The ringi system is a more formal decision-making process used for handling significant decisions. In the ringi process, a small team of people with the necessary expertise is assigned to analyze some specific issues or challenge and recommend a solution. At the conclusion of the analysis process, the team creates a decision document called a Ringi-sho, which outlines the challenges, the countermeasure, and the potential implications, both positive and negative, of adopting the proposal. The team then meets with all managers who will be affected by the proposal and requests their approval. Sign off on the proposal is traditionally done with a manager’s hanko, a personal stamp used only by managers at a certain level.
In product development, ringi typically takes place early in the process during the kentou or study phase. Small cross-functional teams are given a limited time period (approximately 30 to 90 days) in which to analyze a challenge, meet with managers, and diffuse the document throughout any effected product development organization.
Using ringi in product development has several advantages. It gathers input from all effected parties and aligns effected groups, reducing decision making to single step during the product development process. In addition, it provides a constructive outlet for nonstandard approaches while simultaneously providing organizational support for standardized designs and processes. The underlying message is to follow standards unless there is a very good reason not to – good enough to go through the ringi process and prove it.