Case Study: Global IT
and Retail Collaboration
One of the world’s largest eyewear firms
designs, makes, and sells eyeglass frames,
lenses and sunglasses. It serves several
thousand retail outlets. The Information
Technology (IT) Department of the North American
Division had a reputation for being more
interested in their technology than their
customers. They missed deadlines that affected
sales and production, without regard for the
impact this had on colleagues, co-workers,
investors, or customers. The company hired
Dorrier Underwood to transform IT into a
department that would function as a strategic
partner with retail, a partner that offered improvements,
solutions, support, and direction.
- Adversarial relationship between Retail and IT.
- Culture of taking orders and
deferring to one person for action and answers.
- Frequent delays and breakdowns
each time new technology was rolled out.
- Lack of accountability for the impact
technological breakdowns had on retail.
- Poor communication and collaboration
with other departments (including world HQ).
- IT project agendas disconnected from
Dorrier Underwood begins cultural and leadership initiatives at the executive level to
build strategic alignment and create cultural practices where team members hold each other to
account both up and down the organization.
In this case, the leader of Organization Readiness was committed to transforming the IT
Department into an asset for the company. He entered into a coaching relationship with
Dorrier Underwood to elevate his own effectiveness at building and developing key
leaders in IT, then introduced us to an IT executive whom he felt it was critical we
impact: a highly competent ex-Navy Seal to whom everyone took IT problems and who could be
counted on to get them worked out.
The IT executive’s command-and-control way of
operating led to others in the department acting
like order takers, waiting for, and blaming each other when things did not go
according to plan. IT expected and accepted delays and breakdowns when it came to their
projects. Retail simply had to “deal with it,” because that’s “the way it was.”
As the IT executive and his senior team aligned their actions with the company vision,
they discovered and seized new opportunities that surpassed what the
leader of Organizational Readiness originally
envisioned for the department, developing new practices for communication and collaboration
that had an impact on the team’s 170 direct reports.
For example, as the IT executive became aware of how people perceived him, he created openings
for other people to contribute, saying things like, “I’m not always going to be here, so I’m
interested in the actions you take when you see there’s something to do.” In the process, he has
been promoted four times, and the people on his team are making bold suggestions and
recommendations for process improvements.
Previously, the European owners of the
company wanted to interact only with the IT
executive. He has now
developed one of his direct reports to represent
the department on multiple IT briefings with the European owners. These
briefings, by someone who was previously
thought “could never” address the executive team, have been remarkably
About 15 months into our engagement, the North American IT
Department implemented a
company-wide upgrade at their more than 7000 retail outlets and made their deadline with
minimal disruption in the stores. This was a new
high-water benchmark for the department. As a result, store managers
are starting to view IT as a strategic partner rather than a thorn-in-the-side, and the IT
Department is now recognized by the company as a top performing team.
In addition, the new partnership between IT and Retail, has
already produced two services that no other eyeglass retailer offers: the ability to try out frames
on a virtual model of yourself and the ability to go to any retail outlet in the worldwide
system and call up your prescription. This is representative of the team’s shift to thinking
strategically and holistically, not just operationally.
According to the Senior Vice President of IT, “Dorrier Underwood’s work was essential in
having me provide the kind of leadership that was needed to create a team. I needed a team
that could withstand the pressure of company-wide projects and still produce the
desired results on time. The way we handled the inevitable breakdowns actually increased
collaboration and partnership throughout the company… It was through the work with Dorrier
Underwood that the team gained the commitment and stamina to see it through and do it the
IT’s exceptional performance and the openings created through IT’s collaboration with Retail
have resulted in the company requesting that Dorrier Underwood expand its work to additional