The Power of Three: ChevronTexaco -- A New Company, Time and Place

By Sheila Taylor, Vice President, Marketing, North America Products
ChevronTexaco Corporation

Professional Business Women of California Conference

San Francisco

I really do appreciate the opportunity to be with you today. I have been to a couple of these conferences before, and I found them very invigorating, and I hope you do as well. This is a terrific panel of women that I get the opportunity to moderate. The theme is the power of three.

The power of three is just not Chevron, Texaco and Caltex, but it's really about a new company, a new time and a new place.

ChevronTexaco is really greater than the sum of its parts. The opportunity for networking, for camaraderie, for professional growth, has been expanded in a way that is really astounding. And I hope that you will continue to have a chance to experience that going forward.

We are a new company. Although we're not the biggest oil company in the world, we are No. 1 in a number of critical areas. We're the No. 1 producer in the Caspian region; we're the largest U.S. ambassador in sub-Saharan Africa; the biggest private investor in Venezuela; the largest oil producer in Argentina, Indonesia, Angola and Thailand. These are pretty critical areas if you think about the world oil economy, and we are in the lead position in those.

From a downstream perspective, we are a major marketer and the No. 1 or 2 position in most of our markets in the United States under the Chevron brand. We are the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in most of Asia through the Caltex brand. And under the Texaco brand, we are the No. 1 position in most of our markets in Latin America and also in Europe.

We have over 25,000 stations on six continents. I grew up in heritage Chevron, and I have been in the downstream organization for most of my career in a U.S. domestic business. And I never got the chance to work internationally. Today, although I manage the U.S. business everyday, I'm working globally with my colleagues around the world. So one of the things I think is interesting for all of us to think about is that even if we don't relocate internationally, in a global business we have the opportunity to work globally and to extend our horizons.

It's a new time. I'm going to celebrate my 20th anniversary this summer with ChevronTexaco. The presence of women in this company is remarkably different today than it was 20 years ago. When I started with the company, there were no women on the company's Management Committee. Today, I think we have seven, which is about 12 percent of the Management Committee. If you just look around at the number of women with titles like manager, general manager, vice president, president, the numbers are huge. And we don't work for a bank. Getting those titles in ChevronTexaco is hard.

It's a new place. We have panelists today that represent all three companies that came together to form this new company. They are from all different parts of the world with different cultures and different backgrounds. Sixty percent of the ChevronTexaco employees work outside of the United States. Twenty percent of our employees are Asian. It's really a very different world than any of these companies were previously. Caltex previously was focused on Asia; Chevron on the United States; Texaco probably was the closest to being a truly global company. But bringing them together has a completely new power.

So what does this new world require? Well some things are obvious. I'm not going to talk about them. I'm just going to restate them.

  • Most important to be successful in this company is to deliver results, right? The people I know who spend their time worrying about performing in a job they're in are the ones who always get the new jobs, rather than the people worrying about the next job they're going to have.
  • Teamwork -- It goes without saying. It's part of The ChevronTexaco Way, it's part of our culture and heritage and history in all three companies prior to the merger.
  • Thinking about the enterprise -- Worry about the bottom line at ChevronTexaco, not just your business unit. Those are all givens, the fundamentals for the way we work. But what is it going to take on a more personal level to be successful?

You're going to have to answer that for yourselves, but I've got a couple of things that are going to be critically important.

... the company has become more flexible, but we need to be flexible as well.

The first is flexibility. We don't live in a world that's all black and white. We don't live in a world that's yes or no. And we don't live in a world where my circumstances are the same all the time -- at least I don't.

I remember when I started working for the company in Marketing. The big question was: Are you mobile, will you move? That question is one that you got a chance to answer once in your career, and if the answer was no, you were dead. They never asked you again. And if you said yes, it meant you would move any time, any place that the company wanted you.

Fortunately, we've come a long way since then. Mobility is still a very important aspect of being successful and able to contribute to a global company. But I think the company recognizes that it's not an off-or-on thing. Mobility, just like our overall work and family balance, changes as our circumstances change.

So the company has become more flexible, but we need to be flexible as well. We need to think about the point where we are in our own lives and where we are with our own commitments and responsibilities in addition to work. And one personal bias: It's not a work/life balance; it's a work/home balance, because work is as much a part of my life as home is. So, it's really balancing the whole. And it's at different times in your life when different things will matter.

A colleague of mine in the audience has moved many, many times for the company internationally as well as domestically. She's got an infant at home as well as a three-year-old. And there was an opportunity in Saudi Arabia for a position that would have been a promotion that she would have been an excellent candidate for. We asked her, "Would you be willing to move at this point and time for this job?" And she said, "You know, at this point and time, to go to a Muslim country with my two young children, I don't think I could personally be very successful as an American woman. I'd like to pass on this one, but that doesn't mean that the next opportunity that comes up won't make a difference for me."

So there's flexibility. It's thinking about the point in time and where you are.

