This week an investigation into the lies of the truck and bus maker Hino Motors revealed why the brand has manipulated emissions data about gas-guzzling engines for the past 20 years. Their excuse: corporate culture.
Hino Motors, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp, was found in March to have falsified data regarding the carbon emissions and fuel performance of four engines — a fraud dating back to at least 2003.
Unfortunately, emissions scandals are nothing new.
The company joins the big dirty liars Volkswagen and Stellantiswho tried to downplay the environmental impact of their vehicles.
Both companies used software to manipulate exhaust settings and cheat on emissions testing.
VW initially blamed a few software developers rogue for the scandal, but later relented to executive knowledge.
But the results of the Hino study to the how and why of an inward-looking and conservative corporate culture.
It “prevented any employee from doing his or her job with a sense of commitment and solidarity.” This led to a lack of psychological safety, with engineers feeling unable to challenge their superiors.
What is psychological safety?
According to Amy Edmonsona professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School, psychological safety is:
The belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for expressing ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe from taking interpersonal risks.
According to ReutersHino investigation committee chair Kazuo Sakakibara told journalists that past successes blinded the company to “changes in the external environment and values or the ability to look directly at oneself.
“The organization has become a badly organized organization where people can’t say what they can’t do.”
A high-security team gives people the confidence to admit mistakes, contribute to discussions, raise concerns, question decisions (including those of their supervisors) and ask for help.
What is the fault of the Japanese work culture?
When you think about Japanese work culture, you probably imagine an old, deeply hierarchical company with extremely polite people working long hours.
They commit to the company until they retire. Thankfully, things are changing, thanks to the mainstreaming of hybrid workplaces due to COVID and the fact that almost half of university students in Japan are women.
But the auto industry isn’t exactly known for the diversity of its business divisions. Cases of sexual harassment persist.
“You will be there most of your life. They don’t care about your life outside of work. Make Hino Motors the MILLIONS they make every year. You will probably be divorced and your children will probably forget who you are.”
How will Hino improve its corporate culture?
According to the report, Hino has committed to a series of cross-company changes, including:
- A revised “Basic Philosophy System” to guide all business activities to share values.
- Rename the “Hino Code of Conduct” to “Hino Way”.
- More possibilities for dialogue at every level and in every workplace.
- Regular communication from management. This includes efforts to create an environment where employees can express themselves safely and are encouraged to do so.
- Creation of a Chief Engineering Compliance Officer/group.
Sure, it’s a pretty ambitious wish list that says it all.
However, the “Hino Way” sounds like another form of groupthink – which is what got them into this mess. But the world is watching until the next emissions scandal erupts.