We recently bought a new car – yes, a Toyota. To buy it, we went through Toyota Financial Services. This week, we received a letter welcoming us and giving us some information on our car payment bill. At the bottom of that letter was this:
We are committed to ensuring your experience with us is as effortless as possible so you can focus on some of the more important things in your life.
That simple promise sums-up the type of experience I’d like with bills, customer service, and other daily annoyances: help me get back to the more important things in life, instead of having to deal with the urgent but unimportant.
I became interested in the history of Toyota Financial Services and so I did some digging around and found interesting information on Toyota Financial Services:
About five years ago, Toyota Financial Services (TFS) began an incremental process of establishing a leadership strategy that reflects both an orientation toward performance and a firm foundation for development. The strategic initiative started when the CEO, George Borst, and the organization’s human resource department (HR) realized that TFS needed to change the way talent was being managed and developed. TFS also recognized that several things needed to occur to accomplish this.
Merely acknowledging that an organization needs to change rarely leads to deep and fundamental change. Fundamental change requires a large amount of preparation and work. That is why TFS’s approach has taken
years, not months, to implement. For every two steps TFS took forward, it took one step backward. It is no exaggeration to say that without extensive efforts to prepare the organization for change, TFS’s initiative could easily have failed.
Organizational change begins with the organization’s culture, whether that culture is approached directly or indirectly. Some attributes of TFS’s culture are
- A high respect for people and relationships (very associate focused).
- A focus on improving quality of life and supporting the communities in which we live.
- Zero tolerance when it comes to issues of integrity.
- The pursuit of kaizen, a philosophy of continuous improvement. TFS is always striving to be better. This translates into placing a high value on performance and results.
Then came this interesting tidbit about how cultural values can clash against one another:
For example, respecting people and relationships is a strong value, as is continuous improvement. But these values were sometimes seen as conflicting. As a result, strong performance was sometimes treated about the same as average or even poor performance.
This led associates to question why they should work harder when strong performance was not rewarded. Consequently, associates felt a sense of entitlement. Factors such as length of tenure had become key drivers for career advancement. Changing the way management and associates thought about TFS’s value of performance required a delicate balance—honoring the parts of TFS’s culture that would serve as the foundation for change while redefining
other aspects. In essence, what TFS needed to do was create a culture in which leaders could
- Hold associates and managers accountable for performance, and align rewards and consequences accordingly.
- Differentiate based on performance, and develop associates differently based on their individual needs.
- Produce strong managers who value the development of people.
- Provide regular and honest feedback to associates to help them maximize their performance.
What’s fascinating about this article is that is shows how Toyota Financial Services was like prior to leadership development and what it was like after. In the article, there was no sugar-coating or anything attempt to look better than reality, just the facts. It shows the growth of Toyota Financial Services into the what it is today.