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Toyota Under Fire: Lessons for Turning Crisis into Opportunity [Hardcover]

Jeffrey Liker , Timothy N. Ogden
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 April 2011

The definitive inside account of Toyota's greatest crisis—and lessons you can apply to your own company

"Those who write off Toyota in the current climate of second guessing and speculation are making a profound mistake and need to read this book to get the facts. Toyota is a company that will channel the current challenges to push themselves to even more relentless continuous improvement."
—Charles Baker, former Chief Engineer and Vice President for R&D, Honda of America

"Toyota Under Fire is a superb book and should prove very helpful to American industry's understanding of the problems faced and how any company can prevent similar occurrences in the future."
—Norman Bodek, author, founder of Productivity Press, and inductee in 2010 Industry Week Manufacturing Hall of Fame

"As a former automotive supplier executive and student of Toyota, I was concerned to see the many negative reports and investigations into the quality and safety of its vehicles. Toyota Under Fire tells the story of how this great company is growing wiser and stronger by living its culture and values."
—Michael Fisher, CEO, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

"Just as Toyota has put itself through excruciating soul-searching in order to understand what went wrong, so should we all take advantage of the opportunity for learning presented to us by Toyota's misfortune. In these pages, you will find that the actual circumstances were far more complex, nuanced, and uncertain than you saw reported in the news."
—John Y. Shook, Chairman and CEO, Lean Enterprise Institute

"The most comprehensive and detailed review to date of the circumstances that led to the crisis, and the events and contexts that caused it to escalate.”
—Strategy & Business

About the Book

For decades, Toyota has been setting standards that are the envy—and goal—of organizations worldwide. Its legendary management principles and business philosophy, first documented by Jeffrey K. Liker in his influential book The Toyota Way, changed the business world's approach to operational excellence.

Granted unprecedented access to Toyota's facilities worldwide, Liker, along with Timothy N. Ogden, investigated the inside story of how Toyota faced the challenges of the recession and the recall crisis of 2009–2010. In both cases, the company was caught off guard—and found that a root cause of the challenges it faced was its failure to live up to its own principles. But the fundamentals were still there, and the company has ultimately come out of the most challenging years of its postwar existence even stronger than before.

Toyota Under Fire chronicles all the events of the recession and the recall crisis in detail, providing valuable lessons any business leader can use to survive and thrive in a crisis, no matter how large:

  • Crisis response must start by building a strong culture long before the crisis hits.
  • Culture matters far more than decisions made by top executives.
  • Investing in people, even in the depths of a recession, is the surest path to long-term profitability.

Because it had founded its culture on such principles, Toyota didn’t need to amass an army of public relations, marketing, and legal experts to "put out the fire"; instead, it redoubled efforts to live up to its founding tenet, going "back to basics." Toyota began solving this crisis more than 70 years ago, when its organizational culture was first established.

Apply the lessons of Toyota Under Fire to your company, and you'll meet any future management challenge calmly, responsibly, and effectively—the Toyota Way.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional (1 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 007176299X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071762991
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 15.9 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 534,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Authors

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Product Description

About the Author

Jeffrey K. Liker is the author of the bestselling The Toyota Way and 10 other related books. He is a professor of industrial and operational engineering at the University of Michigan and consults and speaks through his own consulting firm and The Toyota Way Academy.

Timothy N. Ogden is cofounder of Sona Partners and a writer and editor who has developed nearly 20 business books for major publishers. His work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Strategy+Leadership, and Miller-McCune, among others.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of what actually happened 1 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book covers what actually happened with lots of references to other information sources. I did feel it was a bit biased towards Toyota, but had all the facts to back it up. A very interesting read.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! Read it: the inspiring inside story of how Toyota overcame its crises without betraying its principles 10 Mar 2011
By Michael Balle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
"Problems first" is one of the tenets of Toyota's unique management approach and, indeed, the company is even more interesting to observe when it is dealing with catastrophic events - it's ability for self-correction and drawing powerful conclusions, emerging stronger from its trials has been, historically, astounding.

When all pundits were claiming the "end of Toyota", "this time Toyota has gone too far" "Toyota has lost its way", these authors have resisted the siren song of the lynch mob and conducted an in-depth, fact-based investigation in what was really happening within Toyota. What they found was, first, a giant automotive company that hit the worst industrial crisis of working memory, a crisis that has claimed the life of no other than GM and has cost millions of taxpayers dollars to salvage the industry, and yet Toyota reacted without laying off any permanent employees or asking for subsidies. indeed it used the downtime to increase training and focus on improving its factory quality. This is an astounding industrial feat, and reading the account made by the authors is more than enlightening; it's inspiring. Corporations need not be slaves to the market, or justify treating people without respect because of "market conditions". Toyota demonstrates how faced with overwhelming market conditions, companies can still stick to their agreements and engage every one in working together towards turnaround.

Second, as it was still reeling from the impact of the great recession, Toyota was bizarely attacked in the court of public opinion for designing "unsafe" cars, with everyone from the government to Toyota experts piling on to fuel the hysteria. Well, after untold damage done to its reputation, and millions spent in investigations by top engineering experts, the jury is in: no Toyota cars were found to be dangerous in any way. This is a fascinating story and a beautiful illustration of the madness of crowds, which is told lucidly step by step by the authors and which highlight both toyota's strengths in solving difficult engineering problems and its weaknesses in reacting quickly and well to public opinion moods.

