Waigaya Is the Way


Honda’s cultural and organizational system is so much in disarray that managers who are indoctrinated by the rule of thumb or blue print approaches questions such as how success can result in such an environment? Waigaya, which is Honda’s core value itself means nothing and just throws listeners into a further state of confusion. The word has no meaning even in the Asian context and was chosen by Soichiro Honda since its syllables; Wai-ga-ya, wai-ga-ya, wai-ga-ya, sounded like a room filled with many people jabbering or babbling (Rothfeder, 2014). It reflected a noise of heated discussion and free flow of ideas. It was supposed to be Honda's unique leadership and cultural value system. However, the system beats the logic of any capitalist nation that believes in order and hierarchy (Furlan, 2015). Surprisingly, the company have attained success in the Western world despite its cultural values and leadership style.


            Honda Motor Company is the Japan’s second-largest auto manufacturer, and with the most distinct corporate culture; a culture founded on the idea of spurring innovation and fixing problems (Furlan, 2015). All Honda’s associates dress in white jumpsuits with a red name tag at the chest. Irrespective of their position; from chief executive to floor operators, they wears the same uniform (Rothfeder, 2014). The uniform signify their flat management system and lack of hierarchies (Rothfeder, 2014). At the same time, it promote the ideology of workplace equality. Honda’s organization structure has remains its source of success in the competitive automobile industry (Furlan, 2015). Unlike most organizations, Honda utilizes the flattened hierarchies for innovation through enhanced discussion floor (Rothfeder, 2014). The approach is distinct from countries such as Australia that value hierarchy and highly organized Western culture.


Waigaya Is the Way was coined in a 8-by-8-foot store room littered with mops, brushes, and brooms with filled with the smell of detergent. The small room was crowded by 10 men in Honda uniformed. It became the only available space since a conference room was not available (Rothfeder, 2014). Shoehorned in the tiny room were the Honda factory floor managers, quality control experts, and assembly line associates at the Anna, Ohio, Honda engine plant (Rothfeder, 2014). The sudden meeting was prompted by an organization crisis. A supplier had delivered camshafts which had hairline defects and produced rhythmic chirping sound when the engine run. To correct the failure, each car engine had to be removed, which would take three hours. The crisis meeting was necessary to determine possible alternatives (Rothfeder, 2014). Through the jabbering and arguments, an idea was cropped that resulted into correcting the engines with only 1 hour spent. This became the success of waigaya. Later, the principle became handy in the production of Acura TL model (Rothfeder, 2014). Waigaya is premised on: equality in leadership and expression, debate of ideas, no ownership ideas once shared, and effective role allocation.

 Honda’s principles shows a huge contrast with the Australian corporate culture. Honda has more flexible and informal corporate culture, Australian corporate culture is characterized by doing things according to the book, strict following of standard procedures, and strong hierarchical leadership (Hofstede, 1988). Sharing objectives is uniquely treated in Australian corporate culture. Often, the strategic leaders make decisions while the operational level execute (Hofstede, 1988). In such a situation Honda is expected to meet a lot of conflict in the Australian work atmosphere.

According to Hofstede (1988), Japanes organizations have a centralized decision-making strategy, strong in collectivism, demonstrate group behavior, and often paternalistic leadership. Countries, such as Chinese with strong collectivism powers consider their employees as part of their families. Job security and longevity is also high. Most Asian companies value group harmony and work place social order (Hofstede, 1988). Collectivism also nations present utilitarian approach with the aim of generating the greatest good among the members.

In contrast, Australians are individualistic people. Australians highly value self-worth and individual achievements than cohesiveness, or group loyalty. Australians exhibit low power distance and are inclined to long-term orientation (Hofstede, 1980). Workplace is highly stratified since the leaders are rated on their high autonomic powers, minimal team reliance, performance orientation, and low compassion (Hofstede, 1988). Based on the contrast, Honda’s success in Australian corporate environment comes as surprise.


For Honda to prosper in Australia, cultural and strategic decisions are necessary. The cultural and management contrast affect both the management and workforce equally. Managing the differences demands adoption of deep understanding of the cultural diversities among the nations, corporate ideologies, multicultural organization values, brand management, and refined communication strategies (Stahl & Voigt, 2008). Honda’s success in Australia will be guided by awareness of the stiff cultural and corporate differences between the two nations. Once it enters Australia, Honda management should roll out new organizational changes aimed at ensuring enabling environment for both the Australians and Japanese team (Mello, 2006). The organization should revisit its, value management, systematic thinking, brand strategy, corporate values, change models, and corporate values.

The first move for the Honda management team should be enhancing trust among the Asian group and the Australians.  Trust forms the first step in rolling out organizational change (Stahl & Voigt, 2008). The executives need to determine the cultural and corporate conflicts and create awareness among the team through discussions. The organization should role out education programs aimed at creating diversity tolerant environment for all the stake holders (Kinicki & Fugate, 2012). Both the Japanese and Australians should be engaged in education forum that allow them explore and appreciate each other’s cultural values and beliefs. At the management level, the Japanese and Australians, need to learn and uphold enabling leadership beliefs and models of diversity appreciation.

After identification of the corporate and cultural challenges facing the host and Honda, open communication should be embraced between the two parties to reduce mistrusts (Mello, 2006). Both the Japanese and Australian Honda employees should be exposed to and trained on cross cultural conflicts and communication challenges and possible solutions.

 Cultural conformity is essential for Honda’s survival in Australia. In some areas, Honda will need to conform to the Australian corporate culture (Hinner, 2009). As a strategy to meet both internal and external environmental corporate demands, Honda’s corporate culture should aligned to both the Japanese and Australian values. The organization will have to adopt new values to meet the Australians need (Kinicki & Fugate, 2012). The success of a company in a foreign nation is mostly determined by its ability to meet the host’s cultural demands.


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Mello, J. A. (2006). Strategic human resource management (2nd ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Kinicki, A & Fugate, M. (2012). Organizational Behavior: Key Concepts, Skills & Best Practices, 5th             Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.     

Rothfeder. J. (2014). Strategy + Business: For Honda, Waigaya is the way. Retrieved from:             https://www.strategy-business.com/article/00269?gko=48bd9

Stahl, G. K., & Voigt, A. (2008). Do cultural differences matter in mergers and acquisitions? A tentative model and examination. Organization Science, 19(1), 160-176.