Presentation: The Development of a New Car at Toyota
In this presentation made during Agile 2008, Kenji Hiranabe talks about Toyota's development process of a new car. Kenji shares his experience meeting Nobuaki Katayama, Chief Engineer at Toyota, and the lessons he learned from him.
Watch: The Development of a New Car at Toyota (25 min)
Kenji met Nobuaki Katayama during Developers' Summit 2008 in Tokyo where Toyota's Chief Engineer kept a presentation about the process used in creating a new car. Nobuaki says there are three main phases in car development:
- Planning and Concept Development – Concept, style, market research, pre-development, cost and profit target.
- Real Car Development – Designing, prototyping, evaluation.
- Production and Sales - Entering into mass production and selling the car.
Nobuaki emphasizes the first phase, creating a good concept being the most important. A complete concept is created, then it is tested with dealers and possible customers around the country to see if the concept is well received. Then comes prototyping and production.
Nobuaki gives some advices useful in software development. One of them is honest communication. Another, face-to-face communication, or TV conference if face-to-face is not possible. Another is: "Don't complain. Cooperate", and is Toyota's DNA, according to Nobuaki.
Nobuaki also noted some differences between Agile methodologies and car manufacturing ones. For example, there is no room for repetition or iteration when making a car.
Toyota not the only way.
Honda, for example, probably has a different value system - it seems that passion & charisma are positive aspects in that system. Take Formula 1 for example - both manufacturers have had long stints but Honda clearly has the edge when it comes to World Championships and race wins (5 championships, 71 wins as an engine supplier, 3 Factory wins).
Toyota, if I remember correctly, has yet to register a race win in 116 attempts with a yearly budget rumored to be in the $200-600M zone. More alarmingly, Toyota hasn't shown itself to be particularly accepting of their F1 shortcomings, neither are they taking any calculated risks. They have repeated, refined and spiraled-up to nowhere. ;)
So, the question that sprung up in my mind is the following:
In a system that has a low tolerance for passion & charisma, can adversity & chaos be easily overcome when encountered? Or would a company that encourages passion & charisma respond & overcome those challenges better?
It is no surprise to me that while GM/Toyota/Ford saw U.S. domestic sales slump, Honda somehow conjured up a sales gain in the first seven months of 2008 (source: Reuters).
Must have been some charismatic leader who spurred them on.
"Business Acceleration through Process Automation."
Re: Toyota not the only way.
I can understand why a more subdued and calm leader would be preferred in most situations. They can be wrong as anyone else, but it can be usually caught before things really go wrong. Charismatic leaders can be much harder to keep in check, as they usually carry so much unchallenged support by their own virtue that some natural feedback loops do not exist to correct failures in judgment.