Toyota Company: Organizational Learning and Solving Problems


Leadership requires detailed information to make favorable decisions. The Toyota Company recognized this and came up with strategies to provide the organization with a blueprint for leadership. The Toyota Way is a policy initiative for developing and sustaining leadership in organizations.

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Genchi Genbutsu

Section IV of the Toyota Way rules deals with the continuous solving of root problems that drive organizational learning. It involves several chapters and principles that help in decision making. Leaders should perform the Genchi Genbutsu (Liker & Convis, 2011). A leader should visit the shop floor and all the lower levels of production, processing, and management. During such physical supervision, the leader should thoroughly study what the subordinates are doing. The personal visits enable the manager to learn and have first-hand information. It is easier for the leader to have background information even before he or she sets the strategy of the entire organization.

Deeply Understanding and Reporting Correctly

The employees and managers must work towards understanding the processes and flows within the organization. The managers can spend half an hour just observing the activities on the shop floor. The surface version requires the managers to learn the general technicalities of the organization. The much deeper version takes many years to learn. It involves learning the minor details of every aspect of production processes to completions and management processes. Once an employee goes to see the situations, he or she must analyze them, understand the principles involved, and then make decisions from the factual information. It is critical to grasp the actual situation before raising any concerns or solving any problem.

The company actively engages with people to provoke creative thinking skills. Innovation must originate from thoroughly analyzed situations from actual circumstances. There is more value when facts and numbers are present as a basis for evaluation and decision-making. Yamashina developed ten management principles for the company. They illustrate the demand for the observance of genchi genbutsu. Whether data is available is not as important as when facts are available.

Due to the stringent measures on management techniques, the company has managed to develop a range of vehicle models that have become the leaders in the world. For instance, the 2004 Sienna was a redesigned van from its highly ranked minivan. It resulted from a trip adventure throughout America, Canada, and Mexico (Liker & Convis, 2011). The study required Yokoya to find out how to re-engineer the car into the market in a hybrid form to increase its sales.

Trust and Leaders’ Involvement

Every leader in Toyota Company must know that the principle of getting their hands dirty is to ensure that they are practical about their ideas. In case there is a fault in any part of the company, they must be ready to assist physicians. They should also see for themselves what the workers are doing. They also need to surround themselves with people they can trust. They need to win the workers’ trust. At Toyota, it is not about individualism. Teamwork helps bring the desired change. The company had not invested in computers very much, but due to building trust, they are learning to use emails. The daily reports are crucial to the functioning and success of the company. The reports must be readable by others. Constant reporting, checking tools, and analyzing data help to stimulate thinking within the enterprise. It is the way of enhancing the organization.

Genchi Genbutsu is also part of the Japanese culture. But it is misunderstood in other cultures like America, Europe, and even in Canada. And yet, the company sees it as a means that it has used to succeed. It then tries to inculcate this culture in every country it operates in to ensure uniformity. The Japanese culture allows the workers to become creative and innovative in their specialty.

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Decision making

The Toyota Way model requires a lot of planning. Other companies in the US would typically spend about three months strategizing. Then they spend the rest of the years developing, repairing, and making necessary adjustments. Toyota Company would rather spend ten months carrying out intensive studies and testing until they develop a perfect product. The company would launch a product that has undergone intensive checking to remove any defects that would be identifiable. Teamwork must be the way of making the company and its products grow. Valuing others is also critical to the business. Varying options help to develop concrete ideas (Liker & Convis, 2011). All information contributes to building the bigger idea. The way of making the decision is as important as the quality of that decision. Decision making involves finding out the situation, understanding the causes, and considering alternative solutions. Then one needs to build consensus and using efficient communications. The company also uses the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) principle to access information and uses it for the development of strategies and products.

A Learning Organization

It is critical for an organization to have a mechanism for making its workers learn. The Toyota Way principle of becoming a learning organization through relentless reflection is central to the company’s success. It is the mistakes in the organization that acts as a guide to finding solutions. Rather than becoming agitated over a failure, the management uses the faults as a lesson for future developments (Liker & Convis, 2011). The management needs to identify the root causes of problems that arise and develop countermeasures. There is the need to ascertain all the mistakes and develop the solution to each one. Every individual must also be accountable for their portfolios and mistakes as a lesson and not as a reason for punishing the person. The lessons must act as a motivation for the staff to work hard and achieve better results. Creating a learning organization is also not easy. It requires time, resources, and cooperation at all levels. But in the long run, it helps the team to grow.

The Lisa Jones Case and PDCA Cycle

The unsatisfactory results that Lisa Jones got during her first set of examinations as a medical student have affected her badly. But she needs to sit down and plan on her next step of action. First, Lisa needs to go back and check what she did not do to prepare well for the exams. Then she should check her study habits and improve her methods of reading culture.

After determining the surfacing problems, Lisa will have to plan how to study the learning materials. She will need to have a timetable for all the subjects and topics she needs to cover at specific times of the day and specific days. Lisa will also include her agenda for the classroom sessions and library studies. The next step is doing what she has planned. Those are the countermeasures she develops for passing her exams over a given period. She must also have an appointed time for checking and evaluating the results. They will involve self-evaluation tests, group discussions, and homework. Once the three steps are in good shape, Lisa will have to create and maintain the flow until she sits for the next exam.


Liker, J. & Convis, G. (2011). The toyota way to lean leadership. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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