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Greg Hutchins

Quality Insider

Where Are the Quality Experts?

Not in Toyota’s North American Quality Advisory Panel

Published: Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 10:05

Quality Digest Daily recently ran “Safety and Quality Experts Named to Toyota Quality Advisory Panel” as one of their top-read articles. 

Good. I had missed it, so I read the article. I noticed was that it wasn’t an article, but a press release describing what Toyota was doing to remediate its damaged quality cachet.

OK, but I was really interested to see who Toyota had selected to be on its Quality Advisory Panel. I know it wasn’t me, since I hadn’t gotten the call, but, I was interested to know which of my quality expert colleagues got to be on the Toyota’s Quality Advisory Panel. With astonishment I read it was none of them! This was a shocker and may identify a major problem for the quality profession, which I’ll discuss later in this article. 

First, who’s on the panel? The full panel includes:

  • Rodney E. Slater, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation
  • Norman Augustine, former chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corp.
  • Patricia Goldman, former vice chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
  • Mary Good, dean of engineering and information technology of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Roger Martin, dean at Rotman School of Management
  • Brian O’Neill, former president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
  • Sheila Widnall, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and former Secretary of the U.S. Air Force


The scope of work of the Quality Advisory Panel is:

“This independent group of experts will advise Toyota’s North American affiliates on quality and safety issues, working closely with the company’s leadership team and the newly formed North American Quality Task Force, led by chief quality officer, Steve St. Angelo. Panel members will have unfettered access to information concerning Toyota’s quality and safety procedures, and direct communication with Toyota Motor Corp.’s president, Akio Toyoda, as well as with the newly formed Special Committee for Global Quality, led by Toyoda.”

The list of members is illustrious and accomplished. Their charge to reinfuse Toyota’s quality image is noble. Their scope of work is broad and their access to senior Toyota management is unfettered. So, these folks can do a lot of good.

Yes. However, are they accomplished in quality or in public policy issues? I would say "yes" to the latter but not so much to the former. 

What strikes me is that there’s not one quality expert or guru on Toyota’s Quality Advisory Panel. Transportation, design, and safety experts are well represented on the panel, but again, no quality experts. This says a lot about the state of the quality profession, where the world’s top quality company deploys a safety-related public relations strategy, instead of a quality-focused strategy.

In many ways, we can’t blame Toyota, because the company is in crisis mode, having to repair its lost brand equity. This is why management retained this high-powered safety and political team. To me, it seems that Toyota sees its problems in North America through a political enterprise-risk-management prism. 

A number of critical (and frankly troubling) issues come up from Toyota’s press release:

  1. Why didn’t Toyota select several quality experts to be on the Quality Advisory Panel?
  2. Where are and who are today’s quality’s leaders in North America?
  3. Who speaks for quality today?
  4. Who will be leading the quality profession in the future?
  5. Where is quality going in the near future and throughout the longer term?


Until we can answer these questions, quality will be viewed as a product or plant-level transactional issue, not a bet-the-enterprise, board-level issue. It’s sad, but true.


About The Author

Greg Hutchins’s picture

Greg Hutchins

Greg Hutchins is an engineer, certified enterprise risk manager, and the founder of the Certified Enterprise Risk Management Academy, Made in the U.S.A., WorkingIt.com, and Quality + Engineering.


Quality expert insights

I manage an EHSQ community are would be interested in having a webinar on the topic of engaging our worker in quality practices. Would anyone be intersted in being a guest speaker?

Toyota is trying to avoid

Toyota is trying to avoid the Ford Pinto PR fiasco. Ford was technically correct, but missed the point about customer satisfaction. Toyota is obviously working feverishly to say and do the right things to keep customers. It has little to do with the Quality system that broke down, but rather it's about "saving face".

Toyota's panel of experts

Greg - Like Bill Scherkenbach, I too did not comment on the panel selection. I thought that it would be futile. I thought that the list of names was indicative of what happened to Toyota. It looks like business school methods to cover a catastrophe. Then I thought of Dr. Deming's statement on business schools, "They are teaching all the wrong things and doing it very well."

I am glad you raised the issue. I wondered who did the selecting? Does anyone know?

Bill Latzko

Experts? They Want Experts?

Archie the Gopher - - Serving Education Delivering Quality - - - - - The list of "experts" are persons currently at high positions, or previously at high positions, in organizations with confirmation of "doing it well." There are many problems with the Toyota situation. First, what is an expert? There are many jokes about what an "expert" really is. Second, the successes of Toyota may relate to poor judgements of customers. We quality leaders have a task and that is to help our friends and neighbors understand what QUALITY really is, how we measure quality, and why quality is important to our successes as individuals and as a member of a community. Toyota has experts on staff. We the people need to demand, based on our pocket book decisions, delivery of quality. We need to "accept" or "reject" products based on quality. We need to know more than PR reports and "reports" offered in purchased ads. Buy quality. Avoid that other stuff! I close with avoidance of issues related to "government demanding quality" as we the consumers are served. Government is another set of issues. Do we need another Tea Party like group on quality?

Wake-up call?

Gee, what should we do? The problem as I see it is this – the world doesn’t think they need us. Or better yet – we are afraid for our future livelihood that they do not need us. Sounds like the “quality profession” has a customer sat problem. Maybe the “quality profession’s” product hasn’t been good enough to ensure continued growth. When I read some of the articles I sometimes wonder if there is an inflated sense of self-importance on the part of quality professionals. We seem to think the rest of the world needs us more than they think they need us. Some would argue they are wrong – they really do need us and if we could just convince them of that then we could help them. But I’m not so sure. And apparently neither is an important part of the market. Time for a long look in the mirror?

Where are the quality experts?

What is the operational definition of a quality expert?

Where are Quality Experts?

Toyota does not need any quality expert(s). They have plenty! What they needed is good public policy advisers and that's what they have selected. Toyota does not have quality problems, they have management problems!

Where are the quality experts?

I couldn't agree more. Looks like a publicity show not a quality show. There are quality experts around. None have the brand name of a Deming (who I am sure is turning over in his grave) or Juran. I'm sure Toyota could have found a few, but.....you have the picture correct.

Quality Experts?

Greg, I couldn't agree more. I didn't take the initiative to comment on it though. Thank you for bringing it up. The emperor has no clothes.