It speaks about an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for a proposed change by speaking to the people involved, gathering support and feedback from them. It is considered an important method in any change, before any formal steps are undertaken. A successful nemawashi implementation enables any changes to be carried out within a manufacturing plant with the consent of all sides.
Nemawashi is literally translated as “going around the roots”.
The original meaning was: digging around the roots of a tree to prepare it for a transplant. This process involves bringing the dirt from the new location, introducing it to the tree before the transplant, so the tree can grow used to the new environment (situation) before it gets there.
Nemawashi is often cited as an example of a Japanese word which is difficult to translate effectively although it is often translated as “laying the groundwork.”
In Japan, high-ranked people expect to be let in on new proposals prior to an official meeting (high power distance society). If they find out about something for the first time during the meeting they will feel that they have been ignored, and they may reject it for that reason alone. Therefore, it’s important to approach these people individually before the meeting is held. This provides an opportunity to introduce the proposal to them and gauge their reaction.
One of the risks of implementing changes in processes is the failure to consider all options and the potential for a result not planned.
Moving quickly with identifying a problem and generating a solution may lead to mistakes. Therefore, the problem is not yet solved and more time is needed to solve the incorrect solution and put in place the proper one.