I have been asked many times, since I retired from P&G, what it was like working on a real High-Performance Team. The truth is that it really only happened to me a few times in my 34+ years—but when I experienced the power of a HPT, it was truly unforgettable.
The first time I experienced a High-Performance Team was when I decided (voluntarily) in 1987 to leave the “mainstream” Procter & Gamble career track and join a small group of managers testing an idea called a multi-functional customer team. This group of pioneers included a handful of district sales managers, a brand manager from Cincinnati, a variety of managers from IT, Logistics, Finance, HR (OEM), a visionary leader named Tom Muccio and a bright and tough operational leader named Bill Toler. We were quite a motley crew, all moving to Northwest Arkansas to start this idea of partnering with our fastest growing customer, Walmart.
We had no idea in 1987 if this was a good idea or not, but we all embraced the vision of changing the way we worked with our retail customers to improve our performance in delighting with our joint customer, the Walmart Shopper. It was in those early months and years on the Walmart team that I realized the special relationship I had with our team members. We were truly focused and aligned on exactly one goal - improving our business relationship with Walmart to satisfy our joint Walmart Shopper needs. No matter what function we worked in, the goal did not change. If you asked the IT manager what his job was, he would tell you building our business relationship with Walmart and our joint shopper. No one ever answered this question with the technical details of our roles, but instead spoke to the unified mission of our team.
When I reflect back now, it’s been over 25 years since we started the original P&G/Walmart customer team. We were a unique team with a diverse set of amazing skills, led by a clear vision of where we wanted to go; that resulted in incredible trust of each other and the desire to make a difference both at P&G and at Walmart—and our results were groundbreaking. To me, that is how I define a High-Performance Team.
Written by: Tom Verdery
Soderquist Leadership Executive in Residence
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