Toyota Culture: through the eyes of an associate
Growing up in America and working for Toyota, a Japanese company has really shown me the differences in culture and the importance of how we communicate. I work for The Raymond Corporation which is owned by Toyota and is a world leading manufacturer of electric lift trucks among other things. In this essay I am going to explain several concepts involving different types of cultural communications and how these concepts affect me and my everyday life. I’m going to talk about culture and what it is, I’m going to give an example of Ethnocentricity (the belief one’s culture is better than others), I’m going to talk about my own cultural learning experiences and explain my first hand dealings with Worldview and East vs. West cultures.
In order to first understand a person’s or sometimes an entire country’s way of thinking or thought process we first must understand what is culture? Culture in general is a very diverse and commonly used term which is also frequently misunderstood. In an essay by McDaniel, Samovar 2
and Porter (2012) they explain what culture is its components, and its effects on everyday life. They go on to explain that culture is learned, it is transmitted generation to generation, its symbolic, it is dynamic and finally it is ethnocentric. To me culture is a blend of your surroundings while growing up in a particular part of the world or particular part of a country. Working for Toyota in America makes the ethnocentric part really stand out for me. All too often I see a clash in the way we (Americans) think and the way the Japanese think. I once witnessed an argument between a Japanese executive and his American counterpart. The argument was over the way a particular part of the business was being managed. Toyota’s philosophy on production is level smooth flow from one end to the other and everybody works in syncration, so if one process stops everybody stops. American culture at least not Raymond’s is that way, the culture at Raymond is to get production out the door regardless of anything else happening with in the factory. This is where the executives found friction with one another. Two completely different ways of thinking yet both of them believed their way was better because of the part of the world and the culture’s they were raised in.
Another concept I’m going to elaborate on is a subject I read in an essay by Bernard Saint-Jacques, Individualism – Collectivism, the Case of Japan (2012). Saint-Jacques explains the change in Japanese culture over 3
the past 30 years from one of collectivism to one of individualism. He goes on to state more and more young Japanese are willing to switch jobs for better salaries or working conditions where as is the past it was thought in Japanese culture you worked for a company for life. The topic really hits home for me because I work for a Japanese company, Toyota. Before working for a Japanese company it was always my belief that all Japanese are collectivists but I also understand I was somewhat naive to Japanese Culture. In fact I tend to believe the previous statement is only true about the company for which I work now and Toyota has a culture all its own. Associates (employees) are thought of as the most important resource in the company and are taught the “Toyota Way”. Regardless of how or where you were raised anywhere in the world if you work for Toyota you see an entirely different perspective on culture, definitely very different from American culture. American culture tends to focus on the person making the decision, good or bad. In Toyota culture the focus is on the reasons surrounding a decision by a person, good or bad. By analyzing using the “Toyota Way” allows one to understand a certain thought process thus having a better understanding of how to find solutions or improve on something that is already good. The Toyota culture really focuses on the why a particular...
References: McDaniel, E.R., Samovar, L.A., Porter, R.E. (2012). Using Intercultural Communication: The Building Blocks. In Intercultural Communication: A Reader, 13th ed, (pp. 4-17)
Saint-Jacques, B. (2012). Intercultural Communication in a Globalized World. In Intercultural Communication: A Reader, 13th ed, (pp. 45-54)
Ishii, S., Klopf, D., Cooke, P. (2012). Worldview in Intercultural Communication: A Religio-Cosmological Approach. In Intercultural Communication: A Reader, 13th ed, (pp. 56-63)
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