Why the Japanese concept of Nemawashi affects leadership in a Western context [The Culture Guy Podcast]

Working with professionals from Japan, Mexico, and the USA

Jack Parsons nemawashiFor three decades Jack Parsons worked for a Japanese car manufacturer who is building vehicles in the United States. In fact, Honda was the first automaker from Japan which established a production subsidiary in the U.S. In his functions at Honda Jack was responsible for training and supporting his company’s network of suppliers. This work meant a lot of cross-cultural interactions – not only between U.S.-Americans and Japanese, his work also included the partner base in Mexico.

In their conversation, Jack and The Culture Guy talk about the various challenges and potential pitfalls for U.S.-Japanese business projects. One of the major hurdles, in Jack’s experience, are the way people develop trust and how leadership in an organization is structured. While most Westerner assume the Japanese model of leading is very hierarchical, the fact that Japan also values consensus sometimes gets ignored.

To illustrate this, Jack explains the concept of Nemawashi (根回し) – an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for a proposed change or a project which includes various levels of hierarchy from the bottom-up in order to build company-wide consensus. Nemawashi literally translates as “going around the roots.”

Semi-retired today, Jack still works as an independent lean and cross-cultural consultant.
Connect with him via his LinkedIn profile.


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