Lessons from Toyota

The long silence of auto–industry giant Toyota, over the issue of a recall of more than 5 million of its vehicles, shows how typical Japanese would react when facing a dire predicament. It reminds me of my previous boss Harada-san, whose silence always scared the crap out of me. Silence that looms like mysterious clouds over our small office keeps me guessing whether to expect a rainy or sunny day. When working with the Japanese, expect to heighten your sensitivity level in order to avoid falling prey to “something is wrong but I don’t have even a tiny clue,” feeling. After working for several companies with different cultures, I came to realize the value of this silence and how it should be understood. It is positive silence that you must allow to seep into every minuscule pore of your body. Just as the Karate kid would stand silently and slowly shoo mosquitoes with epileptic hand movements, let it in you like Gatorade. But seriously, it is how one will realize the slightest tension over the cloak of silence that envelopes you. This will be your Doppler  radar telling you whether to bring an umbrella or not. Silence is respect. Instead of shouting and pointing fingers when something goes terribly wrong at the workplace, my Japanese boss’s silence saves us the humiliation from our peers. It gives ourselves a chance to evaluate our mistakes, from inside and out, and repair the problem before it gets worse. Treat others with respect and they will show the same respect to you, that is part of the silence. I am forever indebted to Harada-san for showing me the Japanese clubs with bikini clad teens near Pasay Oops! What I meant was the honor he had shown me even though I flunked the PhilNits exam more than once. At the brink of our separation, he never demanded even a centavo in return for a hundred thousand pesos worth of scholarship he invested in me. Let me say this again, boss. Thank you.

Toyota is smart enough to employ this method on the predicament they are facing. Smart enough to evaluate the complexity of the recall, its effects and its magnitude before releasing any premature statements that might tarnish its reputation as the number one car manufacturer.

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