TOYOTA CITY, Japan -- Takashi Hata was a young human resources manager when he and about 1,000 Japanese employees moved to Kentucky in the 1980s. He was there to launch Toyota Motor Corp.'s Georgetown, Ky., plant.
Hata spent many hours with his American counterparts, an employee relations manager and a safety manager. He trained them in Toyota's ways. They explained American rules and practices to him.
That instruction led him to a startling conclusion: Toyota's training methods didn't work.
Americans' cultural diversity and different learning styles vexed Toyota's trainers. Toyota's processes, company values and perspectives were handed down person to person.
He realized Toyota needed to put its training process in writing. As a result, the program would ensure an efficient instruction process and standardized work methods. Employees also would be exposed to Toyota's values.
As the automaker's overseas expansion shifted into high gear in the 1990s, Hata became even more convinced that Toyota's methods were inadequate. "Person-to-person training became inefficient, almost impossible," Hata says.
Hata's boss at Georgetown was Fujio Cho, now Toyota's president. Cho reached the same conclusion. With standardized training, Toyota would ensure that workers at one plant could do a task the same way at another.
Today, Hata, 50, is a Toyota managing officer, one rung below board director. He is in charge of the global human resources division, among other assignments. Hata is point man for implementing Cho's vision of a new training regimen at Toyota, which grew out of the lessons learned in Kentucky.