Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2012

Henkel: Building a Winning Culture

by Robert Simons and Natalie Kindred

Abstract

This case illustrates a CEO-led organizational transformation driven by stretch goals, performance measurement, and accountability. When Kasper Rorsted became CEO of Henkel, a Germany-based producer of personal care, laundry, and adhesives products, in 2008, he was determined to transform a corporate culture of "good enough" into one singularly focused on winning in a competitive marketplace. Historically, Henkel was a comfortable, stable place to work. Many employees never received negative performance feedback. Seeking to overturn a pervasive attitude of complacency, Rorsted implemented a multi-step change initiative aimed at building a "winning culture." First, in November 2008, he announced a set of ambitious financial targets for 2012. As financial turmoil roiled the global economy, he reaffirmed his commitment to these targets, sending a clear signal to Henkel employees and external stakeholders that excuses were no longer acceptable. Rorsted next introduced a new set of five company values—replacing the previous list of 10 values, which few employees could recite by memory—the first of which emphasized a focus on customers. He also instituted a new, simplified performance management system, which rated managers' performance and advancement potential on a four-point scale. The system also included a forced ranking requirement, mandating that a defined percentage of employees (in each business unit and company-wide) be ranked as top, strong, moderate, or low performers. These ratings significantly impacted managers' bonus compensation. In late 2011—the time in which the case takes place—Henkel is well on its way to achieving its 2012 targets. Having shed nearly half its top management team, along with numerous product sites and brands, Henkel appears to be a leaner, more competitive, "winning" organization.

Keywords: performance measurement; performance appraisals; human resource management; values; organizational transformations; pay for performance; strategy execution; Values and Beliefs; Work-Life Balance; Organizational Culture; Human Resources; Performance Evaluation; Compensation and Benefits;

Citation:

Simons, Robert, and Natalie Kindred. "Henkel: Building a Winning Culture." Harvard Business School Case 112-060, February 2012.