Sample Case Study Paper on E-commerce at Williams-Sonoma

Projects that involve changing the way in which different businesses operate have become major mechanisms for transforming organizational performances. However, project managers are usually faced with challenges that can cause the project to fail. Hence, it is important that the project managers use three key organizational lenses during designing and implementation of the project. These three lenses examine the entire project and reveal the interaction between the project process and other elements of the organization. The three key organizational lenses are strategic design lens, political lens, and cultural lens.

The Williams-Sonoma Company was able to apply these lenses during their e-commerce project to correct some of the mistakes, and to ensure successful development and implementation of the project. Strategic design lens was the first lens applied by the company. This lens enabled the project manager to support the project strategy structure and to stay within the guidelines of the organizational design. To achieve this, the project manager must map out the design of the project (Carroll 6). The company’s internal organization before the development of the e-commerce project consisted of the catalogue and retail divisions. These two divisions operated independently even though the products were 70% similar. The two divisions shared a warehouse, but each division had its own inventory, workers, and accounts. The project leader made sure that even with the introduction of a new way of running operations,  they stayed within these guidelines of operating independently. The new system was linked with the company’s legacy system.

The project manager used the strategic design lens by dividing the project team into three teams consisting of application development, merchandising, and marketing teams. The application development team were in charge of coordinating the project activities. Under this team, there was a design team that ensured easy online shopping for the customers. In order to achieve this objective, the design team ensured that they understood both the customers and the product, thereby designing an online shopping experience that was compelling to various customers. This team was also responsible for planning the project activities. Hence, the team came up with the project’s short term and strategic goals. It decided which product should be produced, when it should be produced, and where it should be produced. It also outlined the project objectives, which are in line with the organization’s mission and vision. The merchandising team was in charge of managing the inventory. They made sure that the inventory level was not too high or too low. This is because if the inventory level was too high, the inventory holding cost would increase, and as a result, the general cost of production would increase thereby lowering the company’s revenue. A low inventory level on the other hand led to limited supply. This means that the customers will not be able to get the products they want at the time that they want them. Since it is a new project for the company, the last thing the company needed was dissatisfied customers. Therefore, the company had to strive to ensure that the customers are satisfied by their services in order to build a good customer base. The company could only achieve this by delivering to customers their orders when they needed them and producing quality products. Therefore, the merchandising team had a big role to play to ensure the success of the project.

The other team that designed this project was the marketing team, whose main objective was to ensure that the product reached the customers. The products were advertised to attract potential customers. It was therefore the responsibility of the team to ensure that the customers were fully aware of the different brands the company offers, the benefits of these brands and their respective prices. The team received and replied to mails from potential customers and partners. Since e-commerce was a new way of operation that the company was just introducing and most of its customers were not familiar with this kind of operation, the customers inquired about these changes. It was therefore the responsibility of this team to ensure that such inquiries were attended to accordingly, in order to enhance the customers’ relationship with the company.

In order to ensure an unforgettable customer experience, all three teams had to work together. There was effective communication between the three to ensure the overall strategic goal of the project was achieved. This is because the processes were intertwined and a delay in one department meant a delay in the entire project. Hence, the departments had to support each other to ensure a successful project implementation.

The second lens, political lens, was used by project managers to find out the relationship between different stakeholders in the project. Through this lens, the project manager was able to see who among the different stakeholder’s support and commitment was most needed. The project manager was also able to identify those stakeholders who were resistant to the change and evaluate if this resistance would have any impact on the success of the project (Rabelo 56). Using this lens, the project manager was also able to examine the stakeholders’ reason for resistance. After understanding the relationships between the project stakeholders, the project manager was then able to persuade the stakeholders to provide the resources that were needed for the project. Once the stakeholders invested in the project, they became part of the project and therefore stayed committed to the project.

The first attempt to introduce e-commerce into the company was met by resistance from the executive members, mainly because of past failed marketing initiatives that the company had implemented. Most of the executive members did not think that going online would increase the company’s revenues and hence were sceptical about the idea. Only three executive members were fully behind the idea of an e-commerce strategy for the company. Most of the executive members’ participation was minimal and they did not offer any piece of advice to the project team. Using the political lens, the project team members were able to discover this resistance from the executives and therefore decided to look for a means of persuading the executive members. A few months to the launch of the program, the project leader prepared a detailed project proposal to present before the executive team. The project team travelled to Tennessee where the company headquarters were located to have a meeting with the company’s executive team. During the meeting, the project team were able to persuade the executive by clearly explaining the cost of the project, how it will affect different channels in the organization, and the projected revenues. The executive members were actively engaged in this process and for the first time, they became fully committed to the project. Hence, using the political lens, the project manager discovered resistance from the executive, examined their reasons for resistance, and was able to persuade them to accept the project and invest in it.

