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A Deep Dive in Japanese Corporate Culture: The Concept of Nemawashi

One of Japan's most interesting innovations in the domain of corporate culture is definitely the concept of Nemawashi. In Japanese, Nemawshi (根回し) literally means "turning to the roots". The original meaning was literal. Usually, when one wanted to transplant a tree, one would have to carefully dig around the roots in preparation for the transplant.

Nowadays, the meaning has slowly become more metaphorical. Nemawashi in the context of business refers to a consensus-building strategy which consists in talking to individuals in the decision-making group of an organisation. That way, decision makers lay the foundation for their projects, gathering support and feedback before an official announcement. In fact, many high ranking officials in Japanese businesses expect to be the first to know in case a new project is in the works. By reaching a consensus, they try to eliminate every opposition to the proposal before the actual decision-making process takes place.

The system of Nemawashi is still very much in use, especially by big Japanese enterprises such as Toyota and many businesses credit it as one of the key factors to their success.

At the end of the day, we can't help but ask ourselves: What could one learn from the practice of Nemawashi?

  • The importance of an inclusive course of action in business: by involving everyone concerned, the final decision will definitely be better informed and there will be no obstacles in its implementation.

  • The importance of cordial relationships in business: by including every member of the team in the decision-making process, Nemawashi ensures the creation of strong bonds within the team, forming a relationship based on trust and respect.

  • The importance of respecting the hierarchy: speaking of trust, it is important to keep in mind that Nemawashi acknowledges the strict hierarchy already in place, respecting the fact that the final decisions will still be taken at the top of the pyramid. Despite that, it encourages every employe to speak their mind.

  • The importance of conflict resolution: in today's cutthroat business world, it is of the utmost importance to be able to reach a consensus among diverging opinions. That facilitates the decision-making process.

Moral of the story: for a business plan to succeed, one must first test the water and act accordingly. Bonus points if one manages to make every employee included in the making of important decisions.

By Maria Zoi Michailidou - Corporate Culture Correspondent at YNBC


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