China Did it!

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Mattel has issued an apology to its Chinese audience – manufacturers and others – on the toy recall. What are the lessons learnt?
First came the accusations then the apology. Now we are left to wonder what the real story is!
A few weeks back Mattel told us that they were recalling hundreds of thousands of “made in china” toys because they had lead paint in them. A week ago, the head of Mattel’s global operations, Mr. Thomas Debrowski, said – to the Chinese – that the company “apologizes personally to you, the Chinese people, and all of our customers who received the toys.” Apparently Mattel was at fault because of a ”design flaw” that originated in the US.
How does lead paint get on toys because of a design flaw is beyond this engineer but one thing is clear: yet again, things do not appear to be what they are.
People making self serving statements is as old as the human civilization. In the absence of an independent press, the audience has to do the work to separate the wheat from the chafe. As business leaders, one must also ponder the following:
  1. Before you outsource – anything – make sure that the final product is going to be what you want it to be
  2. Before you create a press release, spend some time getting to the root cause of the problem so you do not look like an idiot
  3. Before you assign blame in public make sure you are not ticking off a critical link in your supply chain – can Mattel succeed without its Chinese manufacturing?
  4. If you do make a mistake, make sure your apology is to all your stakeholders – apologizing to the Chinese in China is a good thing but Mattel should make every effort to clarify the situation to its American consumers
For those of you who are wondering on appropriate assignment of blame, I have a simple question: How can anyone but Mattel be responsible for toys that bear their name?

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