The weather in Athens, Greece, is pretty nice late in the year. At the very least, it's a whole lot nicer there than in Cincinnati, Ohio.
It was a Friday evening in September 2002. Filippo Passerini—then serving as the Athens-based vice president of marketing operations and corporate marketing team leader for Western Europe for Procter & Gamble (P&G)—got a call from corporate headquarters in Cincinnati. It was the morning, Eastern Standard Time.
P&G's second in command asked him about his wife and family, and how he was enjoying his assignment in Greece. Passerini thanked him and exchanged pleasantries, but after 20 minutes of idle chitchat, he knew something was up.
“What do you really want?” Passerini asked the executive.
The answer to this question was more complex. At the time, P&G was in the midst of an extremely complicated situation regarding their shared services organization. The company had decided to investigate opportunities to monetize the unit. But the deal was becoming too complex, and employees were frightened about their futures.
Would Passerini have any problem curtailing his assignment in Greece sooner than expected to help fix the problem? How soon? “Monday.”
Passerini was in a line-management role, another step in a deep rotation through P&G's business—the kind of opportunity that, given two seconds to think about it, any aspiring C-level executive would drool over. He had a made a clear decision to see his assignment ...