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Nemawashi (根回し) is a Japanese business informal process of laying the foundation for some proposed change or project by talking to the people concerned and gathering support and feedback before a formal announcement. It is considered an important element in any major change in the Japanese business environment before any formal steps are taken. Successful nemawashi enables changes to be carried out with the consent of all sides, avoiding embarrassment.

Nemawashi literally translates as "turning the roots", from ne (, "root") and mawasu (回す, "to turn something, to put something around something else"). Its original meaning was literal: in preparation for transplanting a tree, one would carefully dig around a tree some time before transplanting, and trim the roots to encourage the growth of smaller roots that will help the tree become established in its new location.[1][2][3][4][5]

Nemawashi is often cited as an example of a Japanese word which is difficult to translate effectively, because it is tied so closely to Japanese culture itself, although it is often translated as "laying the groundwork."

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.[6]

The term is associated with forming a consensus, along with ringiseido (which is a more formal process). There is debate whether Nemawashi is truly co-operative, or if sometimes those consulted have little choice but to agree. The process can be time consuming.[7]

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  1. ^ 1988, 国語大辞典(新装版) (Kokugo Dai Jiten, Revised Edition) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan; entry available online here
  2. ^ 2006, 大辞林 (Daijirin), Third Edition (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Sanseidō, ISBN 4-385-13905-9
  3. ^ 1995, 大辞泉 (Daijisen) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan, ISBN 4-09-501211-0; entry available online here
  4. ^ Hori, Yasuo (1994). "根回し". Nihon daihyakkazensho (Nipponica) (日本大百科全書(ニッポニカ)) via Kotobank (in Japanese). Shogakukan. Retrieved 2021-07-19.
  5. ^ Davies, Roger (2002). The Japanese Mind. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 159–162. ISBN 978-0-8048-3295-3.
  6. ^ Rochelle Kopp (2012). Defining Nemawashi Japan Intercultural Consulting
  7. ^ Noorderhaven, Niels G.; Benders, Jos; Keizer, Arjan B. (2007). "Comprehensiveness versus Pragmatism: Consensus at the Japanese–Dutch Interface". Journal of Management Studies. 44 (8): 1349–1370. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6486.2007.00712.x. ISSN 0022-2380.

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