Nemawashi: The art of laying the groundwork for change

During a recent meeting, I was discussing with a client the current status of the project that we are working on together and they said: “The Nemawashi is ongoing”. This was something that I had never heard before, so I asked them to explain and they said: within the company and our change management process, we work on the process of: Nemawashi to ensure that all parties are aligned on what is going to happen, gathering alignment and ensuring that everyone agrees before the change is implemented. You could call it “lobbying”, “pre-consensus” or “getting buy in” but this process is essential when you are gathering acceptance /accordance for any sort of change.

What is Nemawashi?

Nemawashi is a Japanese term to describe the informal way to lay down the initial foundations towards any sort of change that you will need to be doing within the company. It is of vital importance that you gather alignment on any important or big changes before they are announced in the formal meeting. In Japanese culture, if you do not do this, you risk the proposed change being denied purely because people feel that it has not been thoroughly investigated. In realistic terms, all of the alignment should be done outside of the meeting and the formal meeting should only be used to finalise the topic/ formalise the agreement.

What does this mean in reality?

I think that Nemawashi can be a great way to practice not only your stakeholder alignment and engagement but also verifying and analysing how you manage and practice change within your projects and organisations. Toyota consider Nemawashi to be their “secret sauce” of success for ensuring that projects and initiatives are a success

How to practice Nemawashi

If you are looking to try out Nemawashi, here are some guidelines to try this out for you:

  1. Understand the change that you want to try and implement
  2. Who do you need to align with? Who are the critical people involved with the decision?
  3. Prepare several ’rounds’ of alignment to answer questions, clarify specifics and make sure that everyone understands the most important factor: What’s in it for them
  4. Gather alignment and ensure that everyone understands what is expected of them
  5. Prepare the final presentation deck with the right information and ensure that no new information is shared during this meeting.

What are the benefits to Nemawashi?

There are a few known benefits to Nemawashi. Including:

  • By ensuring alignment upfront, you are answering and ensuring the change is as complete as possible
  • Validation of the change and ensuring that it would add value to the organisation
  • Ensuring that you have thought through all of the potential issues or areas around the change itself. E.g. how would the changing processes affect the current employees? What would need to be changed? Is there a cost benefit to the change?

Conclusion:

Have you heard of Nemawashi before? is it something that you would be tempted to try in your next project?

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