The contradictions that drive Toyota’s success

Strategic Direction

ISSN: 0258-0543

Article publication date: 1 January 2009




Takeuchi, H. (2009), "The contradictions that drive Toyota’s success", Strategic Direction, Vol. 25 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The contradictions that drive Toyota’s success

Article Type: Abstracts From: Strategic Direction, Volume 25, Issue 1

Takeuchi H. Osono E. and Shimizu N.Harvard Business Review, June 2008, Vol. 86 No. 6, Start page: 96, No. of pages: 9

Purpose – to explain the complex and apparently contradictory Toyota company culture. Design/methodology/approach – presents results of a six-year study of Toyota, including 220 interviews and visits to 11 countries. Findings – the Toyota Production System (TPS) lies at the centre of the company’s reputation for automobile quality and innovation. However necessary the TPS has been, though, it has not been the only factor in success. Toyota shows the following apparent contradictions: it moves slowly but takes big leaps; it grows steadily but is paranoid in insisting on change; its operations are efficient but it seems to use employee time in wasteful ways such as meetings; it is frugal but spends freely in key areas; it insists on simple communications but builds complex social networks; it has a strict hierarchy but allows employees to push back. The forces of expansion include setting near-unattainable goals, local customization, and experimentation, while there are three forces of integration which mitigate these: the founders’ values such as kaizen, long-term employment, and open communication. Practical implications – companies cannot simply learn individual points from Toyota: its success reflects its culture, and this takes time to achieve. Originality/value – shows that Toyota’s culture of contradictions puts people at the centre of the company; there is thus always room for improvement.ISSN: 0017-8012Reference: 37AR070

Keywords: Automotive industry, Corporate culture, Organizational structure

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