business news in context, analysis with attitude

It is almost too early to assess exactly what happened at Toyota, and what the company needs to do in order to salvage its badly damaged reputation, not to mention fix all the problems with its cars.

However, it does seem as if we are watching a business school case study play out right before our eyes. The company, long considered the gold standard, seems to be doing everything wrong these days. It has been making mistakes in the production process, and then not dealing with the questions being raised by the public and media in a forthright and timely manner.

This was never a good policy, but especially today, when communication about such issues can take on a life of its own, companies simply cannot and should not stonewall or procrastinate. Or appear to stonewall or procrastinate.

Companies ought to be taking a close look at how Toyota has handles this situation and assessing whether they have the culture and infrastructure to deal with problems with a more realistic and 21st century approach. It is also a good lesson that there is no such thing as the unassailable business advantage ... and that you always have earn that advantage every day.

Brand equity depends on it.

So here’s a business metaphor for you.

About 18 months ago, I was hitting the gym three and four days a week, learning to box. I was jogging three days a week. I lost a bunch of weight. I felt great. I looked about as good as somebody like me is going to look.

Then, meniscus surgery on my knee. Rehab. But it never was quite right, so I babied it. Stopped hitting the gym. Stopped jogging with any regularity. Gained a bunch of weight back.

When I finally went back to the gym this week, filled with self-loathing and disgust, it was with the knowledge that I had done this to myself. I lost focus. I got complacent. I forgot that there is no finish line when it comes to staying in shape and being healthy (except, of course, death). It requires constant effort and maintenance. Sort of like doing business. Or just living the best life you can.

It was interesting, though. When I started jumping rope and hitting the heavy bag, it wasn’t as bad as a thought it would be. Muscle memory is a great thing. And my knee didn’t hurt, which shocked me.

Now, to be honest, I’m incredibly sore right now. It’s a good sore, though. And it will get easier, though never easy. As long as I maintain focus. And discipline.

Like doing business. And living life. of the things that propelled me back to the gym is the fact that much of my business life has been caught on video. My personal website has just been redesigned by a great guy named Adam Havens, and we’ve posted some videos there...and the contrast between how I looked when my weight was down and when it went back up was sort of jarring.

Vanity, thy name is Content Guy.

I’m pretty proud of the new site, though. I hope you’ll check it out, since it shows all the stuff I do outside MNB:

When we watched the season premiere of “Lost” this week, it was with the expectation, fueled by various reviews, that a number of the mythological questions raised by the series over the past five years. On that level, I was disappointed...because I walked away from Tuesday’s two-hour episode about as confused as ever.

But loving it. “Lost” is wonderful television - challenging, confusing, outrageous and audacious. But never boring. This is the last season for “Lost,” and I assume they will answer many questions, but I’m almost hoping that they don’t wrap up the package too neatly. Because if there is one lesson of “Lost” it is that all decisions have consequences ... usually farther into the future than most of us can imagine.

When the Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week, I was thrilled that for the first time in years I had seen many of the movies in contention. It was just last Saturday that I saw The Hurt Locker, the marvelous look at bomb disposal units in Iraq directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

The Hurt Locker is an exercise in constant tension. Beyond the various relationships in the movie, there is hardly a moment in the movie when you don’t worry about a surprise explosion or terrorist attack. By the end of the film, you almost feel drenched - Bigelow is expert at putting the viewer in the middle of the action.

If there is a business lesson in The Hurt Locker, it is the downside and upside of myopia. Tunnel vision almost never is a good idea, because we live in a world of such nuance and complexity that a contextual view of problems and scenarios almost always improves your ability to make both strategic and tactical decisions. On the other hand, the vivid characters in The Hurt Locker make it clear that sometimes you have to be myopic...because the minute you lose focus, you put yourself and your mission in jeopardy.

Great movie. And for the moment at least, it would get my vote for Best Picture of the year.

My wine of the week is the 2005 Chateau Plaisance Bordeaux Superieur from France, which is a wonderfully tasty red that goes great with a nice thick and spicy steak. I have no idea where it came from - I found it down in the wine cellar (which is what I like to call my damp, cool basement that just happens to have wine racks), and thought it was great surprise. But it appears to go for about $20, and strikes me as a good deal at the price.


If I were rooting with my head, I’d favor the Colts this weekend. But I’m rooting with my heart (the same heart that was rooting for the Jets), so I’ll be cheering for the Saints.

And chowing down on red beans and rice while I do so.

That’s it for this week.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: