Hyundai Culture?

I was quite intrigued by a recent article detailing the growth and success of Hyundai Motor Company that appeared in Fortune magazine.

The crucial moment on Hyundai’s path to significant success occurred in 1999 when Mong-Koo Chung assumed the reins as chairman, replacing his father in that position. Chung’s primary focus became “quality, not volume” and he initiated rigorous benchmarking of Toyota. Speed ahead 10 years, and Hyundai is currently the fastest growing automotive company and just recently surpassed Ford in terms of volume.

Hyundai’s rapid success and transformation obviously could not have occurred without the plan set forth by Chung, and most of us believe that lean initiatives cannot evolve into major transformations without steadfast and inspirational leadership. Buy-in, and eventual adoption, throughout the employee ranks crucially depends more on what leaders do than say – name one lean initiative that has succeeded when the leaders have merely “talked the talk.”

Most of us, however, believe that benchmarking Toyota encompasses much more than just adopting specific tools and techniques – Toyota adds value to customers, the community, and society through people.

One aspect that is not touched upon in this article is the people who work for the corporation and the culture that exists there. What type of culture do you think exists or is growing at Hyundai? Do you think Hyundai’s success is sustainable?

Note the eyebrow-raising side story in the article -- In the midst of all this growth and success, however, in 2006, Chung was “was indicted on charges of embezzling some $100 million from Hyundai and its subsidiaries for a political slush fund.” It appears he was indeed guilty but “an appeals court decided that he was too valuable to the Korean economy” to be removed from his position and serve jail time (!). Do you think this event could not have had major repercussions if the company is indeed trying to foster a learning-and-teaching culture?


Dean Bliss said...

The apparent contradiction in behavior of the leader is interesting. The challenge that I've seen in studying this subject is taking Lean from a personality-driven philosophy to a people-driven system. It seems in many cases that when the leadership changes, the system starts to slip back. Interesting that the government intervened here though there is evidence of wrongdoing, presumably to maintain the system.

Anonymous said...

I’m reminded of the Lord of the rings quote – “Nothing said before the word ‘but’ really counts.
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