Improvement at Toyota: Response

I was encouraged that managing workforce diversity found itself sandwiched on a list of training topics, somewhere between improved ergonomics and quality control. It was refreshing to see a company casually dignify the challenge as an operational reality and driver of future performance, not a historic wrong that must be righted while also making fuel-efficient cars. As some of your colleagues at HBS have argued gracefully, including Robin Ely and David Thomas, separating diversity from the central challenge of running a business can be counterproductive.

In my own experience, when a diverse, integrated workforce is treated as a company’s social responsibility, at best, it makes people feel good.  At worst, it fosters resentment and insecurity. But when diversity is treated as a competitive advantage, it becomes just that — now more than ever, as the markets for customers and talent become increasingly global. Toyota’s signaling was clear: diversity is as important and unemotional as reducing dashboard defects.

One Response to Improvement at Toyota: Response

  1. Jon Cahill says:

    Kudos to you two for starting this blog.

    Anne, I agree. In my business experience, “diversity” has always had an overtly political connotation, tied inextricably to our cultural history. The opportunity to recast the word in terms of competitive advantage is a welcome one — not to deflect or diminish the import of the injustices of the past, but rather to collectively embrace an opportunity for the future.

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