One of the best books I would recommend to an HR
professional is ‘Toyota Culture’ with the subtitle ‘The heart and soul of
Toyota Way.’ The book is not just comprehensive and practical, but very mature
in thought in what it prescribes. There are many ways of managing people well and
creating the desired culture, this book tells us the Toyota way of doing it.
If that be so, why is it that Toyota is having frequent
problems in its plants at Bidadi?
Let us search some answers in whatever is available in the
The Bidadi plant of Toyota Kirloskar began production in
1999. Since then it is a story of industrial strife. In 2005 Toyota workers’
union affiliated itself to CITU which was disapproved by the Management and the
The issue involved in the present strike or lockout is said
to be a wage dispute. Toyota has offered Rs 3050 while the workers want Rs 4000
increase. If this is the real issue, then it sounds funny that the parties are
breaking negotiations for a mere Rs 950 gap which is seen as not a very wide
gap. Obviously there is something more than meets the eye.
The newspaper report says. ‘Answering a question on conciliatory meetings on the wage
hike issue, Viswanathan said "...We did have a final meeting where we
believe where union agreed to a final wage, we only want them to come and
sign....Matter stands as far as we are concerned at Rs 3,100."’
Toyota has suspended or dismissed some workers and then
introduced an ‘undertaking’ as a pre-condition of allowing workers entry to the
plant. This is not acceptable to the workers. Toyota is running the plant at
The view of some people is that Toyota is implementing its
practices which will not work in Indian culture. Regimented way of working is
not acceptable to Indian people, and Toyota seems to demand it. The charge of
being ‘tone deaf’ is often levelled against Toyota. Toyota excels in creating
certain practices and then implements rigorously. And there lies the catch.
Implementation is influenced by several local factors.
We are presuming here that the issues are beyond wages,
it is also about implementation of changes. There is some but not enough
material to believe so, but since this issue is faced by all organisations, I
am expressing my thoughts.
So on one hand we have an organisation which has created excellent
and mature policies and outstanding practices, and on the other hand we see
their failure. This is what the book [Toyota Culture] tells us:
“Managing Toyota Way and establishing a Toyota
culture is not negotiable. The local management should establish a stance
toward labour unions, taking into consideration local culture, laws, labour
movements and so on. If the management of the company does have a union, both
should recognise that the prosperity of the company is the common objective and
both must use thorough communication in order to resolve any differences of
opinions and build a healthy relationship of mutual trust. The relationship of
mutual trust can ensure the long term prosperity of the company and thereby
stabilise employee lives by maintaining and improving working conditions.”
The reports of previous strife suggest that the management was
averse to union formation. It was also averse to union’s affiliation to CITU. [Incidentally,
at this juncture a story is developing in Canada about unionisation in a Toyota
plant]. Read carefully ‘the local management should establish a stance towards
unions taking in to account the local culture, laws … .’ Do we see this
happening in Toyota? Perhaps there is no issue now but it existed earlier.
More interesting is the statement that “Managing Toyota Way
and establishing a Toyota culture is not negotiable.” There is nothing wrong
about this statement too. The issue is how it gets implements.
Toyota policies are well defined and well thought out. Well
defined policies which are not evolved at a given establishment require highest
level of influencing for implementation – a skill in short supply. Toyota is
well within its rights to say that the establishment will be managed in a
particular way, and that there is no negotiability to that issue. But when it
translates to ‘Toyota way or Highway’ because of lack of will or skill of
influencing, it becomes counterproductive.
Expectations are running rather high from Toyota managers. Toyota
has once again moved against current by saying men are better than robots. Here
is a video which says so. It is also time to humanise the auto factories.
Labels: Employee Relations, People management, Strike, Toyota vision, Toyota vision of the Future: Humans, Toyota way