Purolator Courier's CIO: Why We Shuffled Execs

Purolator Courier's CIO: Why We Shuffled Execs

When it came to a major overhaul of its business operations, the company allowed leadership of the initiative to migrate from one executive to another as the project moved to different phases. In the midst of it all, Jim McDade found himself in the role of prime contractor.

McDade said that his biggest challenge in the prime contractor role was working with the tough timeline and budget on the project.

"There are some very nervous and exciting times when you're burning through probably a half a million dollars in expenses every couple of days at peak," he said. "You're really trying to ferret out where you are and whether or not you're making the progress you expected to make. Are we moving the ball down the road? Are the numbers in line with the budgets, and are they correct? Because in projects like these, there are always surprises. So how do you handle those surprises?"

More Changes at the Top

When the build phase kicked in, McDade assumed responsibility for the project. He now spent two days a week at the CGI location, while Cooper returned to head office to help prepare the business for the incipient changes.

Though McDade's duties didn't change a great deal, there was an important symbolic significance to the leadership change.

"We wanted to make sure people knew we weren't going to be in continuous scope creep. So my taking that lead role was, as much as anything, to close the door on scope changes," said McDade. "We're living with what we've got. Yes, there's probably three or four per cent that we didn't get.

But the 96 per cent we got is a heck of a lot better than what we had, and where we're going in the future will be where we want to get to." During the build phase, McDade's project leadership position touched on many levels of the organization.

"What I tried to do is take the 'managing up' role myself and get the people with me to handle the 'managing down' roles," he said. "I had a co-lead from Accenture and she managed down quite a bit, making sure our issues were resolved. I would take the outcomes of that -- the good news, the bad news, the decisions we needed to make -- and manage those up. I'd explain, for example, why we're in a particular situation, what we're doing about it, why it's not a big deal, and how we're planning to get back on track."

But McDade shrugged off the notion that he was the man in the hot seat. "There are a lot of people in critical positions in a project like this," he said. "Everyone's the meat in the sandwich. It just depends on where you're looking from."

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