The FY2024 Roadmap Behind-the-Scenes Story: A Reason To Be Excited About Mercari’s Future
For Mercari, July is the beginning of the fiscal year, so a company-wide presentation on the roadmap for the upcoming fiscal year is held every year at the end of June.
This year, the presentation of the roadmap for FY2024 was held on June 23. On the day of the event, Representative Director Shintaro Yamada and other executive officers and senior vice presidents gathered to talk about various strategies. After the presentation, we held an open door session as a hybrid (offline/online) event, where employees could freely ask leadership any questions they had about the roadmap. This year was the first time for us to hold such an open door, and the event was a great success, with many pointed questions from employees fielded by members of leadership.
Shintaro Yamada speaks with passion about his thoughts on the roadmap
In this article, we will focus on the processes behind the formulation of the FY2024 roadmap. To give us important context and perspective, we interviewed Machiko Yamashita (@mattilda) and Munehiro Asai (@mune) of the Management Strategy Office, who led the roadmap project. We asked them how the FY2024 roadmap was developed and what kind of discussions took place, taking a deep dive into the behind-the-scenes aspects of the FY2024 roadmap development project, which started about six months ago.
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Munehiro AsaiAs a member of the Management Strategy Office, Munehiro leads the development and operation of company-wide strategy based on the roadmap. As an International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, he has also provided over 1,200 cumulative hours of coaching sessions to internal and external executives, senior managers, and management teams. As of FY2024, Munehiro is responsible for human capital management strategy development and implementation, in addition to Group CEO succession planning.
Machiko YamashitaMachiko joined Mercari in 2015. After working as manager of the Culture & Communications Team and taking childcare leave twice, Machiko joined the ESG project in 2021. Then, in October 2022, after having served as project owner for projects such as the publication of the Sustainability Report, the development of internal training programs, and negative impact calculations, Machiko assumed her current role as manager of the Management Strategy Office, which promotes ESG management at Mercari.
We must continue to face up to inconvenient truths, no matter how uncomfortable they may be
——To start us off, could you tell us your definition of the roadmap at Mercari?
@mattilda：Sure. To begin, Mercari’s current Group mission is “circulate all forms of value to unleash the potential in all people.” The roadmap outlines the path toward realizing this mission. Our role is to align leadership and employees on this path and drive the company forward on it.
Mercari’s roadmap is not an absolute document—it is elastic and continually updated as necessary to adapt to changes in the external and internal environment. Every year around December we start discussions on the roadmap for the next fiscal year. Then, in June when the fiscal year ends, we hold a company-wide presentation of the completed roadmap. After that, we review the roadmap once per quarter, and if necessary, make updates. These review and update sessions are attended by Mercari Group leadership, and we are in charge of facilitating as representative of the Management Strategy Office.
——What kinds of issues came up during these discussions and sessions?
@mune：The FY2023 roadmap basically defined a two-part strategy: 1) work with external partners to create an ecosystem for a circular economy and 2) become a global tech company. Our first discussions were on whether our approach to these two parts was sufficient in light of changes to the external and internal environments and, given those changes, whether these were even the right goals for us to be aiming for.
Both of these discussion topics stirred a great deal of debate about the degree to which they had already been achieved. For example, opinions were divided on the topic of including “work with external partners” in the roadmap, with some execs being of the opinion that no significant progress has thus far been made on this front, so it would be difficult to say that we have achieved this aspect of the strategy because there is still so much more to do. Others pointed out that Mercard and Mercoin have been successfully released, and the ecosystem is gradually expanding, so we should not be making “work with external partners” a goal because there is too much uncertainty.
Left: @mune / Right: @mattilda
@mune：Although both sides were working toward the same goal—achieving the Group mission—it seemed that, based on position and role at the company, participants in these discussions had different perspectives on what should and should not be a priority, and this was largely the cause of the divide. Since neither opinion was objectively wrong, we accepted both and reengaged in the discussion—this time honing in on the foundational idea of what we should even be doing in the first place. After much debate, we came to the conclusion that collaborating with external partners is essential to realizing our mission, and so it was adopted into the FY2024 roadmap as a concrete action item.
The mission that Mercari Group has chosen to undertake is truly tremendous. With this roadmap, which is our guide down the path toward achieving that mission, we will be expected to make medium- to long-term commitments that go beyond immediate sales and profit growth. Naturally, this is no easy task. And, after a series of discussions on achieving high targets for the current fiscal year and on generating profits, leadership finally asked themselves the following question: “Are we really achieving what we set out to do in the roadmap?” This question demonstrates leadership’s dedication toward achieving the mission at any cost. In other words, the roadmap is a sort of “mirror” which serves to show the truth—no matter how inconvenient.
——Wow, so leadership took a really serious approach to those discussions, didn’t they? That reminds me, I heard that you also had some pretty serious talks with the Board of Directors this year. Could you share some details about that?
