Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten Group, Inc.
Hopes and goals are not the same thing.
Both may inspire you. But goals are what will ensure your success.
When you set goals, you create a framework for your forward progress. I call the process “getting to the spreadsheet.” This doesn’t mean you need to click open a file every time you take an action, but it’s the concept of setting distinct, concrete steps and tracking your steps methodically that will eventually lead you to your goal.
The spreadsheet process compels you to set your goals and then reverse engineer the steps needed to get there. This way, instead of a vague but pleasant hope for the future, you have a map to success. You can take big steps or small steps, you can use an actual spreadsheet or some other format, but if you’re working toward an established goal, you are probably headed in the right direction.
Reengineering our process for call center success
We’re doing this now at Rakuten Mobile. Our call center for the service is busy — people want to know how to connect to our service, how to insert a SIM card, they have questions about fees. Every day, thousands of individual customers are looking for someone to help answer their questions.
It’s great to have so much interest, but running a call center can also be expensive. When I asked the team to figure out how many calls each staffer currently handled in an hour, a specific number came back to me. My response: Let’s aim to triple that.
When you don’t set goals, even the best ideas can fade and fail. Goals are what keep everyone on track and moving forward.Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten Group, Inc.
To get to that goal, we have had to reengineer our process, looking for ways to improve our system and empower our customer support team. This has cut down the time it takes to handle each call. By working on our efficiency, we’ve already doubled the calls staff are effectively handling per hour — and we have that triple mark in our sights. As we further leverage AI, chatbots and other cutting-edge technology, we will move even further along the efficiency curve, setting higher goals along the way.
We will do this by working our spreadsheet — setting our goals and reengineering the process to achieve them, one cell at a time. If you can frame your goal on a spreadsheet, you are going to win.
It is just a matter of time.
From embracing “Englishnization” to putting a person on the moon: It all starts with a goal
I know this because it’s not the first time I’ve used this process. When I wanted Rakuten to embrace English as our language of business, we faced a huge challenge. We were a company based in Tokyo. While most of us had studied English in school, some of us were a long way from being able to use it as our primary language in the workplace.
Instead of just making an open-ended ask that everyone become more proficient in English, we laid out the challenge on a spreadsheet.
We set a goal for our employees to achieve a certain TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) score by a certain period of time. And then we reverse engineered the process — what would it take to get us to that goal? We encouraged total immersion, we set up English conversation groups, we supported each other to get to the goal. We have achieved our goal of making English Rakuten’s language of business. And I knew we would achieve it, because we set a goal as a team and mapped our route to achieving it.
When you don’t set goals, even the best ideas can fade and fail. Goals are what keep everyone on track and moving forward. When U.S. President John F. Kennedy encouraged scientists to put a person on the moon, he didn’t say, “Let’s try very hard to put a person on the moon.” Instead, he said, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade.” It’s the goal that starts the clock and gets everyone to think seriously about how that goal will be achieved.
If you have a vision for what you want to achieve, set a goal, set a deadline and put your process onto a spreadsheet. When you do that, you set yourself up to win.
At Rakuten, our process starts with our core principles. As a company, we are deliberately reconnecting to our core principles: including holding weekly reading and Q&A sessions on Business-Do, the book I wrote to capture these principles for success. These are turbulent days in which we are called upon to make important decisions that may affect the health and safety of those around us — we all need core principles to help guide us.
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