What’s the Story at Toyota?

Toyota’s top reputation for quality products has suffered a great deal in recent months, with more news about car recalls again this past week. The company’s management communications continues to limp along, too.

Rather than get ahead of the first story by announcing the “stuck acceleration pedal” issue before the news broke and generated a Congressional hearing in the U.S., Toyota executives tried to avoid the problem. When word got out that there was a problem, Toyota at first denied it, then downplayed the seriousness of the issue and the potential harm for the company’s customers and their families. And the CEO at first designated other spokesmen to talk with the news media, agreeing to be the spokesman himself only after the public demanded to hear from him.

Well into the Information Age, with 24/7 global news coverage the norm, it’s astounding that the leadership of any major organization still believes it’s advisable, not to mention possible, to squelch a valid news story. It’s also astounding that the leader of a major corporation would try to neglect his primary job of a leader: communications–open, approachable, two-way communications with all the organization’s stakeholders, news media included. Open communication with those at the top is not only advisable, it’s essential in a world that expects transparency and a public that assumes the right to be heard.

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