Tuesday, December 05, 2017


I am speaking this week at the Projects to the Point (P2P) conference in Cairo, Egypt. The focus of the conference is the book "How Successful Organizations Implement Change" and the speakers (myself included) each wrote one of the chapters of the book by the same title.

We have an interesting approach for implementing change where I'm working, a technique call Nemawashi. It's a Japanese term that literally translates to "digging around the roots" but the meaning is much more than that. Nemawashi is laying the groundwork for a change. The work starts before any formal meeting is conducted. Ideally, the person proposing the change will have already worked on building the relationships with the people who's support is needed. They will know the formal and informal organizational structure so when it comes time to start informal discussions, they know who to speak to.

When it comes time for a change, the change agent determines who the key stakeholders are. The change agent has informal discussions about the proposed change. It may be a quick talk over coffee accompanied by a drawing on a napkin. The discussion may include a history of the proposed change, others that have been consulted, and options. The discussions are a way to solicit feedback and adjust the plan before moving forward. In some cases, they may need to move backwards, having follow-on discussions with stakeholders they've already talked to as the plan evolves.

When it does come time for a formal meeting, all the key stakeholders have already heard the idea and provided their input. The formal meeting should just be a formality. If someone hasn't been included in the nemawashi process, they may reject the proposal just because they feel they were ignored.

This form of consensus building may not be the fastest way to introduce a change but like the meaning of the word, it will ensure that a new change gets to the roots to improve the chance it will take hold.