Whatever one's personal opinion, Toyota remains one of the most unique and interesting companies around, a company that offers the hope of doing business differently, by truly putting customers first and respecting one's people. Watching Toyota struggle is just as fascinating as watching it walk on water, and this book gives unique insight on the nuts-and-bolts reactions within the company, and how it manages to deploy its principles under fire and against considerable opposition.

I found the book hard to put down, as it answered so many questions at once, both about the events, and the nuts-and-bolts reaction of the company. This book is a worthy sequel of The Toyota Way, as we see here the principles applied in adverse and fluid conditions. A great management read!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeper Insight into Toyota Decision Making 24 April 2011
By Joseph F Ely - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book was very enjoyable yet in a surprising way.

From the title and description, I expected a blow-by-blow review of the details of the rigors of the safety recalls and public scrutiny of Congress following the awful crashes of Toyota cars. I also expected this to be set against the context of the recession. This is certainly part of the book. But not the most useful.

As someone who has followed and sought to emulate Toyota's manufacturing excellence for well over a decade now, what really grabbed me was the authors' ability to see behind the decisions and into the decision-making process of Toyota. They described this well and clearly. For example, the discussions of company governance, it's influence on the timing and nature of decisions, was deeply helpful.

Toyota's system, now famous, are merely the outward expressions of a disciplined and deeply-ingrained approach to creating clarity out of the chaos which is business and manufacturing. This book enables the reader to better understand why. This is key because it is short-sighted to merely seek to imitate the Toyota Production System. Much better to understand the thinking and then flesh it out in one's own context.

Jeff Liker, again, adds well to the knowledge of Toyota.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! A must-read for every business leader and improvement professional. 16 Mar 2011
By Karen Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
There may be no other company that has faced as protracted and deep scrutiny as Toyota has over the past year-and-a-half. But while the media was reporting half-truths that fueled an outpouring of emotion bordering on hysteria, two men were methodically searching for the truth, sorting out fact from fiction. The result, Toyota Under Fire, is an important and compelling piece of work - in many ways perhaps even more so than The Toyota Way, in helping us understand the management philosophy and practices that have led to Toyota's success, and have allowed it to weather a potentially debilitating storm that many companies may not have recovered from.

In some ways Toyota Under Fire reads more like a thriller than a business book. Liker and Ogden have created an easy read that takes a hard look at ALL of the facts, not just the ones the general public was privy to. And they do a brilliant job at outlining the leadership behaviors that anyone can use to mitigate and manage business crises. It's a thought-provoking book that caused me to once again rethink western business practices, while it deepened my respect for a company that trumps most others in terms of humility, problem-solving acumen, and process management know-how.

Every leader and improvement professional should read this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great companion book to 'The Toyota Way' 12 May 2011
By gizmoinva - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
`Toyota Under Fire' is a great companion book to `The Toyota Way'. Mr. Liker and Mr. Ogden do a phenomenal job of researching and presenting the facts of how Toyota successfully dealt with the global recession and recall crisis. This book is a great blend of factual data analysis and an accurate historical account of how Toyota survived the dual crisis and how their culture of continuous improvement (Kaizen) guarantees the company will continue to thrive in the future.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to see how a truly world-class company successfully operates in the face of world-wide economic calamity to become an even better company. Toyota accomplished this goal by doing what they have historically done, which was documented in `The Toyota Way'. This book chronicles the lessons learned by Toyota that can be used by any company facing monumental adversity. The methodical way in which the authors present the facts and issues faced by Toyota and how the company successfully dealt with these issues are very eye opening. Regardless if you work for a small company or a large multinational organization. This book should be standard reading for every employee in every level of a company.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turn Crisis Into Opportunity 11 May 2011
By Brian R. Buck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Toyota Under Fire" by Jeffrey Liker and Timothy Ogden is a highly recommended book for leaders, Lean-thinkers, and people interested in media criticism.

I initially thought it would solely be about the recall crisis which NASA has already vindicated the company. The book also details the challenges faced by Toyota during the recession. The authors provide candid information about how the company could have done better and show how they turned the crisis into an opportunity to become stronger.

The final chapter transforms Toyota's story during the crisis into lessons other organizations can use to help them be prepared for a crisis.

The book helped understand the power of the Toyota Way and reaffirms why they are a company to be admired. There are many great insights into the thinking of the people in the organization. Some of my favorites were about how deeply respect for people is practiced, the examples of how important it is to be close to the problem to be able to improve it, the importance of culture, and how the five why's were used to accept responsibility of the problem.

For those interested in media criticism, this book provides a lot of data that was distorted or omitted in the news during the recalls. The examples of sensationalized reports with no follow-through once disproven will serve as a reminder to take what we consume from the news with a grain of salt.

One thing I found surprising in the book is that many cited sources were from bloggers and websites. Since the traditional media seemed slanted against Toyota, these other sources appear more neutral.

Liker and Ogden's book show how Toyota practices the Toyota Way. It is not just about theory and philosophy but a demonstration of how it was recently done. This was an excellent book.
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