When A.G. Lafley came back for a second tour of duty as Procter & Gamble CEO, stockholders, retirees, employees and all the stars and satellites in the P&G universe gave him a standing ovation. This was the boss who doubled sales and increased market value by more than $100 billion between 2000 and 2009.

But while the audience cheers for an encore, the man on stage may be a bit grateful for a mulligan. To understand what Lafley is doing now, it helps to look back at his first act leading the company that has been the leading brand for our region in philanthropy, social networks, politics, arts, corporate culture and character.

Lafley seldom talks to the press, especially this time around. He’s too busy with his head under the hood, tuning up the $83 billion company that has defined and led Cincinnati since Ivory soap first bobbed to the surface in 1879. Although media reports say he will stay only “two or three years” this time, a P&G spokesman says Lafley set no such time limit. As he finishes his first year in May, his goal is to streamline P&G by eliminating about half of its brands.

Although he has no time for interviews, Lafley’s comments on leadership in Harvard Business Review articles in 2009 and 2011 and his reflections on his previous turn as CEO offer insights on his thinking this time around. For example:

“Determining which business we should not be in is an ongoing effort that calls for continual pruning and weeding,” he wrote in 2009. “Disposing of assets is not as sexy as acquiring them, but it’s just as important.”

Lafley wants to shed 80 to 100 brands, to focus on the core 70-plus brands that deliver 90 percent of sales and 95 percent or profits. Even Ivory Soap, the Model T of P&G, could be up for grabs, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

P&G has become densely layered. The stock has languished at 4 percent growth compared to 12 percent for the S&P 500. After the sudden resignation of CEO Robert McDonald in May 2013, some insiders said Lafley was surprised to find things much worse than he expected. Others said McDonald was too nice to make the tough decisions that were necessary.

That sounds like an echo of Lafley’s first time around, when he was chosen to replace CEO Durk Jager in the midst of a crisis. On March 7, 2000, P&G announced it would not meet third-quarter earnings projections. The stock crashed $26 in one day, falling from $86 to $60 a share, and the dizzying dip continued for a week. At the end of a month, Jager was replaced by Lafley.

“At 6 p.m. on my first day as CEO I stood in a TV studio, a deer in the headlights, being grilled about what had gone wrong and how we were going to fix it,” he recalled in a 2011 interview. “Everyone was looking for answers, but the truth was that I did not yet know what it would take to get P&G back on track. Welcome to the job of CEO—a job I’d never done before.”

He learned fast and became one of the best leaders in a company that has boasted only 12 CEOs in 120 years—all promoted from within. The former U.S. Navy supply officer got P&G shipshape again by returning to basics, such as values and standards.

“Coming home to our global headquarters in Cincinnati, I was struck as I walked the office halls by how many employees were glued to their computers and how much of each day people spent mired in internal meetings with other P&Gers,” he wrote.

“I realized that over time our company’s values had evolved to implicitly place employees’ needs ahead of consumers’, leading to an internal focus.”

By the time he left, he had extended the reach of P&G from one third of the world’s 6 billion consumers in 2000 to more than half by 2009.

But then there’s the mulligan.

The first time around, Lafley also took on heavy cargo that made P&G wallow. The biggest deal among many was Gillette, at $57 billion. And now he plans to unload brands such as Duracell Batteries, which came with Gillette.

Lafley also did something visionary and revolutionary in 2000. As soon as he was promoted to CEO, he asked the board of directors to start looking for his replacement. With CEO turnover increasing nationwide, creating a succession plan was the most important thing a board can do, Lafely wrote in 2011.

“I was sensitive to the fact that I was the first ‘accidental CEO’ at P&G, selected in a hurry after the sudden departure of my predecessor.” (Jager had been the top boss only 17 months.) “The directors believed that they—and I—had other more important things to do.”

But Lafley pushed them to meet regularly with top executives at every board meeting. His own task was to be the trainer, “to groom more horses for the race. I wanted horses that could run in all kinds of conditions and on all kinds of tracks.”

He helped the board develop candidates, rank them and test them in “crucible” assignments, often overseas. He had monthly free-ranging personal conversations with each of the 15-20 on the short list. “The executives were expected to choose the agenda and to lead the conversation. But they also knew that any question from me was fair game—that I wouldn’t be bashful about my expectations of them or mince words when giving them feedback,” he wrote.

He watched as the group reacted. “Some move on—they leave to become CEOs at other companies. Some decide that they are going to run the race to the end,” he wrote. “Others get to the point where they know they’ve made the short list but choose to opt out of the race altogether.”

At the end, McDonald was not just chosen by Lafley. He rose to the top of all the lists “every year from the program’s inception in 2001 to his election in 2009.”

For many reasons—pressure from an activist investor and a stubborn recession—McDonald did not work out as well as Lafley and the rest of the P&G universe hoped. McDonald moved on after four years. The former Army Airborne Ranger is now leading the Veterans Administration—a monumental makeover.

Lafley has credited his succession plan for improving leadership throughout P&G, the reason “sales doubled, profits quadrupled and P&G’s market cap increased by more than $100 billion, making it one of the 10 most valuable companies in the U.S.”

Yet, when it came time to replace McDonald, the board’s succession plan produced… his former boss, Lafley.

Call it an encore or do-over, Lafley has a second chance. The Cincinnati region and the rest of the P&G galaxy are counting on him to choose an outstanding replacement who will lead P&G and our region’s Power 100.