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 organizationâ€™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 TFSâ€™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, TFSâ€™s initiative could easily have failed.
Organizational change begins with the organizationâ€™s culture, whether that culture is approached directly orÂ indirectly. Some attributes of TFSâ€™s culture are
- A high respect for people andÂ relationships (very associate focused).
- A focus on improving qualityÂ of life and supporting the communitiesÂ in which we live.
- Zero tolerance when it comes toÂ issues of integrity.
- The pursuit of kaizen, a philosophyÂ of continuous improvement.Â TFS is always striving to be better.Â This translates into placing a highÂ value on performance and results.
Then came this interesting tidbit about how cultural values can clash against one another:
For example, respecting peopleÂ and relationships is a strong value, asÂ is continuous improvement. But theseÂ values were sometimes seen as conflicting.Â As a result, strong performanceÂ was sometimes treated aboutÂ the same as average or even poor performance.
This led associates to questionÂ why they should work harderÂ when strong performance was notÂ rewarded. Consequently, associatesÂ felt a sense of entitlement. FactorsÂ such as length of tenure had becomeÂ key drivers for career advancement.Â Changing the way managementÂ and associates thought about TFSâ€™sÂ value of performance required a delicateÂ balanceâ€”honoring the parts ofÂ TFSâ€™s culture that would serve as theÂ foundation for change while redefining
other aspects. In essence, whatÂ TFS needed to do was create a cultureÂ in which leaders could
- Hold associates and managersÂ accountable for performance, andÂ align rewards and consequencesÂ accordingly.
- Differentiate based on performance,Â and develop associates differentlyÂ based on their individual needs.
- Produce strong managers whoÂ value the development of people.
- Provide regular and honestÂ feedback to associates to help themÂ 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.