Great products are made through the collective effort of a united team. They are united because they believe in one goal. But supporting a common goal and reaching a consensus can sometimes be an arduous task. When you have many people involved in making a decision, how can you ensure all voices are heard? How can you agree on which decision to implement?
Here, we present an age-old technique called nemawashi to help you rally your teams to your cause and achieve business success together.
Definition of Nemawashi
Nemawashi is a Japanese term that translates to “going around the roots.” It’s a Japanese gardening technique used when transplanting trees. The idea is to dig and prepare a plant or tree to be moved to another soil by individually digging each portion of the root system. This careful and meticulous way of preparation allows the plant to survive and thrive in its new environment. It lays the groundwork for a stable foundation in which the same plant can grow and flourish.
The concept of nemawashi was then applied in business particularly in decision-making and consensus-building. In business, nemawashi is the act of gathering information and feedback from employees through one-on-one or small group discussions. Much like giving special attention to each root system in a tree, we apply the same concept to our organization’s employees. Nemawashi is usually done when introducing change, presenting new ideas, deciding on business matters, and getting everyone to agree on something.
The Nemawashi Process and the Toyota Production System
Nemawashi’s first application in business was widespread in Japanese companies, particularly in Toyota. One of the principles of the Toyota Production System is respect for people which is embodied in nemawashi. It’s one of the 13 pillars of the Toyota Production System and is deeply rooted in this principle.
In Toyota, nemawashi is considered as the first step in any decision-making process. Managers would share information about the impending change to each of their employees. The purpose of this exercise is to lay the groundwork for upcoming changes in the organization and getting consensus on specific business decisions that may impact them. By doing so, changes are met with less to no resistance as everyone provides their consent.
Today, nemawashi is used in various businesses across the globe.
Applications of the Nemawashi Approach in Business
Here are some examples of how to apply nemawashi in your business.
When a business decision needs to be done but you need consensus from a large group, it’s advisable to have one-on-one discussions with your stakeholders before getting everyone in a room. This allows them to be more open and candid in providing their opinions and ideas. Set up some time to meet with each of your stakeholders and present the situation at hand. Consider this a pre-meeting to a much bigger one where all involved parties will attend. As they already have a better idea of the topic and have provided their thoughts before the meeting, and ideally their consent, you’ll have a more productive meeting where consensus will be achieved.
When it comes to new proposals, company leaders would want to get in on the details before an official meeting. This allows them to examine the proposal thoroughly and provide their inputs. Meeting them one-by-one allows you to gather their feedback and gauge their reaction. When you present a new proposal in a meeting with a large group of people, it will often be met with a multitude of questions and possibly rejection. Conducting nemawashi beforehand will make your stakeholders feel their opinions matter. This makes getting buy-in easier.
Abruptly implementing new processes and policies will only create discord in your organization. People are naturally resistant to change. But if you present change in a manner that is more digestible and acceptable to employees, they will be more prepared to take in the new environment that will take shape. You will also gain valuable insights from your employees as they feel more empowered to speak in a small group discussion than with a crowd.
The Art of Nemawashi
While there is no formal process for nemawashi, you can be methodical about it. But remember the goal is not to make the best presentation for your business idea, proposal, or suggestion. The goal is to persuade people to agree with your proposal. This is more often achieved through personal conversations in an informal setting. The success of your nemawashi exercise lies in your ability to convey your message, listen to your audience’s feedback, and show the willingness to make the solution as inclusive as possible. This is the art of nemawashi.