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Japanese management culture – what an event organizer can learn from Toyota?

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The history of Toyota Motor Corporation, founded by Sakichi Toyoda, dates back to before World War II, when the first prototypes and drawings of cars from this brand were made. The first Land Cruisers left the production line in the 1950s, and Corollas – in the 1960s. Since then, the process of car production has been constantly improving.

Interestingly, the improvement process – referred to as Toyota Production System – doesn’t only apply to strictly production elements, but to the entire philosophy of doing business and perceiving the world in general. The basis of the system is Kaizen philosophy, the principles of which we discussed in one of the previous posts. In today’s post, we will tell a little more about the advantages of the evolutionary approach to change and explain, why Kaizen might sometimes “not work.”

Hoshin Kanri – a few words about the benefits of evolution

Hoshin Kanri – the basis of Kaizen philosophy – in management of the organization is a method of teaching. Its aim, among other things, is to increase competitiveness on the market. The approach to the stages of change, although based on a standard mechanism (problem analysis—proposal of changes—implementation), is not based on revolutionary changes, but rather on slow organic evolution. This approach minimizes the possibility of conflict during the implementation of strategic goals, which increases with the size of the organization. This approach differs from the western concept of “revolutions” in many strategic aspects, including in terms of:

  • the pace of change: gradual and constant change in small steps vs. big rapid changes at once
  • involvement in the project: all team members vs. only initiators of changes
  • investments: usually small vs. large expenditures
  • orientation: people vs. technique
  • effect: permanent and long-term vs. intense, but potentially short-lived

The use of the Kaizen method enables the involvement of all persons implementing a given process. Building goals and assigning tasks take place in a team way, thanks to which every participant of the process is interested in the development and success of the organization

Why is Kaizen not working in my organization?

Kaizen is a great tool for systematic problem-solving. Implementing Kaizen philosophy forces the members of the team to act: to analyze the causes of problems, to propose improvements and to check them. Thanks to that organization becomes ready for responding to changes and its team learns how to flexibly react. However, the implementation of Kaizen requires the involvement of both, employees and the board of the organization. It is important to create the right conditions for the development of a culture of work conducive to innovation and motivating for positive behaviors.So ask yourself some questions, and consider the following issues:

  • Check if you fully have conveyed to the team what the essence of acting in the Kaizen environment is – sometimes just fails communication in a team;
  • Maybe your expectations regarding the effects are too excessive – Kaizen needs time to become a permanent part of the organizational culture);
  • Maybe you expect too spectacular proposals from your co-workers – Kaizen is a small step method;
  • Maybe you implement too many changes at once – Kaizen doesn’t like hurry, it may be that the introduced changes at some levels collide with each other;
  • Check if this philosophy applies to the entire organization, and not only to its narrow aspects – Kaizen works perfectly on the condition that it is introduced systemically;
  • Check whether you promote solutions through their implementation and reward (not only financial) their authors – Kaizen philosophy needs motivational fuel to become a part of your company.


For event managers, the example of Toyota’s success over the decades can be inspiring. Thanks to evolutionary actions, we can learn from this example how to compete in a dynamically changing environment. But don’t forget that the crucial part of it is the involvement of all stakeholders in the process. This commitment, from event managers, through trainers to participants of events, however, requires keeping your eyes and ears open to small, but continuous suggestions for changes.