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When Ed Trolley, a career line manager, was tapped to lead T&D for a Fortune 500 company, he asked each of his new T&D colleagues, “What value would you say our function adds to the business?” Several stared back at him as if to say, “Come again?” A little embarrassed for them, Trolley rephrased his question: “How does T&D help this business make, sell, and distribute products that satisfy customers and earn profits?”

They’d then nod, seem to catch his drift if not his precise meaning, and start to tell him about their work, often with great passion. “Haven’t you read the reports?” they’d ask. “We offer thousands of programs ...

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