, this is pure speculation. Toyota will require the type of analysis of its accountability procedures about which Roger Connors and Tom Smith write in How Did That Happen?.

While Toyoda does the talking before Congress, employees at every level of Toyota’s organization will be asked to examine their own performance and decision-making as it relates to the company’s acceleration issue. Connors and Smith are believers that with the right emphasis on the part of management, employees will willingly participate in a positive, principled program of accountability. Toyoda has an opportunity to lead the way for the company that bears his name. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

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