Nemawashi: Laying a Foundation for Fleet-Wide Change

The Fleet Manager’s Guide to Gaining Guaranteed Team Buy-in for a New Technology

Don’t let resistance to change stop you from levelling up your fleet. Download your copy and turn your critics into advocates.

Sometimes the best business decisions require systemic changes. For instance, you might realize that fleet maintenance software will save you a lot of time and money, but implementing it will require changes across the board. Your drivers, mechanics, and other departments may have to do some things differently. If you can’t get everyone on board, your company will never totally experience the lift the tool offers. 

So how do you get everyone on board? Do you:

  • Lean into your authority and force the change? It can be tempting to demand that others simply accept change and dish out consequences for those who refuse. But is it the most effective way to create buy-in?
  • Make the changes and hope everyone sees the wisdom of the changes? This is a popular option for more conflict-averse managers. 
  • Undersell the impact of the change? Sometimes we think if we convince people that change is not that big of a deal, they’ll be less likely to reject it. 

Introducing Nemawashi

Many Japanese companies get around this problem through the change management technique known as nemawashi. It’s a gardening term that means “turning the roots.” It references the preparation required for a tree to be transplanted successfully. If you want it to take root in a new environment, you want to prepare it to survive in its new environment. This includes trimming some of the roots to promote the growth of a new root system that will embed itself in the new environment. 

In business, nemawashi references laying the groundwork for change by building consensus and allowing others to provide feedback and participate in the process. This is best accomplished through a series of casual and formal conversations. 

The goal is to get everyone on the same page informally so that when it’s time to make a change, people are already prepared and invested. 

The benefits of Nemawashi

There are a lot of benefits to managing change in this fashion. It helps everyone feel heard and involved and can remove much of the resistance experienced with more top-down leadership. Here are some other benefits you can expect to experience: 

  • It reduces the risk of failure by getting everyone on board early in the process, particularly those with the most influence and involvement. 
  • It speeds up the adoption process by removing hurdles ahead of time. By the time you’re ready to execute your plans, everyone has rallied around the solution. 
  • Instead of feeling marginalized in key decisions, it makes people feel heard and critical to the process.  
  • By giving people an opportunity to share their input, you get valuable feedback. This allows you to make better decisions than you would have on your own. 

Putting nemawashi to use

If you want to institute changes to your fleet, nemawashi can make a huge difference. Here are some steps to get you started:

  • Put together a proposal addressing the changes you need to make. This includes analysis you would do anyway, answering questions like:
      1. What problems will this solution solve?
      2. What is the cost to the business?
      3. What is the day-to-day impact of this change?
      4. What is the cost of not making this change?
  • Identify the most influential and critical stakeholders in this change. Also, pinpoint some of the people most impacted by these changes. 
  • Begin building consensus with all the people involved. Remember, the goal here isn’t just to win them over. It’s to include them in the process, offering them an opportunity to discuss the potential issues and offer feedback. Update the proposal to address concerns and ideas. 
  • Hold discussions until you reach consensus or replace the proposal with something better. Once you’ve reached this stage, you’re ready to make formal changes. 

Building consensus through formal and informal one-on-one discussion can be a game changer and a helpful way to rethink how to encourage organizational growth. 

Creating change when it matters

Getting people to embrace change can be a challenge. One area where it can be particularly tricky is in instituting new technologies. This usually means changing “the way we’ve always done things,” which can be the most difficult kind of change to get people to embrace. 

In our complimentary ebook, The Fleet Manager’s Guide to Gaining Guaranteed Team Buy-in for a New Technology, we address ways you can get your fleet to embrace and adopt digital solutions. 

In it, you’ll find tools for assessing your company’s openness to change and how to encourage openness to change through a very nemawashi-like practice of informing influencers and setting them free to build solidarity and consensus. 

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