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Prize winner
Authors: Tsedal Neeley
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Originally published in: 2011
Version: 3 April 2013
Revision date: 04-May-2018

Abstract

Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten, (Japan's largest on-line retailer), is at the helm of an organization that is rapidly expanding into global markets. In a critical stride toward becoming the world's No 1 Internet services company, Mikitani announces Englishnization - a highly publicized aggressive two-year English proficiency mandate for all 7,100 of Rakuten's Japanese employees. Mikitani's goal is not only to ensure the success of the organization, but also to break down linguistic and cultural boundaries in Japanese society. At the time, only an estimated 10% of the Japanese staff could function in English. The stakes are high: those who do not reach their target score by the deadline risk being demoted. As Englishnization progresses, loss of productivity, lack of time to study, and conflicted views among managers impede staff success. Some employees even question the relevance of Englishnization, particularly for staff working exclusively in Japan. Fifteen months since the announcement, the vast majority had not yet reached their target English proficiency scores. With the deadline rapidly approaching, Mikitani must decide how to proceed to ensure the success of Englishnization, the continued global rise of his organization, and even the future of Japan.

Time period

The events covered by this case took place in 2009-2011.

Geographical setting

Region:
Asia
Country:
Japan

Featured company

Rakuten
Employees:
5001-10000
Turnover:
USD 4.266 billion
Industry:
Retail

Featured protagonist

  • Hiroshi Mikitani (male), Chairman & CEO

About

Abstract

Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten, (Japan's largest on-line retailer), is at the helm of an organization that is rapidly expanding into global markets. In a critical stride toward becoming the world's No 1 Internet services company, Mikitani announces Englishnization - a highly publicized aggressive two-year English proficiency mandate for all 7,100 of Rakuten's Japanese employees. Mikitani's goal is not only to ensure the success of the organization, but also to break down linguistic and cultural boundaries in Japanese society. At the time, only an estimated 10% of the Japanese staff could function in English. The stakes are high: those who do not reach their target score by the deadline risk being demoted. As Englishnization progresses, loss of productivity, lack of time to study, and conflicted views among managers impede staff success. Some employees even question the relevance of Englishnization, particularly for staff working exclusively in Japan. Fifteen months since the announcement, the vast majority had not yet reached their target English proficiency scores. With the deadline rapidly approaching, Mikitani must decide how to proceed to ensure the success of Englishnization, the continued global rise of his organization, and even the future of Japan.

Settings

Time period

The events covered by this case took place in 2009-2011.

Geographical setting

Region:
Asia
Country:
Japan

Featured company

Rakuten
Employees:
5001-10000
Turnover:
USD 4.266 billion
Industry:
Retail

Featured protagonist

  • Hiroshi Mikitani (male), Chairman & CEO

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