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Abu Dhabi 2009

4th November 2009

Eliminating waste.

So they’re off, exiting stage left, tails between their legs and hundreds of millions of dollars down the drain.

In the classrooms of the future there’s no doubt that Toyota’s eight-season F1 debacle will be the definitive case study of how not to do it.

In essence, Formula 1 is a simple sport. It’s about guys who want to race, blokes who want to compete, and men who push themselves to the top of their career.

Sure, the corporate world has a big part to play – after all, who’s going to pay all those astronomical bills? – but when it comes to the day-to-day running of a racing team, they really should leave it to the guys who know best.

A few years ago I flew to Cologne, that hub of the F1 world, to illustrate a feature explaining how Toyota’s crack competition outfit were leading the field by following the mantra of Kaizen.

This, the Japanese word meaning ‘improvement’, defines a philosophy focusing on continuous improvement in manufacturing and business activities. It must have seemed like a good idea to the bigwigs in Japan, and it no doubt served the company well in churning out millions of Corollas, but that didn’t mean it would work in F1.

Proudly escorted around the team’s soulless factory by the woman in charge, the journalist and I were shown how Fritz and Boris had arranged their desk in a just so way, and had suggested a few bright ideas as to how they might improve their coffee breaks.

Asked to photograph quotes and plaques for employees of the week, all shiny and polished on the wall, I started to wonder why on visits to McLaren, Williams, Tyrrell, Lotus, Ferrari, et al, I hadn’t noticed anything similar.

To base an assault on the most competitive sporting environment imaginable by following a mantra that actually encourages the elimination of overly hard work is naive to the nth degree, and almost impossible to believe.

On almost every level Toyota have gone about F1 in the wrong way, from employing the abominable Ralf Schumacher to overly bland marketing, and obsessively spying on other teams.

Mind you, credit where credit’s due: they did serve fantastic chocolate croissants for breakfast in the motor home – until they sacked the caterers!

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