In the previous Supply Chain Matters commentary, we called attention to Procter & Gamble’s latest challenges related to strong currency headwinds and the need for more agile business and supply chain strategies. Today, the Wall Street Journal published an added byline article related to P&G’s ongoing challenges, specifically David Taylor, the reported senior executive who has emerged as the top contender for the ultimate CEO position at P&G. As we have pointed out in other commentaries, this path to the CEO role includes a background of supply chain operational experience.

According to the article, Taylor began his 34 year career at P&G as a production manager that produced diapers and sanitary napkins. By his early thirties, he was a plant manager. Then there was a career twist. Sensing the P&G corporate culture, Taylor ascertained that the road to broader P&G leadership responsibilities needed to include sales and marketing experience. Taylor elected to abandon his plant manager role, and opted to an entry-level assistant brand manager for the Pampers brand.

The rest is obviously a stellar executive track record rising in the ranks of marketing. In 1998, Taylor departed for China to oversee haircare, tissue and paper towel business along with antic-counterfeiting initiatives. In 2001, he assumed a Vice President role in Geneva overseeing P&G’s family care brands. In 2003, he returned as Vice President of family care for North America and by 2005 was running the global business. Taylor is credited with making the rather difficult decision to shed P&G’s pet food business.

On February 1, Taylor will assume leadership for P&G’s overall beauty businesses and according to the WSJ, will become responsible for 43 percent of P&G’s overall sales and nearly half of its profits.

We however want to highlight for our readers, the most revealing portion of this WSJ article:

Current and former colleagues say the complicated balancing act of managing the machinery and employees inside manufacturing plants has given Mr. Taylor superior leadership and interpersonal skills

The takeaway for our readers, especially young aspiring students, is that even if a corporate culture values the path toward senior leadership primarily from a background in sales, marketing or even engineering, operational and supply chain focused leadership skills do indeed provide important competencies.  If Mr. Taylor ultimately is chosen as P&G’s next CEO, he will bring such skills and understanding of supply chain to that leadership role.

We have noted such supply chain experience in the current or soon to be CEO’s of Apple, BMW, Home Depot, McCormack Foods and other firms large and small. Supply chain experience can indeed provide a path to top. Skills developed either in baseline leadership, cross-functional and cross-business leadership, operations, supplier or product management lend themselves to broader management skillsets, particularly when such experience spans multiple global assignments.

Thus, for our student readers, take comfort in the continual evidence that skills acquired in supply chain focused roles do matter for career progression.

Bob Ferrari