Leadership Means Testing Your Limits
CIO Straight Talk|Issue 8

A senior IT executive in the traditionally male world of brewing capitalized on her project management and problem solving skills to generate value for a new and unfamiliar part of the business.

When I was growing up in Alabama, you couldn’t buy Coors beer. People would leave the state to bring it back and that created a lot of mystique around it. Today, having spent the last 35 years at Molson Coors, I have to say that the company is still something that you’d go out of your way for. It’s a pretty great place to be.

I started working for Coors as an accountant and held various positions in finance and accounting for nearly 20 years—corporate reporting, sales and marketing finance, planning and forecasting, and supply chain finance, to name a few. When I took a role leading finance for the supply chain, I put together a business case for a new inventory system. We were the world’s largest brewery but we had been taking manual inventory counts weekly. And there was a lot of inventory! It was going to be a massive SAP project and the brewery vice president and company controller suggested I run it. Even though I wasn’t the most technical person on the planet, they were both rather insistent. It was my first IT project management role, but it wouldn’t be my last.

It was a big risk – and it turned out to be one of the best career moves I could have made. When I moved into this area I wasn’t an expert—far from it. I had to move from being a manager to being “leader.” In my previous roles, I knew accounting and finance from the bottom up.

But IT was new to me. I knew how to ask questions, listen, and leverage ideas, but I had to rely on others’ knowledge and experience in order to do detailed problem-solving and get things done. The project expanded and soon replaced some of the Y2K work we were doing. I wound up overseeing the largest ERP project implemented at Coors up to that point. (We’ve done bigger ones since then!) After we successfully completed the project, I had the option to go back to finance, but the CIO asked me to stay in IT. He thought I could leverage my approach and my problem-solving skills to get benefits of the kind that we had been struggling to achieve from our big technology projects.

A Fresh Approach

Ultimately, I created a business case for delivering technology projects differently. In the past, the company had approached them as a technical exercise. They didn’t look at the role of change management, process transformation, and business ownership in deriving value from these implementations. I created an internal change management and process design group inside of IT, a strategic move that still exists and today serves the company well in terms of project execution.

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