Monday, July 24, 2017

Nemawashi: Measure Twice Cut Once?

Ever since the day I heard the term "nemawashi" for the first time, and started to put my simple mind around the concept, I have been skeptical about how it was being interpreted by many people.

The interpretation is that before you have a big meeting, "going around the roots" means "laying the groundwork" for some proposed change or project by gaining agreement, support and feedback before "springing the idea" on people in a formal meeting. If you consult the foremost authority on all subjects, Wikipedia, nemawashi is explained as follows:  "In Japan, high-ranking people expect to be let in on new proposals prior to an official meeting. 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. Thus, it’s important to approach these people individually before the meeting. This provides an opportunity to introduce the proposal to them and gauge their reaction. This is also a good chance to hear their input. This process is referred to as nemawashi."

This sounds a bit like lobbying to me!

Another interpretation, and one that thousands of people have heard me say, is "proceed slowly, consider many options, gain agreement, implement rapidly". Or put another way, "measure twice (or maybe even 5 times), cut once"!!

For you LEAN people (especially those who use A3 to make continuous continuous improvements, most of the hard work is in the background, current condition and root cause boxes (the left side of the A3 form). If we really focus on those first 3 steps, often the implementation plan becomes very clear, and it's all downhill to the target condition.

For those of you Six Sigma people, the more thorough and careful we are at defining, measuring and analyzing, the easier it will be improving and controlling.

In other words, the polar opposite of nemawashi is jumping to solutions.

More from the world's foremost authority:
"Nemawashi (根回し) translates as "going around the roots", from (ne, root) and 回す (mawasu, to go around [something]). Its original meaning was literal: digging around the roots of a tree, to prepare it for a transplant. This process involves bringing the dirt from the new location, and introducing it to the tree, before the transplant, so the tree can grow accustomed to the new environment before it gets there."

One of my favorite nemawashi stories is the one cited in Liker's book, The Toyota Way. Before even thinking about building a minivan, Toyota sent engineers to the U.S. to live with American families for many months. The engineers learned about groups of kids being transported to soccer games, picking up food at Dunkin Donuts (nobody ate in their cars in Japan), trips to pick up 4x8 sheets of plywood at Home Depot, and the hills, valleys, mountains, weather, etc. Proceed slowly, consider many options, gain agreement, implement rapidly. Development of the minivan was all downhill from there.

Sounds like measure a thousand times, cut once, doesn't it?

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