Getting P&G righted again

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Durk jager is probably the most brilliant strategic thinker the consumer package goods industry has seen in at least a decade. From initiatives such as everyday low pricing to jump-starting the long-dormant brand creation engine at Procter & Gamble Co., his contributions have been enormous.

But his directness and impatience in a highly status-conscious organization such as P&G made him a bull in a china shop of fragile egos. He clearly loved the company as much as any P&G manager, but his style was destroying morale.

These things, more than just failing to hit the numbers, are most likely why he is gone. He had become a loose cannon on P&G's once tightly run ship. Now a couple of old naval officers -- Chairman John Pepper and President-CEO A.G. Lafley -- have taken the helm.

"Too much change too fast" has become the new mantra at P&G. Mr. Jager's timetable would have had a company that launched no new brands nationally for 15 years, between 1983 and 1998, launch two dozen into test or full rollout in 18 months. The Organization 2005 restructuring in one year fundamentally changed the jobs and reporting lines of every marketing executive in the company (and virtually wiped out the top management team in Europe). But no amount of turmoil can reset the clocks overnight to "Internet time" at P&G.

Mr. Lafley's rise to CEO was greeted with relief and elation among those who know him. His boosters see in him an executive with the potential to heal internal rifts dating to the Ed Artzt era, and a leader who can find the right direction for a company that really hasn't had a clear and sustainable vision for itself in far too many years.

Mr. Lafley's crew will undoubtedly make agencies work harder for their new sales-based commissions. Among elements of the status quo he may ultimately question is P&G's long loyalty to its roster shops. He was interim-CEO of when that P&G-owned business chose the decidely non-roster shop Deutsch as its agency of record.

Mr. Jager, P&G's most demanding task master ever, may be gone but there's no room for complacency in this marketer's future.

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