To manage your business with roadmaps, you need the determination to “ achieve your mission for real” #MercariIssuesDissected
Mercari Group’s mission is to create value in a global marketplace where anyone can buy & sell. Mercan has focused on the members fighting to achieve this dream over and over again. Mercari is still in a phase of transitioning from a startup to a global tech company. Of course, all sorts of issues exist in every part of that process. These issues need to be addressed head on, but they are also worth solving.
With that in mind, Mercan is launching a series of articles to spotlight the issues specifically, so that we can bring forward where Mercari is now, and where it intends to be. The title is as straightforward as it gets: “Mercari Issues Dissected”! The theme we have for this first installment is “business management with roadmaps”.
Roadmaps are often created per project, but Mercari also has larger-scale roadmaps to illuminate the direction of the company so that management and the front line are aligned on their goals. And since the creation of the roadmap involves the entire company, it itself is a major project/undertaking. For this installment of the series, we have asked Shuji Kawano, SVP, and Munehiro Asai, who is responsible for formulating and executing company strategies as part of the Management Strategy organization, all about the secrets and issues of creating and running strategies of this scale.
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Shuji Kawano（@shuji）Senior Executive Officer, Head of Corporate Strategy Office, Mercari. After working in the investment banking division of Livedoor and an investment fund jointly established by Goldman Sachs and SBI Holdings, he joined the strategic consulting firm, Institute for Management Innovation (IGPI). Later, he experienced starting his own business. He also experienced going public as the head of the Corporate Strategy Office at Gunosy before joining Mercari in July 2018.
Munehiro Asai（@mune）At Mercari, he led the development and operation of a company-wide strategy based on a roadmap. As a sideline, he provides coaching services to hundreds of executives and middle managers (Professional Certified Coach, International Coaching Federation). Previously worked in product management and corporate planning and executive coaching for 12 years at Yahoo Z Holdings.
A roadmap that aligns leadership and front lines
–Let’s start off by hearing your definition of “roadmap” for Mercari.
@shuji：Mercari’s mission is to create value in a global marketplace where anyone can buy & sell. The Mercari Group Roadmap details Mercari Group’s path from now until 2030, including what challenges we will take on and what kind of society we aim to create, in order to achieve our mission.
The contents of the Roadmap are updated annually (in June) and quarterly, based on internal and external changes happening and in a way to achieve the ideal form it should have at those times. And the contents of the Roadmap are of course open to all employees, in line with our culture of Trust & Openness.
The Mercari Group Roadmap for the fiscal year 2023 defines three periods from now until the time when we achieve the mission. The first period is “Ready, Set…”, and it is a one year period where we will work toward establishing a circular economy. The second period “Go!” ends three years from now, and “Beyond>>>”, the period in which a circular economy is established and Mercari looks ahead for the next big idea is from now until FY2030
–I hear that Mercari adopted the roadmap method in 2019. Can you tell us about how that happened?
@shuji：Mercari is a bottom-up organization where employees are empowered to take charge. There was a time where this led to issues because different people had different things they wanted to do and all of it was going on at the same time. This prevented us from seeing a clear path to success, causing an overabundance of unnecessary investments and making it harder to run our business operations sustainably. The roadmap method was implemented to resolve such issues. By illuminating the path to achieving the mission, we thought we would be able to align the leadership and front lines and achieve a stronger organizational drive.
We also make use of the OKR* method in Mercari as a tool to set common objectives that apply to the entire organization, but even then that would just give us clarity in the short term, once again making it difficult to formulate a mid- to long-term vision. We thought that making use of a roadmap would allow every individual to imagine the same future and plan what they could do to help achieve it, so we made the decision to do just that.
*Short for “Objectives and Key Results”. Mercari sets quarterly objectives that are stretch goals, and “key results” are concrete and measurable actions necessary to achieve those objectives.
The “axis” of Mercari re-visualized through external analyses
–What was the first step to formulating the FY2023 Group Roadmap?
@mune：We really focused on the external environment analyses at first this time. We made use of a framework called “PEST Analysis” (Politics, Economy, Society, and Technology) to discuss over and over again amongst the leadership and Management Strategy members about our business environment 5 and 10 years from now. This clarified Mercari’s road to victory, and allowed us to deepen the common understanding of what to do and what not to do.
Of course, we have carried out external environment analyses in the past, but we hadn’t put as much time into it as we did for this particular roadmap. There have been times before where we initiated discussions while there was a mismatch of protocols amongst the leadership. What I mean by that is that one word would mean something to one person, and another thing to another person. We weren’t able to communicate effectively, and at times had to hold meta-discussions on top of actual discussions to move the process forward. We learned our lesson from that history, and used one third of the time meant for the entire project just to meticulously analyze the external environment. Through this, we were able to clarify how each leader perceived the current state of the world and Mercari, and align everyone’s views.
–What were the processes after that to shape the roadmap into what it is now?
@mune：Based on the keywords acquired through the external environment analyses, Management Strategy prepared a draft of the roadmap and asked for the leadership’s opinions on it.
