(This is a continuation of a series of posts reviewing the principles of The Toyota Way.)
As previously mentioned, the eighth principle from The Toyota Way states:
“Use only reliable, thoroughly-tested technology that serves your people and process.”
I also used cell phones as a quick example of everyday application of this principle. Today I’ll do a deeper analysis of applying the eighth principle to the purchase of cell phones (a little more than last time) and also another common use – purchasing a new car.
– the overwhelming popularity
– the proprietary technology
– the fragile design (glass)
– the hefty price tag
When you put the price tag and popularity together, the iPhone becomes a popular target of theft. The proprietary technology makes interfacing with certain applications cumbersome – the user interface of the phone might be simple to learn but there are some key capabilities and programs/applications with which the iPhone isn’t compatible. And the glass screen will pretty easily break if the phone is dropped or mishandled.
When I was looking to upgrade from my BlackBerry Curve (it simply was no longer serving its people – me – or my processes since it was functioning slower and lacked more useful capabilities) I was interested in obtaining an iPhone.
However, based on the drawbacks listed above, I decided to inquire with friends and associates about recommendations for other devices that they’ve used and loved that might serve me just fine yet wouldn’t feature many of the iPhone’s drawbacks. How easy is the Droid to use? Should I consider going back to BlackBerry or consider other offerings from LG or HTC or Nokia or Motorola? I also pressed others for why they chose the phones they use and worked with my carrier’s customer service team to make sure the phone I chose would meet my functional expectations.
The feedback was overwhelmingly in favor of the iPhone from a functional perspective. The compatibility issues did not outweigh the ease of use and further capabilities that other offerings lacked. I was able to talk my provider into a lower price for the phone, the overall cost of switching providers wasn’t going to be worthwhile, and I also purchased a highly-recommended protective case to prevent damage to the glass.
The iPhone met all the criteria I put forth, with respect to implementing a thoroughly tested technology that will serve the purposes I require. I would be doing myself a disservice if I knowingly locked myself into a contract with a device that fell short of my expectations.
One of the most important and critical pieces of technology to implement in one’s life is the method of personal transportation. There are many options and choices to consider, and it’s not so easy to undo a selection that fails to support your needs.
That being said, think about how little information you’re truly provided in making your decision! A vessel in which you’ll be spending roughly 5% of your life is chosen based on really limited data.
Your test drive at the dealer is very short, no longer than 10 miles, yet you will probably expect to log more than 10,000x that amount over the course of the vehicle’s life. Your test drive seat time of 20 minutes has to be extrapolated over 5,000+ hours of lifetime seat time.
Limited data exists on safety of new vehicles – crash tests are not all-encompassing of every potential crash scenario.
What about how often safety recall notices are sent out by manufacturers because of potential failure opportunities identified long after the vehicle has been in service?
The value you receive from personal transportation is (in most cases) based on expected levels of style, fuel economy, cost of ownership, safety, storage capacity, comfortable seating capacity, reliability, resale value, and technological capabilities that make navigation enjoyable.
Buying a vehicle is such an expensive decision yet the requisite long-term data is unavailable and probably never will be because new models with updates to technology and all the other value-adding characteristics come out each year. Because of this, fairly or unfairly, we tend to hold onto characteristics and feelings about previous makes and models when evaluating future purchases even though we have those aforementioned technological advancements implemented every year.
All of that data to analyze can be overwhelming, but it helps to prioritize those considerations based on what will serve your purposes best while also setting aside some of the value considerations you can’t realistically measure or depend on. You’re married and have three kids and expect to travel together a lot? A sedan probably won’t work for you. Ultra concerned with fuel economy? Maybe you should eye the smaller two-seaters or Smart Cars. Concerned about reliability? Maybe this is where long-term data from previous years of makes and models comes into play. Cost of ownership is a better measure of a vehicle’s financial impact than sale price, yet we are so hung up on what that sticker says while failing to really calculate potential repair costs or fuel costs over the life of the vehicle.
It sounds super-simplified, but things become easier when variables are taken out of the equation. Reduced variables means you are less likely to make a poor decision.
My personal feeling is that I spend so much time in my car that I refuse to skimp on options that make my life simpler. I want to treat it well but I also want it to be able to handle everything I need it to do. I purchased my Audi A6 while in Michigan. I knew very little about Audi before a friend who was more of an expert on vehicles had made the recommendation. I wasn’t as concerned about leather seats as I was with satellite radio and four-wheel drive for Michigan winters. I wanted a car with a classic style that wouldn’t look outdated in ten years, since I anticipate driving this vehicle until it simply won’t go anymore.
Unfortunately, this is an exercise in semi-failure – I did not heed my own advice (because I was not knee-deep in lean knowledge and teachings at the time of purchase). I looked at sticker price as opposed to cost of ownership, which was not the proper thing to do. The A6 has not provided the fuel economy I was hoping to receive – it’s a four-wheel drive Quattro. The costs of repairs, in terms of time and money, has been rough. Specialized parts that can only come from an Audi distributor or dealer are not cheap. The car has been reliable for the most part, but there have also been some issues I’ve had to let linger because access to an Audi dealer is limited and some repairs have to be done in an Audi shop.
I still fully expect to drive this vehicle until it simply becomes too expensive to maintain – ideally, I would learn to handle maintenance above and beyond general maintenance on a vehicle – and it still looks great while my insistence on satellite radio has been right on the money. However, next time I purchase a vehicle I will evaluate them based on the criteria listed above and prioritize based on whatever life requires from me and my vehicle at that time.