Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nemawashi vs. Lobbying

By Pascal Dennis

A common question.

Nemawashi literally means "going around the roots" - so as to prepare a tree for transplanting.

This splendid Japanese word evokes images of quiet, patient work:

  • Finding a the right spot for the tree, both physically and aesthetically,
  • Ensuring good sun, soil & drainage,
  • Digging new hole of the right depth & diameter, and then watering and fertilizing
  • Carefully transplanting the tree, filling in the hole, etc

Thereby, we develop a 'shared understanding' - another rich image.

Lobbying, by contrast, implies hectoring, cajoling, and perhaps bribing.

(In America, lobbyists vie with lawyers and politicians for the title of Most Despised Profession.)

In summary, nemawashi is a rich, evocative and very helpful concept, fundamental to Strategy Deployment and leadership.

Let's not reduce it to lobbying.



PS As you may know, I believe each organization has to translate the Lean Business System to fit its culture.

Occasionally though, only the original word will do - even if it's initially foreign.

Kaizen, muda, takt have entered the English language, and not only in manufacturing circles.


  1. At our company we've decided not to use Japanese words. Do you think this matters?

  2. Hi Bill,

    No, I don't think using English, instead of Japanese will hold you back. You have to tailor the implementation to your culture. Some cultures simply find English better communicates the essence of the idea.

    So be it. There's no one best way. Neither too rigid, nor too loose.