The feedback provided by the leadership was very detailed. For example, there is a sentence in the Roadmap which states that we want Mercari to be an organization where “talent from all over the world” comes together. Regarding the original Japanese draft of this statement, the feedback we received from the leadership was that we had to word this in a way that would not imply to readers “talent from all over the world has to physically come together in our offices”, since we have so many members working remotely now. I remember we went back and forth on this one sentence 3–4 times to get it just right.
We placed so much attention on every single word, which of course made the meetings complicated very often, and there were many times where we made a decision and went back on it later.
@shuji：That is true. It is very, very hard work creating a roadmap. But focusing on every word like this and discussing every aspect of them allows us to be as clear as possible in communicating what we are thinking and the path that we should be taking.
–What were the reactions when you announced the new roadmap to the company?
@mune：The FY2023 Group Roadmap was announced to all companies in June. We have since received comments that elated us for sure, such as “I now understand Mercari’s future vision and feel a sense of unity”, “I am enjoying even thinking about what actions I can take to help achieve the dream”, and so on.
But it has not historically been true that everyone is always happy about our roadmaps. Last year, we received a lot of feedback saying that the Roadmap was “abstract and confusing,” creating an issue where people were having a tough time trying to formulate their actions.
Because of that experience, this year we built an internal portal site to host the Roadmap, alongside a message that explained the background of the Roadmap, the imagined future after we achieve our mission, and that we wish that everyone would come up with with their part of what to do to bring the company to that future. Following that, we created opportunities for the leadership to once again explain directly to all members the background of and thought put into the Roadmap. This time, the reactions very much leaned toward “this level of abstraction almost serves as an empty canvas, making it fun to imagine the possibilities of what actions to take.”
@shuji： It made me very happy to feel that our vision was being communicated and received as intended, little by little. The Roadmap has multiple roles, but the most important one at first was being a monitoring tool for top management. We were extra careful, writing it as concretely and comprehensively as possible, so that it would be easier for leadership to track progress.
However, now that we have more and more highly skilled and trustworthy comrades sharing the same vision, and that the organization is starting to speak the same language thanks to the Roadmap, I believe we can come up with bolder ideas if we put our heads together between all members, instead of leadership mulling over every word and sentence, deciding everything in great detail. That is why we left some parts open-ended to a degree. Specifically, the methods of making the dreams a reality are something we’d rather leave to the inventiveness and creativity of the people on the front line. Communicating this thought process in a gentle and effective manner is a major part of the process in making sure the Roadmap sticks with the members of the organization.
To manage your business with roadmaps, you need the determination to “ achieve your mission for real”
–How did Mercari change with the implementation of roadmap-based management?
@shuji：The roadmap clarified the methods of achieving synergy within the Group and the correct way to prioritize our actions. It has definitely helped the leadership with management.
I also expect that it will provide great advantages in our communication with members. Sharing the direction that the company is taking makes it possible for employees to link their daily actions with the achievement of the mission, providing a more lucid sense of contribution and achievement, which in turn makes work more worthwhile.
–What are your opinions on current issues, and what is your future outlook?
@mune：Our next challenge is to create an environment where teams and individuals can more smoothly draw out their actions based on the Roadmap. If we can do that, designing team and individual OKRs will be easier, and the sense of doing rewarding work will grow exponentially.
We have been in more dialogue than ever before with internal and external key people, in order to identify dilemmas and mismatches between the contents of the Roadmap and the thoughts and actions of the organization, and formulate solutions.
@shuji： The creation of this Roadmap was led by top management, but in the future I would like the members of the organization to take up that role, and I hope that we can build an environment where they can independently manage the Roadmap. I would like to achieve a world where everyone can refer to the Roadmap when proposing a new business, or setting objectives for teams or individuals, and point out where we are falling behind in walking the set path, leading to improvements in our work and strategies automatically and autonomously.
–I believe some of our readers will be interested in roadmap-based management. Where do you suggest they start?
@mune：The first step is to be determined to achieve the mission for real. It sounds obvious, but I think companies that have this kind of resolve will always prove to be strong.
@shuji： I agree. One must first decide that they will expand the business and have an impact on society. That will make clear what they can do to that end, which they can then write down in their roadmap. This might sound easy, but it is very, very difficult. (laughs) We are still in the middle of this process, and I would like to share the knowledge and experiences we’ve built with as many people as possible.
You can follow up on this story in an upcoming talk event! @shuji and @mune will dive deep into topics not covered in this article. If you are implementing roadmaps in your business management, are planning to do so, or are simply interested in Mercari’s management strategies, please join us there. We are looking forward to seeing you!
August 25, 2022 (Thursday) 17:00-18:30 (JST)
Mercari’s mission is to create value in a global marketplace where anyone can buy & sell. In order to make this mission a reality, and not a pipe dream, Mercari implements roadmaps in its business management strategies. Why are roadmaps necessary to achieve the mission? What challenges and issues did they bring at first? What is Mercari’s future outlook? Two experts will share their experiences and real stories, and give the listeners concrete strategies that can be put in practice immediately.
Shuji Kawano (Mercari SVP, Head of Management Strategy)
Munehiro Asai (Mercari Management Strategy)
Hitomi Yamashita (Mercari Management Strategy)
How to join the event:Please apply here.