Chapter 11. What Your Organization Can Learn from Toyota: Ten Powerful Contradictions

To an outsider, Toyota's extreme performance model of business management is hard to understand. As we mentioned in Chapter 1, the company moves forward gradually while also advancing in big leaps. It is frugal with its resources while spending extravagantly on people and projects. It is both efficient and redundant. It cultivates an environment of stability as well as paranoia. It is hierarchical and bureaucratic, but encourages dissent. It demands that communication be simplified while building complex communication networks.

As we dug deeper into unearthing why Toyota's extreme performance model might be considered a role model of contemporary business practice, we found the company steeped in contradictions, opposites, and paradoxes. Unearthing Toyota was like peeling an onion and never reaching the center. After peeling a number of layers, we came to realize that the company actively embraces and cultivates contradictions, rather than passively coping with them. In fact, we realized that Toyota thrives on paradoxes, harnessing opposing propositions to energize itself.

Making sense of all the contradictions, opposites, and paradoxes became central to our investigation as a larger pattern of expansion and integration began to emerge. We tracked this pattern through six case studies over 220 interviews with Toyota employees, distributors, and car dealers and identified three expansive forces ...

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