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Toyota to Modernize Way of Making Decisions

August 1, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Toyota Motor Corp., the conservative giant of Japanese industry, said Tuesday it plans to drop special courtesy titles for employees and cut in half the number of approvals required for most decisions.

The steps are part of a broad plan to make Toyota more flexible and ″provide every employee the opportunity to work creatively and to the fullest of his or her ability,″ the company announced.

Toyota also said it will spend $730 million on bettering employees’ work lives, through new recreational facilities, dining rooms and company housing for both married and single employees.

Aspects of Toyota’s plan such as more company housing are strictly Japanese, but the emphasis on employee creativity is Western.

While American companies are trying to be more Japanese in management, the Japanese are trying in some respects to become more American.

″This is in order to have quick decisions and get more ideas, more energetic work from the staff,″ said Akikazu Kida, a Toyota spokesman in New York. The changes were also announced in Tokyo.

To promote workplace democracy, old titles such as kacho (manager) will be discarded and all employees will be referred to simply as san, the Japanese equivalent of Mr., Mrs. or Ms.

Personnel evaluations that have been dominated by seniority will now take performance more into account, Toyota said. About 1,000 supervisors will be reassigned to creative, hands-on work.

Toyota is the largest industrial company in Japan and has a reputation for a slow, conservative management style, in contrast to more Western-style companies such as Honda Motor Co. Ltd.

Japanese companies have long succeeded by adapting American technology and perfecting manufacturing techniques, but corporate leaders have decided that success in the future will demand innovation. And innovation requires giving employees freer rein. American consultants have traveled to Japan to lecture the industrial giants on such themes as how one person can make a difference.

″Employees will be encouraged to realize their own potential and pursue their own professional interests,″ Toyota said.

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