Talks@P&G – The keys to making your organizational culture an asset to make change happen

By Fran Cherny
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Fran Cherny delivered a keynote to the leaders of Procter & Gamble Hair Care, one of the biggest multinational consumer goods corporations in the world. Below you’ll find the first series of short clips from his talk.

In this keynote Fran talks about the keys to making your organizational culture an asset to make change happen in a complex and uncertain world. He describes how culture can be an accelerator or an obstacle depending on the way that people operate in the company.


What creates culture?

Do you feel the disruption coming?

If it affects you it’s your problem

The way we filter the world


What creates culture

Fran Cherny:
There’s a book from a guy called Tim Parks that I recommend, so I can send it also, that’s called An Italian Education. He’s a Brit, from England, with his wife. And he’s asking the question how the hell my little kid is becoming Italian? Because they were living in Italy. Yes. So how that’s happening? So who has kids here again? So who has kids? Who lives in another country than the one you are from? Many of you. Do you see your kids becoming Swiss or US or from Panama? Do you see that? Yes. How that’s happening? So I want you to tell me how that happens. So if you read the book, you’re going to see which are the sources for cultural creation. That’s why I recommend that. It’s a story, just a story.
So which are the sources? Tell me some. So how do you think kids learn how to become Italian, Swiss, US? Yes? Friends is one. Good. Schools. Good. Educational system. We want to talk about that a lot. What else? Neighbours. Sports. Language. What else? Food. Yes. What else? Sorry? They need to belong. Yes, but where do they get the need to belong? To belong where? What else? Role models. Which are their role models? Teachers at school, parents, celebrities. Where are the celebrities usually? Good. Media. Media, media, media, TV, movies.
So why I always hated the Russians. When I was a kid, because … is there any Russian here? I don’t hate you. I’m Cherny. I’m coming from there. But that’s where my family comes from. When I was a kid, I was watching Rocky. But that’s how the media impacts us. All the movies in the Cold War, they were all about, and I live in the west world, so that’s what, so didn’t you see the same movies than me? Not maybe Rocky, but another ones. So do you get that? There’s one missing that is very important.
Religion. Yes. What are, so now let’s extrapolate all that to our organization. What’s religion? What do you put on the walls? Yes. You put the these are our beliefs, this is what we are for, this is our values. That’s what you stand for. Yes. Then usually, like in religion many times, not necessarily what it said. It’s what’s being done. Yes? Who are the parents? The bosses, the leaders, yes. You are looking at … so if you believe my definition of culture, it means that you’re going to look at your bosses and do exactly what they do, because that’s the way to get there. Do you agree? That’s the main source.
Which others? So any other media. What’s media? Where’s the communication team here? And even you, you are sharing stories with people all the time. Yes? What worked, what didn’t work, the failures, the success. You are all the time. You are part of the media too.

Do you feel the disruption coming

Fran Cherny:
If you are making money, you are going to be disrupted. Let me tell you how it works. There’s a lot of people in Silicon Valley right now thinking how the hell they going to take your money, yes? So while we’re doing this. That’s how it works. That’s how it works. So that’s what Silicon Valley is about. And there are going to be new Silicon Valley’s everywhere. So Silicon Valley is an ecosystem where the culture that is there, it allows things to emerge. So maybe there are other Silicon Valleys in other places of the world. But the question is, is that the right ecosystem for them to flourish? Or people need to go to Silicon Valley, for example. So if you are making money, you’re going to be disrupted. So that’s how it is. So stop pretending that one day this is going to end. It’s not going to end.

Fran Cherny:
Imagine you are in a boat here now in Venice trying to go to the airport or somewhere, and then something goes wrong with the boat. And the driver, he says, “Well, it’s not my problem. You know, I’m not the engineer.” So the problem is that the engineers didn’t do well and then you start sinking. Yes, that’s what we do every day. This is my point. If it affects you, it’s your problem. That’s the game-changer. If it affects you, it’s your problem. Doesn’t matter who created the problem. Yes, the competition is creating problems for you. It’s up to you to see what you’re going to do about it. If you’re not part of the problem, you cannot be part of the solution. And the key thing here is how you explain the problem. If you say competition X or this X, then you’re out. You need to put yourself in the story. “I was not able to prevent this when it happened.” Do you see how I’m changing in the language?

The way we filter the world

Fran Cherny:
If I’m listening to someone thinking that he or she’s a stupid person, no matter what they say, no matter how I put my hands and I look into their eyes. Whatever is going to come out from the mouth is going to be a stupid idea. Do you agree? Because those are, for example, even with nationalities, we are also working on diversity. So we have pre-concepts. We have ideas here that will filter what we are listening. So it’s not true that you will communicate, negotiate, or coordinate actions in the same way unless you change what is down there.

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