Mark Peabody didn’t start out to be the leader of an effective, award-winning global fleet team at 3M, the multinational, multi-brand corporation.
He had worked in project-based and developing technology positions for 20+ years when he took on the U.S. fleet manager role and soon thereafter was told to “Put on a global fleet hat. Here’s your team.”
Led by Peabody, that group built a dedicated “very, very strong, team-oriented organization,” that earned the Global Fleet Team award at Automotive Fleet’s 2022 Global Fleet Conference in Miami.
Authority & Responsibility
From the beginning, the 3M global fleet team was given authority and responsibility to govern the “fleet space,” Peabody says. “Nobody said, ‘Here’s what you need to do.’”
The team’s three objectives were simply to protect the company, improve the employee experience, and deliver good value to the company.
Building a team structure managing a 10,000-vehicle fleet was the first priority. A St. Paul, Minnesota native who grew up three miles from 3M’s headquarters, Peabody found his previous 3M experience in project management, process engineering, new product introduction and costs-savings initiatives intrinsically valuable for the global fleet team.
“We spent the first several months meeting. We’d benchmark and talk; benchmark and talk,” says Peabody. “We asked ourselves, ‘Where can we add value?’ and brainstormed ideas such as vehicle and vendor consolidation.”
Ultimately, the team organized along function and geographic location: sourcing and facilities leaders from four global areas – U.S./Canada (USAC); Latin America (LatAm); Europe/); Middle East/Africa (EMEA); and Asia/Pacific (APAC).
Fleet leaders in each country or region report to their respective global team member.
A global project leader and a data leader have been added to the team. The project leader, says Peabody, brings highly valued leadership skills and vision to test initiatives or conduct evaluations.
Providing “critical” fleet statistics, the data leader produces quarterly and annual reports with input from country and area leaders, including data not available through fleet management company portals.
“We take a snapshot of what vehicles we have, how many and what types, their applications, and spend,” Peabody explains. “We have that data visible to us, which is very helpful when making decisions at the global level.”
Communication & Sharing Info
In addition to sound structure, communication, information sharing, and collaboration are essential to a global team.
The 3M team meets online each week to share information, ideas, updates, and challenges. “Part of the beauty of meeting every week with the team is that you’re able to update, adjust, and align together,” says Peabody. “If you’re separated and not talking to each other regularly, you’ll have one team charging full steam ahead and running into problems, while another team is doing just fine. We learn from each other.”
One of the team’s early tasks in 2020 was creating a fleet global policy.
“Implementing the global policy, we ran into issues and challenges in South America. We took the feedback and revised the policy,” says Peabody. “We have to be flexible as a global team because there’s a lot we may not know –variability area to area, country to country.
“I think our strength is constant collaboration and communication,” agrees team member Adie Lu, LatAm facilities leader. “Having weekly meetings with all team members to share experiences and best practices is essential to our strategy.”
The team’s weekly meetings also provide opportunities to listen to and have group discussions with one another, says Peabody.
Some weeks, he says, they discuss goals; other weeks they talk about challenges. “But we’re hearing and listening to each other. What I try to do is bring out voices from the team.”
“We all pull together, and the respective skills of the individual members lead to excellent results,” adds team member Jeannette Töller, EMEA sourcing leader.
In addition to weekly meetings, the global team holds gatherings with fleet leaders to communicate and gather feedback and input on challenges they face and how the team can add value.
“As a global fleet leadership team, we also take bits and pieces that we hear, then create global communications to give guidance and specific actions on such issues as sustainability and budget challenges,” says Peabody.
Follow-up communication is also important for Peabody. “As we deliver results on goals, there’s appreciation and documentation of people’s efforts: ‘Here’s what we did and thank you for all your effort and work.’”
Alignment & Stakeholders
Finally, Peabody says that alignment within the fleet operations as well as other corporate leaders and stakeholders is critical to a team’s success.
That alignment – knowledge of and agreement with global fleet’s strategy and initiatives – “really helps,” says Peabody. “Because as we implement some of our initiatives, they touch these other company organizations. It reduces the ‘surprise’ factor that could become a roadblock.”
Developing a strategic plan last year illustrated the value of securing alignment. The long-term visioning and prioritizing was a “phenomenal exercise” for the team, recalls Peabody.
“We had 15 meetings to align between April and October with different leadership in EMEA, APAC, certain executives, the sustainability officer, and HR.”
The response was resounding: “Wow! I didn’t know you were doing all these things. This is good work!”
‘Good & Stable Team’
“We do have an awesome team,” says Peabody. “I couldn’t get a better team.”
According to Lu, the team’s strength is found in “a clear strategy and communication from global team; our team’s dedication allows us to work faster in our projects. Also, I can mention innovative thinking and collaborative attitude.”
In organizing a global fleet team, Lu recommends, “Be clear in your goals and objectives; define the right path by basing your decisions on what is ethical and aligned with corporate guidelines; consider regional and local concerns to advance your global fleet strategy.”
Peabody advises other global fleet leaders to build a strong team structure with the authority and responsibility to govern that space, then share fleet’s accomplishments.
“It’s not showing off, ‘Here’s what I’ve done.’ Rather, ‘Here’s what truly we have done together.’ It’s not even fleet, not even facilities and services. It’s we, our team, with our stakeholders combined.”