Executive Vision and Alignment are Essential to the Success of Your Digital Transformation

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We work to align these three dimensions of your business so they can pull in unison to engage the digital consumer, and to facilitate the enterprise-wide ability to respond nimbly to change.

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Executive Alignment with Transformational Vision

When organizations undertake large transformational IT programs, there’s a critical need to make sure that executives are aligned with the vision, purpose, and goals of the proposed change. This is often called executive alignment. And while large transformational programs can fail for many reasons, insufficient executive alignment, or lack of it, is consistently named as a major cause of failure.
Transformational programs require the commitment of several executives and organizations to be successful. While AVIO can help deliver large programs and facilitate the shift, sustained transformation must come from within your organization.

The Elements of Executive Alignment

A widely-adopted model lists seven elements of executive alignment: 

  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Objectives
  • Leader/follower
  • Accountability
  • Investment
  • Communication

If program executives cannot confidently make the statements we are going to outline below, they are misaligned, and the root causes must be addressed before moving forward with changes.

So just what are these seven elements of executive alignment?

“I share the vision and believe we can achieve it.”

Discussions about digital transformation can be fast-paced and passionate. It seems that only after a failure do you hear executives say, “The vision was all wrong,” or “People never really bought into the vision.”

There’s immediate misalignment unless all executives can make the executive alignment statement above.

If one or more executives don’t share the vision or believe it’s unachievable, a new shared vision needs to be built.

"I agree that this strategy will achieve the vision.”

Once there’s agreement on the vision, it’s critical to have both agreement and a shared understanding of the strategy to achieve it. Don’t confuse strategy for individual hypotheses in the mind of program executives - communicate till it is clear that everyone effectively agrees.

It’s important to clearly define the strategic options and resulting implications of the shared vision; prioritize being effective over being right, and reach an agreement on an optimal strategy.

At AVIO, we begin with an enlightened strategy. It starts with understanding who you are, what you do best, and how to leverage your best to serve your customers.

Knowing exactly what you need technology to accomplish enables the creativity that turns raw technological capability into strategic usefulness.

Remember: Your strategy can only be measured by its ability to achieve your team’s shared vision.

“I’m committed to the objectives, results, and value.”

Executive commitment to specific objectives is another key element of executive alignment, along with vision and strategy.

Individual and organizational incentives are one way to ensure executive commitment, and these incentives need to be aligned with the transformational program.

Hard, specific conversations need to take place. We recommend a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis, drilled down to the lowest actionable level of specific performance to which individuals and organizations can commit.

Look for the moment when an executive says, “I can (or can’t) commit my organization to that.” Then the executive alignment conversation can truly begin.

“I’m prepared to be either a leader or a follower.”

To be a good leader, you must know when to be a good follower. Leading executives is difficult. To achieve executive alignment, executive leaders need to accept and follow the appointed IT program leader.

While leadership responsibilities can be transferred or even shared, once everyone has agreed on responsibilities, a “lead, follow or get-out-of-the-way” approach is essential — or personnel changes must be made. Often, programs limp forward when the leader’s right to lead and the other executives’ commitment to follow are unclear or being debated. These programs typically fail.

Clear leadership roles and responsibilities are a must, along with crystal clear and unambiguous decision rights.

“I’m prepared to be accountable for success or failure.”

At the beginning of a transformational program, everyone wants to be in the room, but transformational change requires people to commit to making it happen.

Tying program objectives or performance to executive compensation is difficult, but it’s also extremely effective in driving individual and organizational accountability. But the real objective is to have the conversations, provide clarity, and uncover misalignment.

Vision, strategy, objectives, leader/follower, and accountability are all elements that are susceptible to malicious compliance. If unaddressed, they will likely lead to executive misalignment and program failure.

“I’ll commit the time and resources necessary for the work.”

Investment and communication (below) are the two elements of executive alignment that are especially susceptible to “well-meaning resistance.”

Often on transformational programs, executives are either engaged with several programs or just lack the commitment to the proposed changes. The true test of individual or organizational commitment is the actual, effective investment of funds, time, and resources.

A program that limps forward with poor resource availability from an accountable organization is a recipe for failure.

“I need help.”

Often, after the initial marketing message to the staff of a transformational program, the executive communication is poor and limited to basic status reporting, which is always positive, until the program is in trouble. At that point, the startled executive team discovers it’s too late or too expensive to fix things.


Sometimes, there’s an assumption by stakeholders that executive communication is happening, but no one is actually doing it. In other cases, it is being done as “death by PowerPoint,” with endless presentations that don’t really facilitate communication.

Real executive communication drives action.

Sometimes, real change or transition management requires saying to an executive, “We have a problem, and the problem is you.” Other times, the executive actually doesn’t understand the program and requires one-on-one communication.

If executives are not aligned with the transformational program, there are basically two resistant behaviors to watch for:

Malicious compliance is the intentional behavior of an individual or organization that damages the program through actions designed to create perceived rather than actual commitment. This is an especially insidious passive-aggressive behavior.

Well-meaning resistance is behavior that can at first be mistaken for a lack of commitment, but in fact what it does is mask immediate operational priorities or issues, and delay or prevent individual or organizational commitment.

In this model, with both malicious compliance and well-meaning resistance, it is essential to dig below the veneer to truly understand the behavior and its causes.

Facilitating Executive Alignment with Company-Wide Vision

We have years of rich experience guiding companies like yours down the road to digital excellence. We’re focused on your success, and we’re obsessive about understanding your business and the needs of your customers.

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We have the expertise to help you clear vision, strategy, and technical hurdles gracefully, and our big-picture, horizon view gives you the broad perspective required to critically evaluate your strategic priorities. We facilitate and encourage those involved in transformational programs to pay meaningful attention to all elements instead of simply paying them lip service.


We know that a real commitment to ensure executive alignment upfront and to continuously test it, combined with the courage to take corrective actions or stop the program when executives are misaligned, is required for your large transformational program success.

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