David Taylor’s challenges as Procter & Gamble’s new CEO will be particularly acute. He will need to complete the next steps of P&G’s “shrink to grow” turn-around by reducing the bureaucracy and reorienting leadership around a new, yet-to-be clarified growth strategy. On the one hand, his transition into the role has been smoothly orchestrated. On the other hand, P&G needs much more than a smooth transition to re-accelerate growth.
Well orchestrated transition
Over the past two years, P&G has moved from many potential CEO candidates to a “Fabulous Five” to David Taylor. He was named CEO last Thursday, effective November 1 with AG Lafley serving two more years as Chairman. This, like Ajay Banga’s onboarding into MasterCard, has been well orchestrated.
Taylor fits the mold
David Taylor is well prepared for this role. He is not so much a strong leader himself as he is a leader of leaders. In a talk at Duke, he said “No one is smarter than the total group”. He likes to set the what and why direction and let others work the how.
His path of learning and accomplishment over the past 35 years at P&G has been stellar and includes:
- 11 years in manufacturing, leading up to plant manager
- Time in marketing where he restarted his career as an assistant brand manager after realizing the importance of marketing at P&G
- Ever-increasing general management roles both in the USA and internationally.
Everything is about to change
The moment Taylor becomes CEO people will stop telling him the truth. Logically, he will be the same person he’s always been, doing the same things with his free time that he’s always done, treating others the same way. Emotionally he’s going to be a different person to all the P&Gers that interact with him. He won’t believe it – until it proves true. Some will leave. All will change.
P&G and Lafley have been to this movie before with Bob McDonald. McDonald was a career P&Ger, carefully groomed and promoted in stages. McDonald followed the tremendous growth that Lafley had generated through acquisitions and a focus on the biggest brands, biggest customers and the biggest geographies. But McDonald also inherited a stifling bureaucracy and a multiplication of branding linkages (like “New Crest with Scope”), which he was unable to deal with effectively. So the board brought Lafley back in as CEO.
What could be different
The most optimistic view is that Taylor will do differently than McDonald.
For one, his manufacturing and engineering problem-solving background and perspective will help him lead the required simplification.
Secondly, where McDonald did not have a crisis to spur change, Taylor gets to pick up the pieces after the divestiture of 100 brands – a compelling platform for change.
Thirdly, P&G can’t go back. After the failed transition with McDonald, they must make this one work.
How Taylor should manage his onboarding
Taylor would do well to think about his onboarding in line with P&G’s three moments of truth.
Zero moment: The time before purchase is about building awareness and learning and interest. Taylor should use whatever time he’s got between now and his announcement to shore up relations with the key people who are not getting the job and that he wants to stick around. He also needs to use this time to plan his approach. The question is how fast he can and should push for the changes that need to be made.
First moment of truth. For P&G brands, the first moment of truth happens in store. For Taylor that will be the moment of his announcement. He should manage his message carefully, positioning himself as a leader of leaders, creating space for conversations.
Second moment of truth. For P&G brands this is about the product in use. For Taylor, this is going to involve re-starting or accelerating critical strategic, operational and organizational processes. This is going to require a combination of art and science to know which ones can be kept and accelerated, which ones need to be blown up and re-started and which ones are missing.
Bottom line, now that P&G has named Taylor CEO, he will find the job more challenging than he ever imagined as he tries to complete a turn-around from the inside.
By George Bradt