I have another colleague who was unable to move last year because she had a daughter with special education needs. So she turned down the opportunity to be considered for a promotion in Singapore. Today, she says, "I am now mobile again because my daughter has gotten over the hurdles she needed." In fact last year, she made a deal with her daughter: "I'll tell the company that I won't move until you get out of middle school. The deal is, when you get out of middle school, we're going to have an adventure together as a family." And so the daughter said, "No problem, mom. The only part of the deal that I want in addition to staying here now is that when we do move, we have to move to a neat place."

So, flexibility is to think about your life holistically. Flexibility is to recognize the changes and to work with the company on that and to be open to the adventure and the opportunity -- and to be realistic. If you want to continue to contribute in increasing responsibility, that is not going to all happen here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We need to quickly get to 80 percent solutions, implement them and then change course and correct course as we learn and as we go.

The other thing is comfort with ambiguity. We are a company that is primarily analysts and engineers, and we just love working for the 100 percent solution. And we always want more data, and we always want to analyze it more. The reality is, we need to be faster, quicker and nimbler than our competitors. We are not as big; we need to be smarter. And that does not include finding the 100 percent solution.

I don't know anything in life where you get to 100 percent perfection. By the time you get there, the world will have changed, the question will have changed, and your answer will now be wrong even if it started out right.

We need to quickly get to 80 percent solutions, implement them and then change course and correct course as we learn and as we go. So we need to be rapid learners and be comfortable with ambiguity. Does that mean that life is going to be comfortable? No. Does that mean that accountability and governance are going to be crystal clear? No. We need to be comfortable with that. We've got to say "I can live in this environment. I can thrive in it. My job is making money for ChevronTexaco, and I know what it takes to do that. I know how to network, and I know how to live in this world that is more ambiguous than one I've lived in before."

Listening is more important than ever. And it's listening for understanding.

Finally, the personal characteristic that I have to work on quite a bit is that I tend to be pretty straight forward, and I have been told at times in 360 feedback that I don't necessarily listen very well. Listening is more important than ever. And it's listening for understanding. The difference between having knowledge and having wisdom is really listening and really understanding what people say and understanding what they don't say.

I was very familiar with the culture at Chevron. I was familiar with how people worked and the implications of what they said and did. That world has changed, and I have had to stop and back track a few times because of some of the cultural differences between the different companies and the different nationalities that I work with.

We have a global synergy team that has been working very hard at replacing our retail automation network, which is where you do the FastPay worldwide. They're a fantastic team at finding huge synergy opportunities. We're using the ChevronTexaco Project Development and Execution Process (CPDEP), which means we look for alternatives, we question them, and we pick the best alternative and move on.

We did that on a major decision in this project, and about three weeks after that, I heard from two major stakeholders that they didn't agree with the decision. I said, 'How did we get through phase 2 of CPDEP and try to understand the alternatives without this coming up?" They said they talked to their team members who were not heritage Chevron, who did not understand the philosophy of CPDEP very well, and those team members felt that the drive to get the global synergy was so great that it was not appropriate for them to question alternatives. But in my frame of reference, that is the whole point of phase 2 of CPDEP.

So, as a Decision Review Board member, I wasn't listening to the team members who were being too quiet. I wasn't hearing that they weren't challenging alternatives and really getting to the best ones. So, we stopped, moved back and reexamined that decision with the full participation and the full challenging of all members to come to the right decision, which was a different one.

That was a big lesson for me. I need to think about listening. I need to think about probing. I need to understand the frame of reference for all people in a much greater way. And it's more difficult for me personally now, and I would expect it would be similar for others."

There are also business differences. In my business, it was interesting to hear that in Singapore they changed prices at the service stations for the first time in a year. We change them about five times a day in the United States. There are lots of differences, both in the business and in the culture, but I think our challenge is to understand them.

So those three qualities that I just described -- flexibility, comfort with ambiguity and listening -- are going to be important, but there's a fourth one that I think is probably the most important. It's another personal perception that is critical to our ability to succeed as a company and our ability to succeed personally. And that is to be adventuresome; to take risks.

It is really important that we not have ourselves in such a mold that we feel like we know the future. What we need to do is aggressively go after what we know the business to be, but we also have to leave ourselves open to opportunity and seize opportunity when it comes up – and then take risks.

In late 1997 -- I was in the Marketing Department at the time -- my boss came up to me and said, "We'd like you to lead a study team looking at how we manage IT (Information Technology) in the company." My first question was "what's IT?" My second question was "why me?" And he said, "We're looking for a good business manager, and we think you're that. We want someone who doesn't come in with a lot of biases about how we've done things in the past." And I said, "OK."

That was a fairly risky proposition. I knew nothing about the subject matter; though I did know a lot about Chevron's businesses. I worked with the most fabulous team I've ever worked with. We made a lot of substantive recommendations, and from that, I got the opportunity to help lead the IT group in transforming the way we manage IT in this company.

My definition of a good job is one where I can make a difference to Chevron's bottom line, enjoy the people I work with and be challenged. And by that definition, I will never have a better job than I had for those five years. Because we made a huge difference to Chevron's bottom line, but there was some personal risk involved.

You're going to hear from some women today who have done the same thing. You need to be open, recognize opportunity when it presents itself, and seize it and go forward.

Updated: May 2002