Case Study: Global IT
and Retail Collaboration

Situation

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.

Issues:
  • 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 business needs.
Approach:

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.”

Results:

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 well-received.

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 right way.“

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 departments.

“Dorrier Underwood’s work was essential in having me provide the kind of leadership that was needed to create a team...the way we handled the inevitable breakdowns actually increased collaboration and partnership throughout the company."
Senior IT Vice President,
International
Retail Corpotaion
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