Transferring the Toyota Lean cultural Paradigm into Indian Market

Successful leadership in contemporary work environment
Transferring the Toyota Lean cultural Paradigm into Indian Market

Slide 2: A brief Toyota Corporation

Toyota Motors Corporation, Japanese multinational corporation, with operations in over 20 countries across the global. Since founded and incorporated in 1930s, the company has grown into global leaders in automobile manufacturers. A key aspect of the company’s growth is its unique organisational culture, core to development of lean production approach. The framework built on continuous improvement and respecting for the employees has been instrumental in production and instilling the organisational culture and values across its subsidiaries. In 1999, the company entered India market by establishing subsidiary called Toyota Kirloskar Motor. Immediately after establishment, the subsidiary faced series of strikes, lockouts, and industrial unrest derailing its objectives for a decade. Appointing new managing director, Hiroshi Nakagawa in 2010, renewed its ambitions after admitting lacking understanding and much experience of Indian Market.

Slide 3: TMC Management Concept


The ideology is based on Japanese culture characterised by homogenous culture, single shared language, family-centred in social and work environment, and command-control leadership. The approach has received both praises and critics. The proponents points to improved productivity, quality, and flexibility as core attributes, whereas critics criticise the approach for being largely authoritarian and focusing largely on the productivity with little regards of employee wellbeing and safety. The company has always held emphasis of implementation of the paradigm in its entirety by subsidiaries. Although differences in socio-cultural aspects of host and Japanese has led the paradigm to mixed reception. The balance between organisational culture and those of the host country has seen implementation of watered down paradigm driven mostly by efficient accomplishments of goals (strategic), having a shared values, meaning, and interpretation of both internal and immediate external environments, and upholding interests and values.

Slide 4: Lean production approach

Developed in 1950s by the Vice President, Taiichi Ohno, lean production is built on push for reducing and ultimately eliminating all variables in assembly line and, by extension, the organisation that are deemed non-value-adding. Its key aspect is based on identifying the wastes that lead to over-production, inventory, waiting time, movement, processing, and assessing and correcting errors. Among other attributes, the approach emphasis on role of teams, recruitment and training employees to best fit the needs and attainment of goals, and devolved responsibilities of upholding quality and ensuring safety. In terms of socio-cultural context, the approach is based on Japanese social and cultural attributes of a homogenous culture, constrained natural resources, single shared language and religious beliefs, unified family and community links, and command-and –control culture (following and obeying the directions and decision of the superior with little input from subordinates). In ideal lean production system, employees see themselves as family characterised by high levels of trust, commitment, and in depth concerns of the performance of the organisation.

Slide 5: Conflict concept against Toyota’s Paradigm

The imposition and borrowing forces brewing from difference in culture and values between the parent and host countries mostly result in three scenario. First, strategic involving pulling in the entire organisation workforce, establishment of norms and traditions, implementation of values, and adopting structures that reflect those of the parent country. This, fundamentally, presents a huge challenges range from requiring local employees to readjust their way of life, social attributes, and values. Mostly, this balance comes with high cost.

Secondly, social incorporating taking an approach where the local value and culture are accommodated by manoeuvring through the established paradigm. In this case, the subsidiaries in host country give some room to locals in integration of an ideology. In some cases, some aspects of the paradigm under the ‘goodness of fit’ are ignored in attempt to naturally let the two cultures blend for the benefit of organisational success. Lastly, political capturing restructuring wholly the organisational culture including supporting structure to fit the culture and values of the host country. Here, the subsidiary organisation is essence independent, making decision and policies with very little input from the parent. Although the approach has received praises and critics nearly in equal measure, with proponents holding that the approach has led to improvement in productivity, quality, and flexibility of the system. Whereas, the critics argue on focusing entire on manufacturing output while very little, if any, regard on the workforce sacrificing human dignity and safety for productivity.

Slide 6: Focus of the Paper

Objectives Understanding forces behind inherent behind internationalisation of organisation operations Examine factors core to smoother introduction of human resource management policies and practice for motor vehicle manufacturers internationalisation

Research Questions

How has Toyota managed the process of transferring its cultural paradigm into the different socio-cultural context of India?

