BOOK REVIEW: “When Core Values Are Strategic: How the Basic Values of Procter & Gamble Transformed Leadership at Fortune 500 Companies” by Rick Tocquigny

When Core Values Are Strategic: How the Basic Values of Procter & Gamble Transformed Leadership at Fortune 500 CompaniesOne of the side effects of buying books on Amazon these days is that you often buy them based on titles, and don’t get the chance to look through them.  For sure, Amazon has a search device that allows you to go through the book, but this is actually quite slow and difficult to deal with, so personally I don’t bother.  The result of this is that you sometime end up buying books that you wouldn’t necessarily have bought, had you seen it in a bookstore.  This is one case in question.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it will sometimes give you a different perspective and challenge you to read in different ways.

Key Words

Sociology, psychology, organizational behavior, corporate culture, marketing, advertising, Procter & Gamble.


Timeless Values PG

“When Core Values are Strategic” is essentially a collection of stories and interviews from people who have worked at Procter & Gamble.  The central theme of the book is that there are certain core values at Procter & Gamble, and that these have driven the success of the company.  Indeed, the word “core values” comes again and again throughout the book, though sometimes it is difficult to understand and narrow down exactly what those values are.  There are a certain number of slogans, such as “always do the right thing,” “what’s right for business, for our customers, and for our companies,” and then, there are ideas about the general running of the company.  The book gives an overall impression that modesty and humility are one of the key things to the success of one of the world’s most well known companies.  People are not always employed from Ivy League schools; they are not encouraged either to be in papers and to use their personal name or to develop some kind of personal brand.  On the job training is key part of the development within the firm. 

Teamwork failure

It´s the team not the individual who fails.

The book also gives some ideas on how innovation is developed within P&G.  People are encouraged to work in teams, and when they do fail, it’s classed as being an overall failure of the team rather than the individual in question.  This encourages people to take risks.  It also allows them to develop the skills through the on-the-job training and to fully integrate the culture of the company.

Two stories are particularly interesting within the book.  The first is the turnaround of the brand Tide, which was a brand so old that Procter & Gamble were considering getting rid of it.  A.G. Lafley, then CEO, decided that, rather than introducing a new brand, they would upgrade it.  The job of doing this fell to Bob McDonald, who then became the now CEO of the company.  Perhaps his promotion is not surprising given that, within four years, the Tide business doubled from $500 million to become P&G’s first billion dollar brand. 

Interview with Bob McDonald

Procter & Gamble's Olympic campaign

Procter & Gamble’s Olympic campaign successfully targeted moms.

The second story considers the massively successful campaign for the Olympic Games.  Procter & Gamble were looking for a way to sponsor the games, but at first glance, it didn’t seem obvious what their 18 major brands had in common with every Olympic movement.  Suddenly, somebody realized that every Olympic athlete has a mom who has supported them and sacrificed for them throughout their lives.  These were the people that were buying Procter & Gamble products.  From there, they decided to launch the Proud Sponsor of Moms campaign for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  This led to sales increases of over a $100 million and Procter & Gamble’s favorability jumped by 10 points. 

The book is light and easy to read but is essentially an extended advert for Procter & Gamble, and there is very little critical analysis of the company itself. If you are thinking of working for the company it will give you some insights and also some of the major names that have built the company up.  If you want to look for a more strategic vision of how Procter & Gamble works, you’d be far better to get the book, Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, by A.G. Lafley, the former Chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, and Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management.  

Interesting quotes from the book:

Early on in your career, you get to be a generalist.

 “Core values are not so much a script to be learned and repeated as an experience to be shared and replicated,” says Cynthia Round.

P&G employees

P&G motto: “Always Do the Right Thing.”

‘Always Do the Right Thing- what’s right for the business, for our customers, and for the company.’

 “Innovation doesn’t end with achievement,” Clasper says after more than 30 years in business.  “It just looks different.”

 “You learn from failures, and P&G lets you fail,” he says.  “The failure was never one person’s, and that was part of the collaborative approach.  There was never just one person who screwed it up.”

If integrity is fundamental, the next is “populate yourself with people who have strong customer advocacy orientation, leadership orientation, or a passion for winning.”

 “We live in a world where people often want to create complexity because it makes smart people feel smarter.  But at the end of the day, P&G had this wonderful way of taking complex problems and coming up with simple, direct solutions… Their approach was, ‘Here are the basic things you need to do well.’”

Succesful leaders listen

Leaders should first observe new environment before taking any strategic decisions.

Brandon has some advice for leaders making big transitions.  In the first few months, just “shut up and listen and learn.”

 You can’t change an organization “until you understand the culture, and you can’t understand the culture until you spend some time with it, get a feel for what it is and how it evolved, what areas are going to be easy to change, and which areas are going to be more difficult.”

“The great thing about Procter is there is very little formal training.  It’s mostly on-the-job training, and from day one, you’re taught that you own the project.  Don’t be looking for someone else to blame; it’s your responsibility to get it done,” she says.  “And you also learn that everything’s within your power to sell if you know your facts and have passion for what you believe.”

Bachelder also gained a lot from P&G’s ego-free atmosphere.  The company had leaders “whose names weren’t in the papers,” she says.  “They grew up from humble beginnings; they weren’t all from Ivy League schools, pedigreed and credentialed.  It was a humble environment for developing leaders, and you were encouraged to lead for the benefit of the enterprise, not for yourself.

 “90% of the success of Procter & Gamble is about doing the right thing all the time and really doing the hard jobs relentlessly,” he says.  “But there is room for inspiration and innovation and risk, and I was always encouraged in that when I was there.”

Procter & Gamble's Olympic campaignDuring the Games, the program delivered more than 8 billion impressions, P&G’s favorability jumped 10 points, and sales increased over $100 million.  This experience led to a remarkable 10-year global Olympics partnership. 

“’Mohan, you need to do only three things: Promote the business, promote your team, and promote your boss.  Then guess what’s going to happen to you?”

It has produced an inordinate number of managers who have gone on to lead some of America’s leading companies.  Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, Jeff Immelt at GE, Jim McNerney at Boeing, Scott Cook at Intuit (Quicken/QuickBooks/TurboTax), and Meg Whitman (formerly at eBay)

A majority of P&G alumni (62%) supported the notion that “Learning by Doing” is the best way to grasp functional skills. 

A very large majority (70%) of respondents said the confidence in their own skills to lead and train is what accounts for P&G’s long-term commitment to learning and the success of employees in various roles after they leave the organization.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Business, Corporate Behavior, Corporate culture, Culture, Management, Sociology, Strategy, USA

One response to “BOOK REVIEW: “When Core Values Are Strategic: How the Basic Values of Procter & Gamble Transformed Leadership at Fortune 500 Companies” by Rick Tocquigny

  1. We have a big Procter & Gamble fabric here in Mechelen, Belgium! A very interesting post!

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