Focus on Improving Team Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (DAC)

Leadership is complicated, but at its core, it’s a social process that enables individuals to work together to achieve results they could never achieve working as individuals.

Central to the process are the interactions and exchanges between the formal leader and group members, and among group members themselves. It’s not all about you and what you alone should be doing better. Instead of thinking of an individual, think of a process.

The best way to be more effective is to focus as a group on the 3 elements of leadership: Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (DAC).

Direction is agreement in the group on overall goals.

  • In groups with strong direction, members have a shared understanding of what group success looks like and agree on what they’re aiming to accomplish.
  • In groups with weak direction, members are uncertain about what they should accomplish together, or they feel pulled in different directions by competing goals.

Alignment is coordinated work within the group.

  • In groups with strong alignment, members with different tasks or roles or with different sets of expertise coordinate their work.
  • In groups with weak alignment, members work more in isolation, unclear about how their tasks fit into the larger work of the group and are in danger of working at cross-purposes, duplicating effort, or having important work fall through the cracks.

Commitment is mutual responsibility for the group.

  • In groups with strong commitment, members feel responsible for the success and wellbeing of the group, and know that other group members feel the same. They trust each other and will stick with the group through difficult times.
  • In groups with weak commitment, members put their own interests ahead of the group’s interests and contribute to the group only when it’s easy to do so or when they have something to gain.

We’ve been using the direction-alignment-commitment framework (DAC) with people across level, sector, function, culture, and demographic for about 20 years. Here’s what you need to implement it:direction-alignment-commitment-team-dac-book-center-for-creative-leadership

First, you’ll want to assess current levels of DAC in the group. The best way to do this is to get input from everyone involved. If you rely on just your own perspective, you’re probably missing key information. Take this quick, free assessment of DAC levels with your team to gauge the degree to which your team agrees on statements such as:

  • We agree on what we should be aiming to accomplish together.
  • We have group priorities that help us focus on the most important work.
  • The work of each individual is well coordinated with the work of others.
  • People are clear about how their tasks fit into the work of the group.
  • We make the success of the group — not just our individual success — a priority.

Next, if you learn that the group has low levels of direction, alignment, or commitment, dig a bit deeper.

Some factors that contribute to weak DAC include:

  • Direction hasn’t been articulated or talked about.
  • We jump into tasks and projects without a plan or connecting it to others’ work.
  • We don’t bring in others with relevant expertise, or manage work assignments effectively.
  • Resources aren’t appropriately allocated.
  • We’re unclear who is responsible for what tasks or who has authority to make what decisions.
  • We see duplication of effort, or gaps where aspects of the work fall through the cracks.
  • Group members don’t see themselves as having the ability or influence to address problems.
  • Individuals don’t feel like they get the credit they deserve for their contributions to the group.

Finally, identify changes that could improve direction, alignment, or commitment. There are countless ways to address the problems you find — but this is where your group can tailor efforts specifically to what matters most.

You’ll want to engage the insights and creativity of the group to come up with changes to address key issues. You can also draw on outside expertise for ideas and solutions. Keep in mind that direction, alignment, and commitment are group-level outcomes. Any aspect of the group can impact those outcomes. To enhance DAC, you might need to change things such as:

  • The quality or frequency of interactions among group members.
  • The relationships among particular members.
  • The formal or informal processes for making decisions or getting work accomplished.
  • The skills of individual group members.
  • Shared assumptions and cultural beliefs of the group as a whole.

Of course, the DAC approach isn’t a quick fix. But it does provide clarity and a way forward.

If you are feeling the pressure to improve performance or your group is facing a big challenge, stop overloading yourself. Instead, turn to the team and start to work on its direction, alignment, and commitment.


Ready to dive in? Learn more about The Leadership Conversation, our new and collaborative online leader development offering that will help you create direction, alignment, and commitment on your team.

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