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Thursday, January 29, 2009

What the Heck is Namawashi

Want to get a decision made quickly and avoid countless debate in your next meeting? In Japan they have a term called Namawashi that essentially means do preliminary work to involve others before holding a meeting. In Japan there is the concept of not wanting to publicly embarrass someone you may think that you achieved agreement in a meeting only to find out later there may be even more dissension than before. What does this mean? In the US it is referred to as management by walking around; talk to your meeting attendees before pitching your proposal to the broader group.

Why would someone not doing business in Japan care about the concept of namawashi? Have you ever noticed that not everyone speaks up in meetings? Have you ever noticed that some attendees visibly do not agree with what is being discussed but say nothing? A Congressmen friend of mine once said, "don't call a vote unless you already know the outcome". This is good advice that applies outside of politics. Any amount of change whether personal or organizational starts with the individual, see my post
book review: change management. One person can easily be pushed aside but a number of people united toward a common goal are much harder to push aside. Working one-on-one to build grass roots support will ensure that staff have a chance to air their ideas as well as concerns will provide insight into what others are thinking and enable you to tailor your presentation improving the opportunities for agreement.

In the west we expect to be invited to meetings to get the update or provide our opinion, in Japan it is namawashi that keeps people informed. If we, as western managers, adopted namawashi we would see much better staff engagement. Using namawashi you are selling your ideas one on one and allowing each individual to work through change in their own way allowing organizational change to be achieved. I have found that the team will be immensely more aggressive toward achieving the organizational goals when each individual has discussed her ideas, concerns and observations from their perspective. Meetings are more effective because all members are able to look around the room and see the level of engagement.

Share your thoughts about namawashi and how it might be effective in your organization.

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