1.5. Management Orchestrated Contradictions, Opposites, and Paradoxes

From the perspective of conventional business practice, Toyota may simply be successful despite itself. Its success contradicts established, successful practice, but in fact, this seeming paradox is key to its success. It is an organization steeped in contradictions, opposites, and paradoxes. Such contradictions are not necessarily seen as bad things at Toyota. In fact, the company actively embraces and cultivates contradictions instead of passively coping with them. It thrives on paradoxes, harnessing opposing propositions to energize itself.

As Akio Matsubara, Senior Managing Director in charge of Human Resource Management, described it, Toyota intentionally builds a positive level of tension within the organization:

We are constantly confronted with two opposing propositions, sometimes three opposing propositions, sometimes even as many as four opposing propositions. It is a way of deliberately introducing a positive level of tension into the workplace on a regular basis. Each organizational unit avoids making any kind of compromise and we argue it out till the end across the units. This process ensures that we come up with the best solution.[]

Toyota is hard to understand because contradictions, opposing propositions, and paradoxes are a way of life within the company, whereas other companies are still functioning according to the logic of the industrial era and try to stamp out such differences. As an ...

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