Shake-up goes on, with caution

Far from undoing the work Durk Jager began, new chief Alan Lafley will honour his legacy of change, says Alan Mitchell.

Durk Jager’s ousting has been interpreted as “the revenge of the Proctoids”.

To see it that way is a mistake. We humans have a habit of appointing leaders to start revolutions, bang heads together and sweep away shibboleths, only to react against their excesses and elect a moderate to restore ruffled feathers and keep the essence of the revolution intact. Tony Blair didn’t get elected by promising to go back to pre-Thatcher days. New chief executive Alan Lafley isn’t going to undo what Jager began.

P&G’s big reorganisation, which replaced regional reporting groups with global business units, will almost certainly stay on track even if people’s jobs change a little more slowly. So will moves to encourage faster decision-making and a more entrepreneurial culture.

P&G’s hierarchical “sell and inspect” mode of operating, with each lower level trying to sell recommendations to their bosses, had become a bureaucratic nightmare, instilling an initiative-sapping fear of failure within the corporation.

Likewise, P&G’s obsession with implementing best practice meant “we had best practised ourselves into a lock step”, concedes one insider. There was no room left for experimentation. And new recruits aren’t willing to be indoctrinated with the P&G bible of brand management any more.

Lafley will continue this shake-up, but more cautiously. One of his priorities will be to restore budgetary control. To encourage entrepreneurial decision-making, Jager replaced a rigid, centralised line-by-line approach to budgeting with a policy of spend what you like (within limits) as long as you reach profit targets. Clearly, that went too far, too soon.

But the essence of the problem remains. Companies such as P&G and Unilever invented a marketing system that lasted a hundred years. They know this system cannot last another hundred years.

Before, chief executives could rest content with pushing the limits of this system. Today, they have to invent a new one – and shore up the old one. The result is experiments on the fringes, such as Unilever’s MyHome and P&G’s, along with far-reaching changes at the heart.

But it’s tough. As one senior executive close to P&G’s board commented before Jager’s ousting: “It’s a part of leadership that sometimes you don’t get things right because nobody else has done them before and you don’t have a good model to follow. We are taking it on the chin.” And that won’t stop simply because there’s a new face at the helm.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here