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Mitsubishi Motors: Special Processing

In 2000, regulators from Japan's transport ministry -- investigating a product liabilty case -- discovered a curious anomaly at Mitsubishi Motors. Customer complaints, called "product information reports," were being sorted into two categories, one for "standard processing," the other for "special processing." Moreover, a stack of yellowing customer complaints was discovered in an unexpected storage area: A corporate locker room.

Dutifully, Mitsubishi Motors president Katsuhiko Kawasoe came forward with an explanation: there had been no cover-up, he declared. Rather, "normal practice" simply entailed using change room lockers whenever filing cabinets were full.

["To the outsider, unschooled in the precise science of managing a global car firm," The Economist drily observed, a locker room "may seem an odd place to file important company documents." Kawasoe, noted for his reputation as a reformer, was installed in 1997 following a scandal involving pay-offs to corporate racketeers. His nickname? "Mr Clean."]

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