Nemawashi at Work

Build consensus in your organization by applying the Nemawashi strategy and using SafetyCulture (iAuditor) to gather and analyze useful data

Creación de consenso mediante el uso de Nemawashi

What is Nemawashi?

Nemawashi is a consensus-building strategy that involves talking to individuals who belong to a group that makes decisions or can impact decisions in an organization. It is a vital means of obtaining the buy-in of everyone involved in a decision-making process before a final decision is reached regarding a proposal or idea that requires close scrutiny or review in order to uncover potential problems or blockers.

Nemawashi FAQ’s

Before we delve into the concept of Nemawashi in the business setting, let us cover some common questions.

What is the Origin of Nemawashi?

A Japanese term that literally means to dig or to work around the roots, Nemawashi is a gardening technique where careful attention is given to the root system of a plant or a tree (imagine a bonsai tree) before it can be transplanted. The plant may suffer plant stress or even die after being transplanted if there’s not enough care and attention given to the plant, from digging around its roots to planting it in its new soil.

Why is Nemawashi Important in an Organization?

One of the 13 pillars of Toyota Production System (TPS), Nemawashi is a great strategy to build consensus when there are changes to be made on current processes or when there is something new to be introduced in the organization. Just imagine how a sudden change may shake things up in an already established system and it can catch some people off guard if there were no prior discussions made about the change. Nemawashi can prevent all that and can also aid in the smooth implementation of changes if the people who are going to be impacted, together with the decision-makers, are taken into consideration and included in discussions.

How is Nemawashi Different from Lobbying?

Lobbying has a negative connotation because, with it, decisions can be influenced by bribing or through other methods deemed unacceptable in the Nemawashi strategy. Unlike lobbying, Nemawashi comes from the mindset that seeks to build consensus through transparent communication with stakeholders and decision-makers. Nemawashi also encourages a dynamic way of discussing the merits and challenges of a potential change in the way of doing things.

What is Nemawashi in Lean?

Similar to other lean tools such as Kanban and Jidoka, Nemawashi is part of Toyota’s TPS which has become the basis of the lean manufacturing system.

How to Apply Nemawashi in Your Organization?

With building consensus as the goal in mind, remember to apply something from the book “7 Habits Highly Effective People”—seek first to understand, then to be understood. Using this in the context of building consensus, try to understand first what the person you are talking to is trying to communicate. Are they receptive to changes or new ideas at the moment? Does their body language show that they are inclined to listen right now? Read the room and understand the current mood or situation, be open to feedback, and know where they are coming from so you can better communicate your proposal or the change you wish to introduce.

Also, try to be familiar with the following (based on the consensus flowchart):

  • Initiate a discussion (formal or informal) between the one who is proposing the change and the member of the decision making team or persons who can influence the decision or are going to be impacted by the change
  • A proposal is presented and then you test for consensus
  • If a consensus is achieved then you proceed with laying down the actions points (this is one of two possible conclusions for the consensus flowchart)
  • If a consensus is not achieved because of blocks or stand asides, or that there are reservations or concerns raised, review and update the proposal or create a new one that takes the concerns into consideration
  • Continue with holding discussions until a consensus is achieved or the proposal is scrapped or replaced with a better proposal that have been improved through previous discussions

Whether in a formal or informal setting, the consensus flowchart can provide a framework for how Nemawashi can be done.

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Steps on How to do Nemawashi

Nemawashi is often associated with laying the groundwork for gaining consensus among decision-makers. That said, Nemawashi is a methodology that can also be applied among peers of managers or supervisors, as well as with direct reports. With the consensus flowchart as a guide, someone in a supervisory or managerial position can apply the Nemawashi strategy with other groups in the organization.

Nemawashi Among Direct Reports

Usually the most impacted among employees when changes happen in the organization, direct reports or the employees in production are essential in building a proposal or formulating new ideas for they are a rich source of data on what is actually happening in the production area. They have practical knowledge of how processes are done and are likely to have some suggestions on areas for improvement. In doing Nemawashi among direct reports, you can:

  • Conduct some Focused Group Discussions to get their input on topics that impact them and the company or gather their feedback on your ideas or proposals.
  • Do data gathering or employee surveys using technology that can make it easier for employees to submit data that can help strengthen the merit of ideas and proposals.
  • Gather existing reports and do a deep dive on the data collected as you can use the information you analyzed to back proposals or ideas.
  • After you have done your analysis and a proposal is drafted, consider reviewing the proposal among peers and be receptive to receiving feedback and uncovering improvement opportunities.

Nemawashi Among Peers

Fellow supervisors or managers can be helpful in building consensus for a proposal or new idea if they are made aware of how these proposals can be good for them and their direct reports, too. For Nemawashi among peers, you can:

  • Make use of informal meetings as an opportunity to float new ideas or proposals and help them understand how supporting these ideas or proposals can be in their best interest.
  • Give an overview of the possible impact of the proposal and be ready to receive feedback.
  • Consider providing the nitty-gritty of the data you gathered from direct reports and ask for input.
  • Using the feedback received from colleagues, further improve the proposal before meeting with decision-makers.

Nemawashi Among Superiors (Decision Makers)

At this level, it is ideal to have already analyzed the collected information from direct reports and considered the takeaways from discussions made among peers such as fellow supervisors or managers. Here is where Nemawashi is probably at its most crucial.

  • Depending on the person who is a member of the decision-making body, set a formal or informal meeting to introduce your proposal or idea.
  • Be ready to provide data should the need arise but, at this point, present your idea at a high level.
  • Explain how the proposal, once implemented, will be beneficial to the organization—increase profitability, optimize productivity, improve quality, promote safety, comply with standards or regulations, or elevate employee morale.
  • Be transparent and share any pros and cons of the proposal.
  • Be receptive to feedback and seek to further improve the proposal.

SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) for Nemawashi

Doing Nemawashi means that one intends to build consensus and be able to improve the idea or proposal before it can be implemented in any business process. SafetyCulture is a powerful quality management tool that businesses can use for continuous improvement efforts and problem-solving approaches. It can help organizations make sure that pertinent information is gathered and analyzed in order to build support for proposals during Nemawashi.

Ideal for teams and team leaders, you can use the SafetyCulture platform online or offline on mobile to create and submit reports that help collect data that can be analyzed and used for the proposal. Data collected over time can then be used when discussing the proposal during Nemawashi.

SafetyCulture Content Team
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SafetyCulture Content Team

SafetyCulture Content Team
The SafetyCulture content team is dedicated to providing high-quality, easy-to-understand information to help readers understand complex topics and improve workplace safety and quality. Our team of writers have extensive experience at producing articles for different fields such as safety, quality, health, and compliance.