Author – Charles Decker

Genre – Management

I am in absolute love with P&G. It is a great company with some incredibly smart people to whom it gives some really challenging projects at a very young age. I joined them as a summer intern and our team of 3 interns was already given the task of launching Pringles in India. When they gave me an offer-to-return, I knew this was a company I want to start my career with.

Charles Decker, who was with P&G as a brand manager, has penned down 99 Principles and Practices that make this company so special. Peter Drucker had said that P&G has given more CEOs to corporate America than perhaps the Harvard Business School, and this book explains why. So what exactly can we all learn from P&G?

It starts with a single-minded focus on your consumer. Define value as what the customer says it is, and never try to fool her. Do intensive research to find out exactly what she wants. Even try to find out what she doesn’t know she wants! Product, packaging and TV commercials are covered in great depth.

The next set of tips are related to P&G’s legendary skills in Brand Management (P&G invented the soap opera, it was the first company to sponsor TV serials using its soap brand). How to build gorilla (and not guerilla) brands and expanding the benefit without dilution.

P&G culture takes a large portion of tips. We always focused on doing the right thing and there were horror stories on how top performers were fired for one failure of integrity. The culture emphasized strategic thinking and a winning attitude. Data analytics and detail orientation were especially critical. And there is a focus on people management: hire the best at entry level, avoid the temptation to hire leaders from outside, so you are forced to develop and promote from within. And then spend a lot of effort in nurturing this talent.

Charles spends some time talking of the famous P&G one page memo. Good communication skills are all about thinking right, and only then expressing right. The memo becomes a template for strategic thinking and exposes flawed thinking. I recall spending days revising and re-revising the memo, and in the process, getting sharper and sharper about the idea I wished to advocate.

Obviously, Charles has glossed over things that P&G can do better. It also has a large bureaucracy, and over the last few years, has significantly lagged behind peers. It could be insular and inward looking. But then, he is a man in love!

Why should you read the book: So you can reapply in your own workplace the best practices that P&G evolved over 150 years of its existence. Much of my success in roles after P&G is owed to learnings while I was in P&G. I shamelessly re-apply everything I learnt there, whether it is how to hire people, or how to write a recommendation, or how to coach my team etc.