As a leader in the automotive industry, I am always keen to learn from other professionals and gain insights into their journeys. In a conversation with Andrew Kirby, CEO of Toyota South Africa, I  delved into the challenges and lessons learned throughout Andrew’s career.

From 19 Different Roles to CEO

Andrew Kirby’s journey to CEO of Toyota South Africa was not a linear one. In fact, he held 19 different roles throughout his career, many of which he could not have predicted. When asked about his path to CEO, Andrew explained that he knew he was being positioned to take over from his predecessor but wasn’t sure when the timing would be right.

As he worked his way up the ladder, he was exposed to more and more, with his former CEO tasking him to understand manufacturing while also running the corporate services operation. Andrew shared that his engineering background was helpful in understanding the technical aspects of manufacturing, but he needed to learn the culture and mindset of running a successful production operation, which was different from sales and marketing.

Emphasising the Importance of Corporate Culture

According to Andrew, corporate culture is the foundation of any organisation. He emphasised that financial figures and sales numbers don’t always reflect the capability and capacity of a company. A strong corporate culture is necessary to navigate difficult situations and times of crisis.

Andrew particularly appreciates Toyota’s view of corporate culture, which includes both the soft elements of how people work together and the business processes of decision-making and crisis response. He believes that a team’s response to difficult situations can reveal more about the organisation than when everything is going well.

Balancing Subcultures in a Diverse Organization

Toyota South Africa is a diverse organisation with various subcultures, including finance, legal, sales, marketing, logistics, and production. Andrew explained that it’s crucial to find a balance between retaining the unique cultural aspects of each subculture and having an integrated, common approach.

He shared that he’s learned a lot about relating to others in a diverse organisational structure and understanding where to retain unique cultural aspects and where to have a common approach. He believes building a strong corporate culture that emphasises communication and working towards a common goal is key to success.

In conclusion, Andrew Kirby’s journey to CEO of Toyota South Africa was not a straightforward one, but his experiences taught him valuable lessons about the importance of corporate culture, effective communication, and balancing subcultures in a diverse organisation. As leaders in the automotive industry, we can learn from his experiences to create successful organisations that navigate difficult situations with ease.