Happy New Year’s to everyone of NAGASE & CO. and in the NAGASE Group.
I am sure you are looking forward to the new year with ambitious goals and dreams. The year 2017 will be a year in which we spread our wings like a bird. I pray that this year brings many rewards and much happiness to our company and to you personally.
Last year was one of many surprises, many of which are fresh in your memory. However, this is not the time to discuss each surprise in detail. What we must remember is that these surprising circumstances have created uncertainties in politics, economics, and indeed all aspects of our operating environment. We can never predict when or where events will interrupt the peace and order of the world. The year 2016 was one in which geopolitical risks forced us to revisit our assumptions about our economic activities in Japan and around the world.
Nagase ChemteX and other NAGASE Group manufacturing entities made improvements and experienced significant growth, making major contributions to NAGASE Group earnings. The weakening of the Japanese yen beginning in November also factored in improving our results. I encourage each of you to strive for results that achieve, and even outperform, our goals.
We are now operating under our five-year ACE-2020 mid-term management plan. This plan centers on reforming two areas of our business: Profit Structure and Corporate Culture. March will mark the conclusion of our first year under this plan. Have you noticed any changes? Despite facing increasing level of uncertainties, we are structuring our businesses from a new perspective entirely, pursuing initiatives driven by the A of ACE (Accountability). These new initiatives and approaches are vital to NAGASE Group growth over the next five to 10 years. Have your organizations launched these initiatives? Have you begun to change your approach to work personally?
I am gratified to know that many organizations have embraced and spread the message of ACE, taking on new and challenging initiatives. These are projects designed to create new business opportunities. While results may take time and effort to achieve, these initiatives drive energy into our organizations and will become the engine of our growth. It is my hope that you walk tall and work hard to move these initiatives to the next stage during the second year of our plan.
On the other hand, I am disappointed to know that some organizations have yet to take up the challenge, remaining chained to past practices and attitudes. There is no doubt that our operating environment is going through dramatic changes. We cannot grow if we continue with business as usual, no matter how busy we may seem to be in our everyday work. But we still have time. I urge every group and organization that has not begun, or whose efforts have not been sufficient, to launch new initiatives without fear of failure.
The NAGASE Vision includes the key words Identify, Develop, and Expand. I believe that every member of the NAGASE Group has come to embrace and understand what these words mean. I encourage any individual or organizations encountering difficulties in identifying new initiatives to engage in discussions to identify initiatives to pursue this year. If you engage in deep discussions related to markets, products, technologies, and market supremacy, I am sure you will discover clues that lead to new initiatives.
As a NAGASE Group, we are working in numerous ways to reform our corporate culture. This fiscal year, we have already started delegating authority to local managers. This policy not only fosters accountability and responsibility within the NAGASE Group, but it also encourages management efficiencies. These policies tie directly to reforming our corporate culture. I ask for you continued understanding and active engagement.
I recognize that diversity of work styles is an important Group-wide issue. I have instructed the relevant departments to look beyond simply reducing overtime. We must decide as a company what kind of work environment we want to provide to employees. This effort will become another pillar to support reforming our corporate culture.
I want to discuss one more issue today that has been on my mind. Are you working with a sense of urgency? The urgency I feel lately is in response to a sense of crisis regarding the speed of change in the world. Do you believe the NAGASE Group has been responding to this speed of change? We are witnessing incredible developments in technology that are driving rapid change to a degree never seen before. And the pace of change will only become faster. Just five years ago, who could have imaged that self-driving cars would be almost a practical reality at this point? Very soon, we will see the commercialization of space rockets. Change is happening across every industry. If we let our guard down, we will be lapped by the competition, incapable of passing the baton to the next generation. This is the kind of urgency that occupies my mind today.
These thoughts have prompted me to select SPEED-UP as the key phrase for this year. Last year’s key phrase was ONE STEP FORWARD. So many of you took this to heart in your activities. Thank you for your efforts. I hope you will embrace and remember this year’s key phrase in the same way. This is our year to SPEED-UP. Please don’t confuse this idea with being impatient or indiscriminate. My expectation is that you be aware of the timeline for your activities, working to finish more quickly. If we shorten the PDCA cycle significantly, we will be able to synchronize with the changes in the world, even acting ahead of change.
This year also, I will be particularly conscious of full participation and front-line focus, interacting with as many of you as possible. I plan to visit many different locations, and I look forward to seeing you.
Last, I want to extend my wishes for a peaceful and healthy 2017 to everyone in the NAGASE Group and their families.