Gaining support for your project using Nemawashi

A Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) bonsai on ...
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Gaining consentual support for your project can make or break it, yet it is a topic that is often overlooked.  In Japanese business they use Nemawashi to build support for a project.

Nemawashi literally translates as “going around the roots” so that a bonsai tree can be transported without dying.  No Nemawashi = a failed project.

If you think about how proposals are typically handled in British companies.  Often the person with the idea will gather people in a room and deliver a presentation about his idea, with the aim of persuading the bosses present there and then.

By contrast the Japanese approach involves Nemawashi to consult with people prior to making a proposal.  This consentual approach means that when the proposal is formally put to management it is often a simple matter of rubber stamping it because everyone is already so familiar with the idea at hand.

So can I use Nemawashi?

Fortunately utilising Nemawashi is very straightforward.

1. Take an A3 piece of paper and include the following pieces of information on it:

  • The current situation
  • Proposal
  • Costs
  • Plan
  • Implementation
  • Controls
  • Time line

This is your project document and it broadly follows the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) approach.

2. Discuss this document with people. Doing this in person is best but online collaboration tools are common now so online is feasible too.  Don’t limit input from people solely within your department.  Diversity of opinion is crucial.

3. Rewrite the project document. By now your document is less a proposal and more a summary of the collective thoughts of your company.  It’s worth keeping hold of the orignal to note the changes that have been made.  This is a great tool for persuading others to use Nemawashi until doing so becomes second nature.

4. Meet formally to support the project. With the prior consultation out of the way you should have achieved excellent support for your project, so this meeting should not take very long.

That’s pretty much it.  The following are some benefits of using Nemawashi.

Benefits of using Nemawashi

1. You will have a better understanding of the current condition as people challenge the initial assumptions and results of root cause analysis

2. It creates ownership for the project because others have had a chance to influence and shape it. People support what they create.

3. Time waste in meetings is eliminated or replaced with time doing nemawashi.

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3 thoughts on “Gaining support for your project using Nemawashi

  1. Hi, I’m a migrant from GOT, Adi’s other passion.

    But this subject is home territory for me too as I’m a Change Management Consultant and run a lot of consultation exercises for organisations trying to change.

    I’d not come across Nemawashi before but have long been advocating consultation prior to announcing major changes as – in my experience – it softens resistance to new ideas. I.e. I’m les likely to resist changes in my workplace if I feel that I had a chance to influence how it’s done. Put another way, it’s surprises that people don’t like.

    Some of my clients fear asking employees for their views because they think that they’ll have to ‘go with the majority’ and be constrained by the response to a consultation.

    But that’s not the way it works, in my experience. Leaders can consult, get a clear response from an employee group and still implement something unpopular – and still be supported by employees – PROVIDED that they explain why they’ve had to go against the majority view.

  2. Hi Adi,

    Although I am self employed, I can still see how your article can be beneficial for me. It is interesting to see how the other side so to speak approaches things. Had a brief look at some of your articles too. Book marked for when I have more time.
    p.s I love bonsai too just love how they can teach us so much!! Thank you again

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