Clear Vision + Change Agenda = Success!

It happened again yesterday.  Working with one of my favorite clients (a leadership duo that is growing their business with integrity and compassion), one of the partners said “It’s not your fault when we choose to throw our money away.”  She was referring to the fact that they hadn’t done their homework from our last coaching session.  They had committed to doing it.  They even set aside time to do it.  And when that time came? Like so many of us, they chose to do other routine work instead of digging in for the hard work and deep thinking necessary to envision a different future.

Why is a Clear Vision so important? 

To answer that question, let’s step back a little.  How about some history and context?  These partners hired me to help them articulate their Vision for their business and begin communicating to their staff.  Their business isn’t new.  They have been building together for a couple of years now.  Recently, their parent company spun them off and set them up to grow.  They are fortunate to still be small enough that the parent company isn’t interested in being in the weeds of running their business with them each day.  Their current size and growth potential is such that “Corporate” is providing necessary back office resources like payroll processing, IT infrastructure and risk management.

This is an ideal scenario.  It allows them to focus their attention and efforts on growth.  When we first met, it was clear they know what it takes to bring about growth.  They had clear plans and measures.  They had an established discipline of setting growth goals, identifying the specific actions needed each week to move towards attaining those goals and a cadence of performance management with the sales teams and others.  They had loads of energy and passion for building an organization their employees would be inspired to work for and want to be integral to the company’s success.  What they didn’t have was a way to talk about it with their employees and recruits that actually did inspire them!

Clarifying their Vision and having a methodical plan to communicate is essential to inspiring employees!  After all, what are we asking employees to sign up for and give their discretionary effort towards?  To attract the right talent, we must be able to paint an inspiring picture of the future.  What does the future look like in our minds as leaders?  As the chief executives in their business, what does success look like for their company in 12-18 months?  What gets them out of bed and running fast when their feet hit the floor each morning?  That vision exists!  When we first met, it was still deeply embedded in their subconscious minds.  Our work together has allowed them to bring it to the forefront.  It has enabled them to put words to the pictures in their mind’s eye. 

Translating Vision to Tangible Changes Needed

After a few sessions, these leaders had their Vision on paper.  It wasn’t easy.  Yet, the process wasn’t overly laborious for them to get this step done.  As we started talking about communicating it to employees, they began anticipating the questions employees would start asking:

  • “How are we going to achieve this Vision?”
  • “Are we going to keep serving this set of customers?”
  • “What are the plans for this market that is underperforming?”
  • “Will you be hiring additional Managers and Territory Leaders?”

These questions led us to reimagine their business strategy.  They didn’t see the need to make major macro shifts in their plans.  Yet, anticipating employee questions allowed them to quickly see there were some critical changes they needed to make.

In the next few sessions, we tackled the planning for these necessary changes.  Who would lead particular initiatives?  How would we help employees see what they needed to do differently?  What would be the mechanism for tracking and measuring progress?

As they began making these decisions, it became obvious rather quickly they needed a simple way to summarize these decisions.  They started seeing a need for a conceptual way to frame the changes so they wouldn’t overwhelm their employees.  The Change Agenda!  A simple concept that is nothing more complicated than a summary of the changes you intend to make to realize the future vision you have for your business.

Edison Strategy published a nice example in their blog post from August 2016.  Notice the high level nature of this agenda.  The purpose is to give people a way to think about how we operate today (our “as is” state) and the changes we need to make in terms of mindset and how we operate to achieve our desired future (our “to be” state).

Forrester also offers a nice visual for a Marketing department here.  Forrester’s example gives readers a simple 1-2 word description of where we’re coming FROM today and how we’ll know when our Change Agenda has been effective.  That’s where we’re going TO in the future!

How can a Change Agenda benefit YOU?

Imagine sitting down with your leadership team to create your own Change Agenda similar to the Edison and Forrester examples.  Can you see your team creating it with relative ease?  Who would need to be in the room and how much time should you plan to complete it?  Can you facilitate it yourself or would an external facilitator be helpful?

Now, imagine your organization’s Change Agenda is complete.  Are you feeling a sense of accomplishment and clarity?  How many different ways can you think of to share it with your employees?  Think about all the opportunities to engage and empower your leaders to use it to communicate with their teams.  If the prospect of developing an effective Communication Plan seems daunting or it isn’t in your wheelhouse, use this one to get you started.

How many words is a picture worth?

In today’s VUCA world, there’s nothing more relevant and true than the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  Leadership by soundbyte and communication by talking points is often the daily standard.  It’s also comforting to employees when they can receive clear direction quickly, concisely and with confidence.

In today’s business environment, Clear Vision is your picture and a Change Agenda is the concise summary of your thousand words.

Paige Boyd is an executive coach and change expert in Nashville, TN.  She helps leaders and organizations who want to realize their full potential by breaking through barriers and overcoming challenges that are holding them back.  You can reach her here!