These moves paid dividends. By 2008, GBS had saved P&G $600 million; it had also led the effort to integrate Gillette, a process that only took 15 months to complete (rather than three or four years) primarily because of the foundation for shared services that GBS had created. More broadly, GBS had created palpable excitement across the firm. The best illustration of this came on New Year’s Eve in 2005 as GBS staff worked into the night to complete the Gillette merger but remained upbeat. To Passerini, this illuminated a broader point about how incremental reform can catalyze cultural change. “We can’t commandeer culture,” he explained. “It is the product of organizational design…. My own leadership philosophy is about launching breakthrough ideas and setting goals. It’s about starting with the end in mind and forcing a pace to deliver…. It’s about raising the energy level.”
Scaling Digital and Analytics Services – 2009-2014
In 2009, another veteran P&G leader, newly appointed CEO Bob McDonald, pushed the needle for innovation and integration. Since joining P&G in 1980, McDonald had served in a variety of the company’s divisions across diverse locales. By the time he became CEO, he appreciated the central role that technology would play in the firm’s future; consequently, his stated objective for P&G was for it to become “the most digitally enabled company in the world” primarily because he thought that technological expertise was integral to building P&G’s brand.
Passerini and his team—which by 2011 included 6,000 staff spread across six international hubs—therefore looked for opportunities to innovate and enhance P&G’s use of data and analytics. One innovation was Consumer Pulse, a program that scanned online customer feedback, allowing P&G to respond to consumer sentiment in real time. GBS also developed a digital prototyping process that enabled the company to test a product more quickly and inexpensively than creating a physical mock-up. Meanwhile, to sharpen P&G’s use of data, GBS worked with P&G’s external data providers to ensure that GBS was receiving information rapidly; GBS then created tools—such as a “cockpit” portal for each employee and the “business sphere” spaces—that allowed staff to examine the same data simultaneously in real-time.
At the same time, Passerini and his team prioritized steps that would make the company’s culture more receptive to data-driven innovation. For example, Passerini and his team—which included numerous communications professionals—positioned their reform in a consistent narrative that highlighted P&G’s rich history as an analytics leader; this implied, Passerini noted, that the change was not just a “flavor of the month” that staff could wait out. Passerini and his colleagues also focused on recruiting people who possessed intellectual curiosity. This was in part because they thought that they could teach technological skills more easily than instilling an analytical mindset; they also knew that inquisitive people would be attracted to P&G. “Throw away your MBA textbooks, and we’ll teach you,” McDonald said, in a comment that encapsulated P&G’s pitch. “We’ll give you another MBA.”
Thus, the innovations and advancements that GBS introduced contributed to cultural transformation. As Passerini said, P&G sees innovation as its “lifeblood.” Similarly, the firm had come to place enormous value on data. “It would be heretical in this company to say that data are more valuable than a brand,” Passerini explained, “but it’s the data sources that help create the brand and keep it dynamic. So those data sources are incredibly important.”
Transitioning – 2015 and Beyond
In 2015, Passerini retired from P&G—but not before identifying and grooming his successors, who, like him, had lengthy, diverse careers at P&G. What’s more, Passerini and other former P&G executives have continued to share their expertise in digital innovation and data and analytics. Passerini is now an Operating Executive with the Carlyle Group and is serving as a consultant to several other firms. The move reflects Passerini’s belief that the lessons he and his colleagues unearthed at P&G can be applied to an array of organizations. The implication is that technological, data-driven, and cultural changes, though daunting, are possible. And that is a lesson that federal officials would do well to internalize.