Slide 7: Methods:

The researcher used qualitative research aimed having a deeper understanding on the research problem, how Toyota managed to transfer its TPS, cultural paradigm into Indian market, characterised by different socio-cultural attributes Data collection: In data collecting, the researcher interviewed, 31 respondents mostly former and current employees of Toyota India, in addition to visiting the company’s: corporate head offices, marketing department, Production facilities, and Training institute. Moreover, secondary data from internet sources played a centre role in data collection. Analysis The gather data was tabulated developing themes, which were used to inference on the research problem. Reliability In reliability issues, the researcher followed: conceptual ordering, open coding of data, and theoretical sampling, which would ensure the research process was repeatable and the findings would be near similar, if not same. Validity Prolonged and direct contact with data sources (interviewing and observation) was meant to ensure the findings were reliable and valid.

Slide 8: Findings (TPS in Indian Market)

Unlike Japanese’s that is nearly entirely homogenous, the Indian socio-cultural aspects characterised by several language, religions, ethnicity, different ethnic cultures, and state governance is a heterogeneous. In terms of work environment, the two countries were found to differ majorly in industrial relations, decision-making, and work-ethics and motivation. Unlike in Japan where industrial relations is dealt within an organisation, in India, the relations is majorly unionised by external structures. Any issue is managed and solved by external body complicating and over-stretching reaching to an agreement. Importantly, the labour market in informed by protective working conditions characterised by long-term assurance and permanent employment.

Slide 9: Key Issues

Historically, any attempt my multinational companies to restructure these conditions have been met with severe opposition such as strikes and industrial unrest. Although the company took strict approach of replacing workers as disciplinary action but the results saw increased strikes and industry unrest with some threating to commit suicide and ignite gas cylinders within the company. In Japanese system, the decision making is largely based on groups and teams, and emphasis also on assumption of responsibilities at team levels, Whereas in Indian work context, the decisions are centralised and bureaucratic. Employee-employer relationship is hierarchical. These fundamental difference in decision making saw distrust among senior Japanese and Indian managers. In work ethics and motivation, Japanese culture emphasis on loyalty and identifying with one’s accomplishments and work while Indians view loyalty to family as more important. Hence, motivations come from interpersonal and spiritual relationships and less on outcome, productivity, quality, and cost reductions. Moreover, emphasis of time consciousness in Japan culture is less understood or appreciated in Indian environment. Such difference saw Japanese managers viewing Indian industrial culture as lacking in discipline. To most Indian workforce, the demands and experiences were shockingly tough and hard to handle. Difference in cultures and work ethics between the two cultures and the company’s insistence of adopting the Japanese approach ultimately led to conflict. The Japanese insistence of focusing primarily on one’s work meant disengaging from social and family settings, which are foundation of Indian way of life.

Slide 10: Remodelling TPS Approach

Order Now The company was forced to remodel the philosophy aligning with the Indian norms and culture. Key to this was recognising inherent difference in Indian and Japanese culture and way of life. The changes in the model saw recognition the influence external forces such trade unions, labour laws, social norms, and family tires connections on work ethics in Indian context. The company, further, promoted Indian managers who had deeper understanding of norms and traditions of Indians into seniors positions while Japanese counterpart took advisory positions. The hierarchical structures was adopted aligning to Indian bureaucratic management and decision making process. The production line and organisation norms were restructure to accommodate the Indian social- and family- centred way of life.

Slide 11: Conclusion

Fundamentally, success of a company in a new global market, in this case Indian market, requires taking into consideration several factors that include social, economic, cultural beliefs and practices, and political class. An organisation need to have a wider view of new market incorporating factors beyond strategies of productivity but importantly socio-cultural and political forces. Different markets have unique characteristics ranging from unitary to pluralistic, varying motivating factors, perception of work and success, decision-making structures, and view of authority. Essentially, organisations need to recognise and align their approaches and culture to fit or accommodate locals in an environment that they widely differ.


Based on the articles by:

James, R. and Jones, R., 2014. Transferring the Toyota lean cultural paradigm into India: implications for human resource management. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(15), pp.2174-2191.

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