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— by Pat Foran, editor
I met Claude Mongeau during a May 2004 visit with CN executives in Toronto. At the time, he was CN’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, and leader of the strategic planning process. I talked with him about a range of subjects, from service-plan discipline to strategic planning to continuous improvement. We also talked about culture, or what it was that made CN “CN.”
“Something at CN is different — there is a willingness to change that sets us apart from other railroads,” Mongeau told me. “That willingness to change is what will get us to the next level.”
Leadership would play a role, too. And Mongeau, who signed on with CN in 1994 and was named president and chief executive officer in 2010, has been bringing it for the past two decades.
During his tenure, Mongeau helped shape and drive CN’s rail-acquisition strategy — from the 1998 Illinois Central Corp. acquisition to the 2009 Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Co. deal — which extended the Class I’s North American reach.
After he became president and CEO, he asked the precision railroaders of CN to continue to be change agents, to continue to stretch — to become “supply chain enablers,” as he told me during a 2011 interview. CNers have stretched; Mongeau has instilled a railroad-wide focus on supply-chain collaboration.
Along the way, he has kept the Class I on the service improvement track while the railroad has remained razor sharp on the operational execution front.
And despite the current sluggish economy, CN has continued to invest in the railroad for the long term in order to “raise the bar on efficiency and customer service,” as Mongeau characterized it earlier this year.
Raise the bar, Mongeau has. He’s continued to nudge the next-level needle. And we’re honoring him for it.
Last month, Progressive Railroading and RailTrends® named Mongeau the 2016 recipient of our annual “Railroad Innovator Award,” which recognizes an individual’s outstanding achievement in the rail industry. He is scheduled to receive the award during the RailTrends conference, which will be held Nov. 17-18 at the W New York Hotel in New York City. Congratulations, Claude. We'll see you in New York City.
For more information on RailTrends, log onto www.RailTrends.com.
Note: After the June issue of Progressive Railroading went to press, CN announced that Mongeau would step down at the end of June. Chief Financial Officer Luc Jobin was named Mongeau's successor effective July 1. Mongeau, who last year was on medical leave for six months after he was diagnosed with a rare type of tumor in his throat, said he would leave the post due to health reasons.