Toyota Corporate Culture

How Toyota Is Rejuvenating the Idea of Corporate Culture
Antoine Henry de Frahan


oyota has just become the world leading carmaker, leaving GM and the others behind. In the US, Toyota is investing, hiring employees, and making profits, while the US carmakers are cutting thousands of jobs and

drowning into abyssal losses. An article by Charles Fishman1 highlights the features of the Toyota culture that explain this outstanding success. Because, and that’s important, it’s all about culture. “Toyota is not just another workplace, but a different way of thinking about work.” What is this culture made of?

Competitiveness is not about competing with others. It is about improving yourself.
“Toyota’s competitiveness is internal, self-critical. It is rooted in an institutional obsession with improvement, a pervasive lack of complacency with whatever was accomplished yesterday”, Fishman writes. This corroborates my own observations: weak organisations (and people) look at the outside to explain their misfortune. If they are not successful, it’s because the competition is so strong, or because the boss is unfair, or because the employees are lazy, etc. It’s always “the others”. This victimisation (“I am the product of external circumstances”) is at the opposite of far more empowering “I take responsibility for my life” philosophy, where people take responsibility for their situation and work on themselves self to improve it.

“No Satisfaction”, Fast Company, Dec. 2006 – Jan 2007


Effective change is not about organisational convulsion.
“Toyota doesn’t have corporate convulsions, and it never has. It restructures a little bit every work shift.” “Continuous improvement is tectonic. By constantly questioning how you do things, you don’t outflank your competition next quarter. Your outflank them next decade.” Myriads of micro improvements every day, rather than spectacular, bloody shake-ups...