I heard the phrase “one team, one aim” while listening to the audio book version of “Extreme Toyota”. This is a phrase that marks part of the core philosophies of Toyota, according to the book. There are many different philosophies that underlie this specific phrase and I’m sure there is a very large amount of text that can be written about it. Rather than jumping off of that deep end without a greater understanding than I currently have, though, I wanted to point out one very specific word in this phrase: “aim”.
Wiktionary has a definition of aim that appears to fit very well in this phrase: “Intention; purpose; design; scheme.”
So, why use the word “aim”, here? Why not talk about goals? Why not deal with something more concrete? I think the answer to this is found in one of the core principles of Toyota: Continuous Improvement. A goal is a concrete, fixed point to be reached. Although a goal can change, once it does change, it once again becomes a fixed point to be reached. If Toyota talked about goals then they would inherently be limiting themselves to such fixed points of achievement. By using the word “aim” instead of “goal”, they are illustrating the true intentions of Continuous Improvement. That is, they are not setting their sights on attainable goals. Rather, they are taking a philosophical, yet very practical and daily routine of continuously improving in all aspects.
This does not mean Toyota works without goals. Quite the opposite, really. They create some of the most ambitious goals that anyone can imagine – “impossible goals” as talked about in the Extreme Toyota book. However, these goals are always aligned with the company’s vision, their aim. Toyota recognizes that a single goal is never a place to stop, having accomplished something, but is only a starting point allowing them to define the next goal and begin that leg of the journey.
As I’ve talked about before, we should be focused on the journey – the aim of where we are heading – constantly adjusting that aim as we obtain new information. We then set goals to help us move in that direction, knowing that we are truly on a journey, not looking for a place to stop after a single, fixed point of achievement.