7.1. Open and Lateral Dissemination of Know-How

Toyota has traditionally placed a high value on employees communicating openly with each other in collaboration. As founder Sakichi Toyoda often said, "Entrepreneurs, managers, and staff must all work together." To facilitate teamwork, employees are encouraged to engage in yokoten, short for yokoni tenkaisuru, which literally means "unfold or open out sideways." The slogan "Let's yokoten," frequently heard at Toyota, encourages everyone to share their individual know-how and expertise openly with others. This fosters a kind of viral communication that results in more efficient dissemination and diffusion of knowledge in all directions. Best practices of any kind are effectively disseminated through yokoten. When a best practice in inspection at one factory becomes known, it pressures other factories to look at it and determine if it is superior to their own and quickly implement any improvements. "We need to give credit to the person or unit that came up with the idea first, but it is okay to steal best practices from others or have our best practices stolen by others," said one veteran employee in human resources. []

The organization has to be open for the nerve system to function. It also has to be relatively flat. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Vice President and head of the Global Knowledge Center, John Kramer, described it this way:

The organization may seem big in numbers, but there are not a lot of layers ... you still feel ...

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