Toyota secrets from Mr. Yoshio Ishizaka

This morning I was privileged to participate in a small gathering in Hong Kong, where Mr. Yoshio Ishizaka told his story about Toyota and shared some of his personal experiences. Mr. Ishizaka has worked for Toyota since 1964 and has always focused on overseas business.


Although I haven’t heard anything really new, it was a joy to hear him speak with simplicity and clearness about Toyota’s “secrets”. And some things he mentioned were very much emphasised when Agile Manifesto just came about, but today seems sometimes forgotten.

As the picture already shows, continuous improvement and respect for people are the real secret. Not TPS, and in our IT world: Scrum, Kanban, or anything similar. It is all secondary and product of the first two. When Toyota just came to US, Americans had a hard time adjusting to these values. An example is the rule that any production worker is empowered to stop the whole production line if he/she finds a fault. No manager is allowed to overrule that. Another example is the removal of blame culture: no matter what goes wrong, nobody tries to find the responsible person to blame. Instead, they will keep asking why until the root cause in the process is found.

An interesting observation is Toyota’s obsession with process. Since Agile Manifesto says: “Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools”, it may sound like he is giving the exact opposite message. But, it is not. This obsession is just a product of continuous improvement. Sometimes, in our Scrum introductions we forget to mention how important is to continuously and rigorously challenge and improve the process of software development. We either start changing Scrum without understanding it first, or stop changing anything in process later on, simply because we are satisfied so fast.

My realisation is that we talk too much about secondary things such as scaling Agile, certification, practices, while most haven’t even embedded the two basic pillars properly.

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