@mattilda：Sure. Since it’s the executive side that is responsible for discussing matters related to business strategy, what we talked about with the BoD was more about deepening mutual understanding by explaining the ideas and concepts that are prerequisites for achieving the mission. The materials used on those occasions were actually drafted by Shintaro (Representative Director Shintaro Yamada), and even this highlighted the fact that there were differences among the directors in their respective ideas and perspectives.
For example, the first sentence in Shintaro’s draft included phrases such as, “With limited global resources, there is a need to shift away from mass production and mass consumption toward a more sustainable, circular economy.” However, it was pointed out that this could be interpreted to mean that Mercari exists to solve environmental problems. This begged the question, “Well, is that why we exist?” Which meant that we now had to make time for a discussion on Mercari’s purpose!
“Why does Mercari exist, and who do we exist to serve?” “Which direction do we need to go in to achieve something huge?” After a series of heated debates, we reached an answer that can be boiled down to two words: “our mission.” Mercari exists to achieve its Group mission—circulate all forms of value to unleash the potential in all people. As a result of achieving that mission, we will also have a positive impact on the environment, so by committing to achieving our mission, we are committing to that as well.
Through the process of meticulously and patiently reconciling the diverse perspectives of the members involved in Mercari’s leadership, I believe that the roadmap has been instilled with even more passion than before. I think that the process of having series of discussions and bringing everyone’s thoughts together is emblematic of the culture Mercari has fostered in the serious pursuit of the Group mission.
During the panel discussion portion of this year’s roadmap presentation, members of leadership were able to look back fondly on those days of heated discussion with smiles on their faces
——How has the FY2024 roadmap evolved from the FY2023 roadmap?
@mattilda： I think the main thing is that the roadmap now reflects an ESG perspective. Through last year, the Sustainability Team, which handles ESG-related initiatives, and the Management Strategy Office, which handles the roadmap, were two separate departments. However, since the concepts behind “ESG management” and “roadmap management” are essentially the same from the standpoint of Mercari as an entity that continuously produces value, the decision was made to integrate the two strategies. The Sustainability Team, which I was a member of, was reorganized into the Management Strategy Office, and I was assigned to the roadmap development project. I think that reflecting the material topics (key issues) defined in the ESG framework in the foundational concepts of the roadmap has been one of our great achievements so far.
@mune：In terms of executives’ opinions on the FY2024 roadmap, many have given us feedback that they feel the roadmap defines a very balanced approach—while these are stretch goals that we’re committing to, they are still realistic and achievable if we work hard. Shintaro also commented that he has every confidence we will be able to achieve what is set out in the roadmap. All of this has only been possible because the execs were able to narrow down specific actions that must be taken to realize the mission. I also feel that we have finally realized a uniquely Mercari approach to roadmap management that is not just a one-way directive dictated by a few members of leadership. I believe that we could not have reached this point if we had not continued to seriously pursue the challenge of setting a roadmap year after year.
The roadmap could become a tool to ingrain the Group mission into the organization and improve shared belief in it
——I understand that one of the missions of the Management Strategy Office is to ensure that the roadmap is not used as just some nice-sounding words on paper. What has the response been like to the new iteration of the roadmap, and what are your thoughts toward it becoming further established as a core part of the organization?
@mattilda：To be honest, I did not feel a strong personal connection to the roadmap until I became a member of the Management Strategy Office. I attended the company-wide roadmap presentation each June, and of course I knew what was in the roadmap, but that was pretty much it… So, I can imagine that for many employees, the roadmap feels similarly distant. That said, this is the first time I have been involved in the roadmap development process, and I have seen first-hand how much passion leadership puts into it. I hope that by making the behind-the-scenes stuff more apparent, we can make the roadmap resonate with more people.
This is why we also believe that it is important to increase touchpoints between members and the roadmap. Some divisions are already making efforts to talk more about the roadmap to their members, for example by setting aside time to review the roadmap at All Hands meetings (meetings that are attended by all members of a division or company). I believe that, moving forward, it falls to the Management Strategy Office to be responsible for gradually setting up systems that will ensure these kinds of initiatives are leveraged throughout the company.
A casual open-door session held over lunch
After the open-door session ended, we celebrated the 5th anniversary of Mercari’s IPO!
——I have one more question for you both: What do you hope to achieve through roadmap management?
@mune：The roadmap represents the firm determination and serious mindset of Mercari Group’s leadership. Our Group mission (circulate all forms of value to unleash the potential in all people) may sound very abstract and even unrealistic if you hear it just by itself. When the mission starts to feel distant or vague, that’s when you should use the roadmap! I believe that if everyone at Mercari was able to use the roadmap as a tool to strengthen their shared belief in the mission, the organization would become even stronger.
@mattilda： I agree with @mune. The roadmap tells the story of Mercari’s next decade. When I read it again in preparation for this interview, I imagined a future in which we achieve all that we have set out to do, and that gave me a huge boost of positive energy. I would love nothing more than for everyone else to get as excited as I am about this roadmap and let that fuel us to work hard toward realizing it.