The cultural lens, which is the third organizational lens, reveals the mechanisms and symbols that are important to a company. An organization culture is made up of artefacts, stories, symbols and certain behaviours (Rabelo 56). Hence, to ensure success of a project, the project manager must understand an organization’s culture and its assumptions and then align the project’s objectives to fit into the organization culture. Williams-Sonoma culture is in profit making and no stakeholder would be willing to invest anything unless the return on their investment is guaranteed. The project manager encountered challenges in assuring stakeholders of the company that the implementation of the new project will make them more money. As seen from the case study, most of the stakeholders were hesitant because they had not been assured of guaranteed profits. However, this attitude changed after the project manager presented a detailed project proposal, explaining the cost and benefits of the project.

Good leadership skills and teamwork are other critical aspects of a successful project. Good leadership will ensure that the project runs smoothly with minimal interruptions. A good leader is one who is democratic and assumes the position of a group member. A good leader will involve his/her team members in the decision-making process and as a result, the final decision will be a contribution of every member of the team. A decision that is made by all the team members will not face any opposition since everyone participated in the decision making (Sims 192). In addition, the team members will feel part of the project and therefore they will be committed to the success of the project. A good leader also communicates the possibility of change to the members before initiating the change in order to get their opinions. A leader takes the position of a team member by not letting his/her staff be motivated by him. Instead, he/she lets them draw motivation by assigning them duties and letting them perform the duties on their own; this will create committed and responsible workers (Kise 201). Committed and responsible workers will not abandon their duties because they are committed to their work.

Working in groups ensures fewer conflicts in the organization because teamwork improves the workers’ relationships with one another. This is because when people work together, they become more invested in the project and in the work, especially in terms of personal interest. Teamwork also leads to increased efficiency as less time is spent on a particular task. In addition, working in groups ensures maximum results because the end result is often the outcome of diversified opinions.

In the case of Williams-Sonoma Company, the project leader did not involve other stakeholders in the decision-making procedure, and hence, resistance from the company’s executive met the introduction of the project. This is because they knew nothing about the project, and judging from the previous attempts, they did not welcome the idea of online selling because they thought it would fail. Moreover, the company practiced minimal teamwork, which led to poor decisions being made. In addition, we see workers who are not committed to their work; they resign, leaving the organization in a difficult situation of looking for someone to fill the vacancies. This indicates a bad relationship between that particular worker and the team leader. It also indicates that the worker does not feel part of the project and does not care whether it is a success or not. Had the project leader involved his/her workers from the beginning, the worker would not have resigned because ensuring the success of the project would have been his/her responsibility.

In conclusion, project managers should always use the three organizational lenses before the initiation of any project. They should also involve the other stakeholders in every step of the project. The project manager for this company should have access to the different challenges that the project was likely to face before deciding to initiate the project in order to avoid obstacles during the project implementation. The project manager should also assess and explain to the stakeholders what the project is trying to achieve, its goals, and what will improve in the organization as a result of the project. Moreover, the project leader should encourage teamwork. This is because through teamwork, a more informed decision will be made as several heads are involved in the process. The project leader should not lead by giving orders, but by delegating duties. Through delegation of duties, the staff members will feel appreciated and hence will be more motivated. This kind of motivation will lead to high-standard work by the staff and as a result, increased productivity, which in turn leads to increased returns. Lastly, the project leader should involve his/her team members in the decision making process to ensure less resistance during any organizational change. Hence, to ensure a successful project, the project leader must possess quality leadership skills and be able to use the three organizational lenses effectively.

Works Cited


Carroll, John S. “Managerial Psychology Fall”. 1 Jan. 2006. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.

Kise, Jane A. G. Intentional Leadership 12 Lenses for Focusing Strengths, Managing Weaknesses, and Achieving Your Purpose. New York: Skyhorse, 2013. Print.

Rabelo, L. “Using the Three Lenses Framework to Observe and Analyse Projects.” International Journal of Project Organization and Management 4.1 (2012): 54-57. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.

Sims, Ronald R. Leadership Succeeding in the Private, Public, and Not-for-profit Sectors. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2005. Print.