At Toyota, Everything You Learned in School About Motivation Theory Is Right

Most of us at some point in our education learned about human motivation. If you took a class, you may recall a dizzying array of different theories and theorists and no clear way of figuring out who was right or wrong. Which motivation theory does Toyota, implicitly, subscribe to? As it turns out, all of them. All of the theories are used to great effect at Toyota, though often with a bit of a twist on the original theories.

Summarizes Toyota’s approach to the five most prominent motivation theories. The first two theories assume people are primarily motivated internally: intrinsic characteristics of the job itself motivate them to work hard and do quality work. The next three theories assume people are primarily driven by external factors—rewards, punishments, and measurement toward goals. Toyota uses all of these approaches to motivate associates. We will discuss each in turn.