Earlier this week, we came across a delightful article on Business Insider that highlights the five principles that transformed Honda from a guy making motorcycles in Japan to the global success story it is today. How crazy is it that even in a Southern city like Raleigh, we’re all pleased as iced tea about vehicles made by a group of businessmen on the other side of the planet? How are they able to make reliable, efficient, family-friendly, technologically-savvy vehicles that peoples and cultures from around the world have found completely intuitive despite differences in language, history, society and expectations? The five principles do a wonderful job explaining why Honda is awesome, so for fun we decided to take each principle and invert to create Honda’s opposite: Donha.
Donha is what happens when you put Honda in a mirror. It’s Honda’s quasi-evil twin, the Bizarro Honda just like Bizarro Superman. Business Insider identified five characteristics of Honda: Engineering-centered, flexible manufacturing, human labor over robotic labor, localized decision-making, and a culture of constant reevaluation of decisions big and small. Therefore, Donha’s qualities would be the reverse: Artistically-centered, rigid manufacturing, robotic labor over human, centralized decision-making, and all decisions are final. What would that company look like? Let’s ponder.
1. Artistically-centered. Graffiti artist Banksy is installed as CEO. Honda executives abandon memos in favor of spray-paint murals created on boardroom walls under the cover of night. Official titles and names are hidden as managers become known only for the creative visions they create. Personality supersedes organizational hierarchy as followings emerge behind key artists. Individual expression is emphasized.
2. Rigid-manufacturing. Instead of workers who can work on any model, workers become highly specialized and are trained to work on only one vehicle. As local demand for vehicles shifts, workers must be flown to the appropriate locations, or entire factories have to be repurposed from one vehicle to another. Did we just invent Rolls-Royce?
3. Robotic labor. Who needs hands?! Or thumbs for that matter; no one needs thumbs anymore, least of all robots. As Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings and every Terminator movie has hinted, the technology is ready, and robots don’t need thumbs to grab things: they’re made out of titanium. The rate of production skyrockets as factories pump out vehicles with ruthless efficiency. People from Vermont protest but no one cares because that’s Vermont.
4. Central command. No more of this namby-pamby “localized economy” business. You say different people want different cars? Well Donha says that people don’t know what they want until we show it to them. Amazing, though uniform, designs are produced irrespective of regional diversity. People in Bali drive the same thing as people in Paris. Banksy strums a ukulele from his office in an undisclosed location and chants forest rhythms.
5. Decisions are final. Toss the hand-wringing out. We must be doing something right if we keep on surviving, so all attempts to improve are futile. Focus on implementing our goals and leave the reevaluating to the higher ups. That’s why they get paid the big bucks. If you have an idea, send it to the ideas email address and someone will review it. If it ever gets implemented, you will receive no credit, but the company will benefit.
That’s it! Kind of a weird exercise, but hopefully it prompts discussion about why Honda operates as it does. To get a fresh look at the vehicles that Honda’s principles produce, stop by Leith Honda anytime for a demonstration. We would be glad to have you.