In 1990, Perrier recalled its bottled water after benzene was discovered in some bottles sold in North Carolina. Even though the Food and Drug Administration said there was no danger, the company recalled its entire inventory, thus preserving the purity of its reputation, along with the quality of its water.
An example of the wrong response to a quality control issue occurred with Ford's Pinto whose gas tanks ruptured and caught fire in rear-end collisions. In 1968, the Ford Motor Company, adopting a recommendation made by then vice-president Lee Iacocca, introduced a domestically produced subcompact car. Hoping to gain a large market share, Pinto was designed and developed on an accelerated schedule. While profits became supreme, quality began to suffer. After lawsuits were filed by victims and their families, Ford management appeared to prefer the advice of their attorneys who said it was less expensive to pay off lawsuits than to fix the gas tank problem. Ford's image (and sales) suffered. Management eventually got the message and started producing better cars, announcing in a media campaign, "At Ford, Quality is Job 1."
Like Ford, Toyota can restore its tarnished image if it reverts to its previous business model, which proved hugely successful throughout most of the company's existence.
It would be nice if the U.S. government adopted the earlier Toyota model and embraced those principles. Focusing on excellence before outcome produces the desired outcome. It works in health, education, automobiles, government and virtually anything else to which it is applied. We know what works. Why must so many of our leaders keep relearning the same lesson?
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