For one of the nation’s leading apparel retailers, private-label merchandise is a high-impact differentiator in a competitive marketplace. Its product group is responsible for designing six seasons each year, contracting all manufacturing and selling to hundreds of internal customers companywide. Having recently introduced a rigorous new product development process, the company realized that some gaps remained: Key processes needed to be more fully developed and detailed. Handoffs between functions needed to be clarified. And additional change management was needed to reinforce the new processes across the product group. The company engaged Point B to organize the design of solutions to bridge the gaps, facilitate process design sessions, and bring our change management insight to this group of over 300 talented professionals.

Learning from the front line

We began by identifying the processes that needed to be developed and building cross-functional teams to define them. We also recommended involving front-line employees in the process design teams. For the first time in the group’s history, these employees were fully engaged in defining how they should do their work. We supported them by developing process standards and templates to provide structure, recommending solutions when process issues arose, and facilitating decision-making to finalize processes. This front-line insight became foundational to the success of the process design.

Closing the handoff gap

It takes many diverse talents working seamlessly to turn a designer’s sketch into a best seller on the sales floor. Yet handoffs between functions in the product group were a sensitive issue that suffered from a lack of clarity. We coached team members to design more detailed process flows that addressed hand-offs between departments. When team members came to an impasse, we provided objective ways to analyze the handoff and make decisions that served a shared performance goal. With a clearer understanding of “both sides” of the handoff, members defined processes with the detail to improve productivity, efficiency—and team cohesion, too.

Bringing systems into sync

Early on in the project, we learned that the product group was also in the midst of upgrading its product management software. We quickly pointed out the benefits of aligning these two projects more closely. As part of this alignment, we collaborated with the project manager of the system upgrade so that employees could be trained on the new processes and product management system at the same time.

Making change “stick”

By involving front-line employees in defining their own processes, we built successful change management into this project from the start. We also coached executives and managers to become more effective change agents and decision makers by recommending objective solutions to politically sensitive issues. The final product development processes now equip hundreds of people to meet their shared goals: increasing product quality while improving productivity, efficiency and skills.