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The Key to Achieving Your Organizations’ Goals: Executive Alignment

Think back to a couple of years ago when your organization set its ambitious 2020 vision. Each business unit was clear on the targets and what needed to be achieved to get there.

There is a lot that we can learn from those that achieved their 2020 goals – especially as 2025 visions are being solidified. For starters, who was responsible for ensuring senior leadership was all moving in the same direction? Often, executive teams assume that alignment will naturally happen once targets have been set, but that’s rarely the case. Daggerwing Group used this approach to help one client not only meet their 2020 goals, but overwhelmingly exceed them. Here’s how that happened:

In July of 2019, six CEOs from Education for Employment (EFE) – an affiliated network of locally-run non-profit organizations across eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – gathered at the London offices of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

They came together to assess how they’d been able to track against their 2020 goal to create 60,000 first jobs for youth in MENA, an incredible feat considering the circumstances. With the largest youth population in the world, the young people in the region continue to face socio-economic constraints, political instability and the highest unemployment rates, globally.

Daggerwing’s relationship with EFE began in June of 2017. Earlier that year, the EFE global team and affiliate CEOs received a sophisticated and robust 2020 strategic plan. Albeit capturing the aspirations of the network, the operational realities and the constant tug of the day-to-day pressures made it almost impossible to fathom how each affiliate, operating in their own silo, could tackle these strategic priorities.

Daggerwing worked closely with each affiliate CEO to uncover the deep-rooted and systemic barriers that were preventing them from making progress. Together, we co-created a clear plan that was practical and actionable, allowing each affiliate the opportunity to make a national impact and reach their 2020 ambition.

But the work didn’t stop there. In the autumn of 2017, the team convened in Marrakech, Morocco to agree on the opportunities each affiliate CEO could individually and collectively implement. To get there, we used our proprietary executive alignment approach and tool to facilitate the working sessions. With the nuanced challenges in mind, we were able to successfully identify what was needed to achieve the 2020 goals. The CEOs left Marrakech with a better understanding of their shared challenges and sustained commitment on exactly how they could invest in cross-network opportunities.

Eighteen months later, at the Arab British Economic Summit, affiliate CEOs, the EFE global team and Daggerwing came together to understand the progress that had been made. The group was pleasantly surprised. After only a year and half, the affiliate CEOs and global team made incredible progress against most, if not all, of their initiatives such as:

  • Surpassing their 2020 goal, with over 100,000 who have entered the world of work
  • Uniting under one global network-wide brand with recognized synergies across affiliates
  • Improved affiliate knowledge sharing and cross collaboration
  • The introduction of new systems and platforms to drive operational effectiveness

Based on the EFE engagement and our experience helping other senior leadership teams align, we’ve identified the top three principles of effective executive alignment that can be used to help any leadership team not only deliver practically against an ambitious strategy, but do so while maximizing customer and business impact:

1. PRACTICALITY: At the end of the day, a strategy is only as strong as the ability to deliver on it. 

There’s no doubt that a strategy is imperative. But more and more often, strategies are developed in a vacuum and communicated through business jargon that doesn’t directly tie to the organization’s day-to-day. When that’s the case, what use is a strategy that nobody knows how to deliver? By re-evaluating your strategy through the lens of practicality – considering the realities of your systemic challenges and providing clarity to everyone on how it will be achieved – you can start building real traction on the direction you’ve set.

2. RELATIVITY: The word ‘priority’ loses meaning if identified in a silo – priorities are relative. 

Each leader has their own objectives, agenda and priorities. But how can an organization effectively achieve a singular ambition if the leadership team has not considered the trade-offs? By evaluating all the possible opportunities against an objectively defined criteria, developing your priorities becomes an exercise in relativity. If you only had a dollar to spend, where would you spend it?

3. CONSENSUS: Don’t underestimate the power of collaborative decision-making.

In today’s digital era, face-to-face discussions are more important than ever. Bringing all key decision-makers across the business together in the same room to share their various perspectives and come to a consensus helps to solidify what the real business priorities are across the organization, and builds buy-in to deliver on those decisions.

Daggerwing continues to support EFE as they work towards achieving their priorities. Having just rung in the new year, the network has already surpassed their 2020 employment targets and made great strides in achieving their priorities. As the network continues to grow and achieve its mission, the Daggerwing team is incredibly proud to continue to support the creation of economic opportunities for unemployed youth so that they can create a brighter future for themselves, their families and their communities.

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Cheryl is the CEO & Co-Founder of Daggerwing Group – taking great pride in helping clients break the cycle of change management failure to see their transformation visions realized. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has worked globally on the people side of business transformation challenges ranging from corporate customer-centricity shifts and talent strategies to enterprise-wide culture change and the introduction of new operating models. She has deep specialization in helping marketing leaders at Fortune 500 firms transform the role of marketers and modernize marketing practices and capabilities.