Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lessons from Procter & Gamble – Clear, Concise Communication

Procter & Gamble has long been known for its “one page memo”. There are a number of important reasons why this idea has proven to be so successful for P&G and none of them have to do with saving paper. Actually, while the memo itself is one page there are generally additional pages of supporting documentation that provide additional information in support of the information included on the first page.

The primary purpose has been assumed to be sending forward the information required for a decision to be made by upper management on some business acceleration idea. Procter & Gamble generally operates in a "bottom up" mentality where the people closest to the business and with the most relevant facts are responsible for leading the management thinking and accelerating the business progress. They do that through recommendations, research summaries and competitive analysis that all follow the one page format.

While the first purpose is to lead management and secure approval, there are other important purposes as well. As a new Brand Assistant significant time is dedicated to your training. As it relates to the one page memo, it is training in being able to think. The brevity of the memo forces the writer to be crystal clear in deciding exactly what they are recommending to accelerate the business and the basis upon which that recommendation is made. The training in this area starts early in your career and is extensive. Forty years later, I still have my first P&G memo. It was rewritten 11 times, each time going forward at least one level of management and then coming back with “suggestions” to improve the conciseness, clarity or communication. As I review this memo, I marvel at the time invested in me and know that this was just average for the number of rewrites required. By the way, the recommendation went to the President of the company and received not only approval but a note saying “well written and very clear memo.”

The next purpose is to facilitate review by upper management. The format is identical for all recommendations and all excessive verbiage is eliminated. This may seem to be unimportant. However, in a company with tens of thousands of employees and many, many business acceleration memos being forwarded every day, the only way to insure proper understanding of the communication is to insist on standardization and brevity.

Finally, the clarity of the communication enables all of the departments who are involved to be clear on what is required in their role to execute the business acceleration idea. They are required to have signed off on the recommendation before it is forwarded to management so that when approved, co-ordinated action can commence immediately.

Frankly, the appreciation for the “one page memo” and all that it achieves increases with the time one is at Procter & Gamble. Its usefulness is proven over and over. Having moved on from P&G to run businesses and other companies, I have seen the value of the clear, concise communication and thinking training pay off in those companies too. Many clients have complimented our company on its ability to cut through the mire of information to clearly define the challenges and opportunities and the business acceleration ideas that can capitalize on those opportunities.

For examples of the one page memo format, send us an email. The contact information is below.



Procter & Gamble prides itself on providing outstanding training for its people. Actually, it is a necessity, since the company has a strong “promote from within” policy. As a result, there are a number of significant lessons that have been learned over the course of a 23 year career at Procter & Gamble like I had. This is part of a series of articles which will share some of those lessons. If you would like the benefit of this expertise applied to the business acceleration opportunities in your business, contact us.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management
View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

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