Without a clear and compelling case for change, it is easy for major change initiatives to drift, hit the cliffs and sink. This article recommends setting seven anchors.
If just one of these anchors is missing you can expect danger. The need for each of these anchors comes from real world experience guiding major high-stakes change initiatives including business model turnarounds, post-merger integrations and business culture overhauls.
Read this article, apply these anchors and avoid failure.
The Seven Anchors
- Vision: An inspiring and measurable description of the key conditions for an ideal future state.
- Situation: An authentic assessment of the current state relative to this ideal future state and the implications if change doesn’t occur.
- Milestones & Focus: A clear articulation of the sequence of milestones or inflection points envisioned along this journey and a clear recommendation for where change efforts should focus first.
- Challenge Statements: Precise statements of the specific problems or challenges that must be solved to breakthrough to higher-performance levels.
- Rules For Engagement: Agreements for how people in roles will work effectively together, inspiring trust and engagement. These include formal protocols or agreements around meetings, making decisions and resolving conflicts.
- Accountabilities: A definition of the roles different people, teams or stakeholders will play in driving these changes.
- Actions: The current set of live change initiatives to be assertively managed.
We are not talking theory. For example, anchor number one is a shared vision for success. Imagine that during a meeting a key stakeholder appears unclear or suddenly unwilling to articulate this vision, despite having publically agreed to it just a few days ago. This indicates an anchor has come loose, which should be a major danger signal!
The Best (And Possibly Only) Fulcrum For Change: Positively Engaged Stakeholders
All seven anchors tether you to one goal – positively engaged stakeholders. Unless key players are positively energized and engaged, from beginning to end, failure is likely. To succeed, you have to build a compelling case for change.
Imagine you are leading a major change initiative in a complex, politically perilous environment, like repositioning a value proposition, changing a business culture or merging organizations.
Communication is obviously critical. Objectives you’ll need to hit include:
- Convey urgency. Get the attention of your key stakeholders by explaining what is and is not working.
- Provide vision. Inspire your team by describing a better future state and the changes required to move towards it.
- Build trust. Demonstrate an authentic positive intention.
- Gain buy-in. Build commitment by providing logical steps for moving forward with clear metrics for success. Ask specific individuals to play specific roles, including a core team who will work closely with you to drive and manage this initiative.
How Do You Ensure Stakeholders Are Positively Engaged?
You align your core team around the seven anchors. You discuss them. You map out your strategies with them. You set accountabilities by them.
Bottom line, you and your core team agree to go to great lengths to ensure all seven anchors are snugly set. And you agree to interpret any misaligned anchors as a warning that your change initiatives may drift into the metaphorical cliffs and sink!
An Example Of The Seven Anchors In Action
Here is an example:
A senior leadership team recently missed a major product deadline. The CEO believes their "loosey-goosey" culture is to blame. He knows that he must make a compelling case for change to begin an urgent shift towards a culture of accountability. He gathers his team, and makes the following argument.
(As he makes the case for change, notice how he sets all seven anchors.)
"Imagine what could happen if our team figured out how to transform our organization's culture into one with a much higher level of accountability (Anchor 1: Vision).
This has been on my mind recently as I have been wondering why our team missed a major product deadline. I have been discussing it with many of the leaders who were involved. I now suspect two basic causes (Anchor 2: Situation):
- The first cause I believe has been my personal failure to clarify leadership roles and accountabilities in a more formal way.
- And the second cause I suggest has been the willingness of all of the members of our leadership team to tolerate a dangerous level of ambiguity in our strategies and plans. Frankly, I am concerned that if we don't change these kinds of deeply rooted cultural norms, we may not succeed with our goals.
I don't claim to have it all figured. But I have an idea for a path forward. I believe we should pursue three milestones over the next six months (Anchor 3: Milestones & Focus):
- Agree as a team that our current level of accountability is a real problem and we are going to do something about it.
- Assess our system-of-roles to make sure that every key issue and decision have clear mechanisms for resolution.
- Articulate and implement clear metrics for a culture of accountability – and set rewards to incentivize creating it.
To reach these three milestones, my guess is that we will need to solve a few vexing challenges, for example (Anchor 4: Challenge Statements):
- How are we going to instill a greater sense of accountability in those individuals who currently feel they should be allowed to do things their own way because they deliver financial and other results?
- How are we going to develop stronger leadership and strategic thinking skills throughout our organization?
These are the kinds of challenges we are going to need to solve together. It is very important that we do it in a way that inspires trust and builds engagement (Anchor 5: Rules for Engagement).
The senior leadership team will be meeting next week to draft a high level plan, timeline and accountabilities (Anchor 6: Accountabilities).
Specific steps will be communicated shortly thereafter. Thank you in advance for engaging in this initiative in a positive way. I am personally excited about the possibilities (Anchor 7: Actions).”