Feb 22

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

I’ve been getting a lot of stick about my car. Jeremy Clarkson berates me every week calling me a “Pious Driver”. But it suddenly got a lot worse. Now it’s open season for Toyota drivers: first with the accelerator pedal problems, then with the brake problems on newer models of the Prius than mine, and now the steering on the Corolla.

I joined an internet forum to find out how to connect my bluetooth phone to the car and I get a cascade of comments: “that’s the least of your problems” was the kindest. The poster slogan “The car in front is a Toyota” has graffiti “lucky it’s not behind you”.

So it was good to see Toyota president Akio Toyoda making a sincere bow of apology. I accept his apology.

It is the sign of a good leader to take responsibility for errors and failures of their team.  Then to fully take on board the lessons learned.

“FIRST, get the cow out of the ditch. Second, find out how the cow got into the ditch. Third, make sure you do whatever it takes so the cow doesn’t go into the ditch again.” This is the advice – quoted by the Schumpter business column in the Economist – that Anne Mulcahy, the former boss of Xerox, says became her mantra as she fought successfully to revive the fortunes of the copying and printing firm.

And I am talking about sincere apology too. None of this “SORRY. This bus is not in service.” or spinning to play the issue down. You have to admit the cow is in the ditch.

To “do whatever it takes so the cow doesn’t go into the ditch again” Toyota now offer a five year warranty, and their slogan in the UK is Your Toyota is My Toyota accompanied by pictures of a committed local workforce.

Some say that Akio Toyoda did not bow low enough. I say that we could do with a lot more sincere bowing for apology. Bow .. Sir Fred Goodwin. Bow ..Victor Blank. Bow ..Rick Fuld.

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