Compass at Anchor Blue–a Perfect Fit!

Elaine Gregg
Senior Vice President, Chief People Officer
Anchor Blue Retail Group

At Anchor Blue Retail Group, we target young people whose wardrobes are based on denim and jeans. At peak season, we employ about 5,000 people in Anchor Blue stores and Levi/Docker outlets. After a few years of market share and revenue decline, we knew we faced a challenge. For years, we had been locked in the past and stifled with antiquated processes and systems when we should have been paying attention to customers and building for the future.

When a new leadership team was brought in to effect a transformation, we started with a commitment to invest in developing competencies and changing the behaviors of people throughout the organization. One of the first things we wanted to do was to create leaders and store managers who would become stellar at engaging people in our strategy. In the competitive retail industry, we knew our strategy had to deliver significant growth in market share and revenue and our leaders were the driving force in this change.

We firmly believed that overhauling infrastructure and crafting more customer-centric strategies were only part of the solution, and that equipping people in leadership and management positions with the information and skills to bring that strategy to life would ultimately make the difference. The plan was to develop leaders who could excel at engaging people to grow store sales. Our approach focused on knowing the business by understanding the big picture, engaging peers and teams in the strategy, and sustaining the culture.

To do this, we went beyond rhetoric and invested heavily in making this happen. In addition to creating two new functional areas, People Development and Communications, we guaranteed that everyone in the organization would have a “great boss.” We didn’t make this commitment lightly, and worked with Root and its management development program (Compass) to ensure that we could deliver great bosses – who understood the strategy, the customer, and their role in developing people and engaging them to make a difference.

The Compass program’s framework combined capability development with a key (but often missing) strategic component. The modules were customized – which was critical – but what made this program different from any other leadership training is the Root methodology that allows people to come to their own conclusions. They reach their own realization that change is necessary and desirable, and that they need to own it. Telling people to change just doesn’t work. But allowing them to discuss views, issues, and information and figure it out for themselves is incredibly powerful and ensures that people internalize the information and take action.

We introduced the workshop to our district managers and senior office managers in a two-day conference in late 2007 and have subsequently started to cascade it to our entire leadership team over several weeks, one module at a time.

Post-conference feedback was incredibly positive, and we’ve already seen reductions in turnover, more focus from our district managers, and improved execution across the entire business. We anticipate that momentum and results will build as more and more people attend the workshops.