the gapanese invasion is nigh!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

battling the heritage of smallness: pinoy liabilities and the toyota experience

Of the 14 Toyota Way Principles, I believe that the principle saying “build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time” is hardest to apply in the Philippines. Why? Because the Filipino culture tolerates the “puwede na,” “bahala na” and “ningas cogon” attitudes, three liabilities that aggravate what National Artist Nick Joaquin unerringly labels as a heritage of smallness. If only the Philippines learns much from the discipline of Japan in general and the Filipinos from Toyoda family’s discipline in particular, then we can become great as a nation. Unfortunately, discipline is not a piece of cake, and it gets harder to come by when quality is being sacrificed by acceding to the second-rate, by leaving everything to fate, or by losing interest midway toward completion.
The Filipinos could learn so much from the Toyoda family, whose members include the founder’s predecessor who gave a new meaning to getting dirty, the founder who persevered despite his own physical frailness, and his cousin who religiously did things to learn. Sakichi Toyoda, who created the power loom that paved the way to the mother firm of Toyota group, defied the absence of research and development accessibility by doing everything himself. He took the work via trial and error and got his hands dirty in producing the “mistake-proof” automatic power looms that liberated the women in his family from the punishing labor of the weaving cottage industry. Meanwhile, his son Kiichiro, who studied facts rather than depend on intuition, created a miniature engine painstakingly before producing the automobile engine. His cousin Eiji learned things from doing like Kiichiro and Uncle Sakichi, researching the machines he hardly knew about and, until the time he led the Toyota Motor Manufacturing, molded the sales, car development and the principles underlying the Toyota Production System. Their characteristics show discipline that puts quality on top priority.
However, the principle of fixing problems to ensure quality may find it hard to assimilate itself in the Philippine setting because for one, Filipinos have the penchant for “puwede na.” This means giving something a passing mark even if its quality has not yet been tested or has flunked against standards. In the Philippines, it is rare for workers to repeat everything especially if the process involved is tedious. They may be too conscious of the limited time of production, but sacrifices quality in the process. If they learn from the discipline of the Toyoda family, they will put in mind that quality matters more than anything else, because in the end, they might end up repeating the process anyway, or might cause accident for their poorly qualified products.
The fatalism of the Filipinos is also working at their fault, since they trust God so much but do not couple this faith with love for labor. It entails more than relying on supernatural powers, as the case of the Toyoda family attests. They persevered doing everything in order to generate the quality products that Toyota offers today. This should see practice in the Philippines because God Himself will not be pleased if His followers are not even resourceful.
Finally, becoming a grass flash-fire is disadvantageous to Filipinos because the quality that is thought of in the beginning loses reality in the process of approximating it. The success of the Toyota conglomerate did not come about easily; the Toyoda family had to get their hands dirty in order to achieve quality products. They did not stop or give up what they so lovingly labored for a long time because they believe that as little problems got fixed, quality would be assured. Whether they succeeded or not fixing the problem, they could not forsake quality.
Only when these three liabilities are eliminated will the Philippines achieve greatness.

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