One of the basic elements of the Toyota Production System—the automaker’s foundation for lean manufacturing—is the Japanese term nemawashi. This term means “preparing the soil,” as you would before planting a tree. Nemawashi is a kind of informal consensus-building technique. The idea is to have all preparations done properly (hole dug, water available and so on) prior to planting the tree instead of trying to just slam it into the ground.
In order for teamwork to succeed, it is important to have consensus among team members. So nemawashi prepares the soil for effective decision-making by aligning the stakeholders around a proposal before they are asked to make a decision.
1. Identify the stakeholders. A thorough stakeholder analysis will enable you to gather a great deal of information about the stakeholders during the scoping of the consensus—building exercise. Gathering this information at the beginning of the exercise will help to develop a realistic plan to ensure the maximum level of involvement.
2. Determine customer requirements. It is imperative to understand customer needs and to define customer requirements. Many companies use the process of defining the Voice of the Customer (VOC)—a way to document service level targets and specification limits, and to identify improvement areas.
3. Concept selection and reaching consensus. Place the customer requirements into the first column of a chart and give a weight to each customer requirement, using a 1 – 5 scale (1 = least important, 5 = most important). Work down the list of criteria and rate them as a team. If a team member isn’t at least 70 percent comfortable with the requirement, then they can block it. This way, the final list will include criteria that each person buys into at least 70 percent.
4. Generating concepts. Next, get small teams or individuals to develop alternative designs or concepts. Search for different alternatives and benchmark them, using the following concepts:
Functional – a comparison to similar or identical practices within the same or similar functions outside the immediate industry.
Internal – a comparison of a business process to a similar process inside the organization.
Competitive – a comparison of your own industry and product lines; hard-to-get information but valuable when received; product and process-orientated.
Use the concept selection process to review these additional concepts and determine an additional consensus around them. Once the final list of approved concepts is established, then it’s time to develop an implementation plan.
Consensus requires time, active participation of all group members, communication and communication skills, creative thinking and open-mindedness. While it may take longer to establish consensus, this method ultimately provides better decisions and greater productivity because it secures every employee’s commitment to the concepts.
Source: The TRACC framework helps organizations build standardized and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world-class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organization itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable practices.