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Changing Roles and Relationships


Continuing Lectra’s series of guest blogs on change management, this second instalment outlines the importance of understanding role and relationship changes in the unique environment of the fashion industry.


With good planning, the challenges of change management become one small success after another.


When implementing a PLM, focus is often concentrated on the technology. That is, after all what most customers are looking for when choosing a PLM vendor – the most complete and innovative set of tools, with excellent support. However, it is imperative to appreciate early on the profound impact the resulting changes will have on individual employee roles and relationships between teams. Choosing a PLM vendor with a very strong change management background can help to navigate these emotional waters by providing some best practices and alerting you to potential troublesome areas. But even before embarking on the project, it is wise to have a think about how your teams are relating to each other and what you can do to start preparing the soil.

Listening is Key

So often, corporate management communicates in a top-down manner, which employees can be particularly sensitive to in times of change, when it may feel that change is being forced upon them. Getting buy-in means listening very carefully to your teams – their concerns and pain points, so that they can be addressed and eliminated early on. The implementation of a new technology often results in significant changes in job roles, often starting with the first thing an employee does when starting the day each morning.  Designers will no longer be able to work in silos, and pattern-maker roles may shift. Only by carefully listening to pain points can role changes be thoroughly understood and addressed. It is therefore a good idea to conduct intensive interviews during the scoping phase to anticipate potential resistance and abate fears. Teams take pride in their work and in their brand and can become disconcerted over what they may perceive to be a loss of control in their creativity or execution of their duties.  A true dialog enables real understanding for the necessity of change, and helps management and employees to form a partnership, in a manner that a one-way communication approach can never attain.

Enabling Collaboration

Many companies who have successfully implemented change report that one of the best unexpected outcomes was the increased collaboration between teams. By strategically forming focus groups consisting of representatives of various functions, a sense of shared ownership for the change process is established. Equally important is that brand new relationships are formed. Often the focus group is the first opportunity for members from various teams to interact directly with each other. Not only do they come away from the focus group with a new understanding for each other’s roles, they find they have sense of community and will reach out to each other for advice or sharing of information long after the scoping phase is over. Focus groups not only create active change agents, they set a foundation for continued collaboration between individuals and teams.

Ben Hanson Ben Hanson is one of WhichPLM’s top contributors. Ben has worked for magazines, newspapers, local government agencies, multi-million pound conservation projects, museums and creative publications before his eventual migration to the Retail, Footwear and Apparel industry.Having previously served as WhichPLM’s Editor, Ben knows the WhichPLM style, and has been responsible for many of our on-the-ground reports and interviews over the last few years. With a background in literature, marketing and communications, Ben has more than a decade’s worth of experience, and is now viewed as one of the industry’s best-known writers.