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Case study

Speed. Agility. Empowerment: Modernizing Unilever's Operating Model

With 400 brands in 160 markets, Unilever has a storied 100-year history. But to sustain its legacy, it needed to become simpler and faster. At scale.

  • min read

The Story

Unilever's transformation team discusses the challenges and rewards of implementing Agile at scale.


Despite a century of success, Unilever knew that it had to stay nimble to remain competitive. To address this challenge, it decided to transform its operating model by implementing Agile at scale, a massive undertaking for a company of its size. Unilever had previously introduced Agile teams into the organization, but their efficacy was limited and sporadic, impacting certain areas of the organization while neglecting others. To achieve an enterprise-level transformation, Unilever realized it had to modify its ways of working.

It focused on four key initiatives:

  • Development of objectives and key results (OKRs) to create focus, alignment, and impact, starting with the C-suite and cascading down to 32 business units and 40 leadership teams
  • Introduction of quarterly business reviews (QBRs) to connect the strategy and operational cycles and create space for concentrated focus on critical priorities and the removal of obstacles
  • Formation of cross-functional, stable teams responsible for planning how to meet OKRs and empowered to make decisions independently
  • Leadership behavior changes emphasizing psychological safety, which were then modeled by leaders throughout the organization

Unilever now counts 20%–30% of the organization as part of dedicated Agile teams focused on these and other strategic topics.

“We had to make these changes at scale, taking an organization with incredible DNA and setting it up for the future, so we can be competitive, entrepreneurial, and innovative for another 100 years.”

Nicky Sparshott, Global Chief of Transformation, Unilever

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