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True or False: Alignment is Mission-Critical for Every Organization

shutterstock_18214750webWe believe that every organization, regardless of size or industry or operating model, must create strategic alignment.

That is why we say, “Alignment is Job One.”

For every idea, there are contrarians. Alignment is no exception.

So, let’s consider the question: is alignment really necessary for every organization?

Consider some of the common objections to alignment raised by my contrarian friends:

  • Can’t you just let everyone do whatever they feel is right?
  • Won’t top-down controls stifle innovation and creativity?
  • Do you really need rules?
  • Won’t people just naturally self-align to do what is in the corporation’s best interest?
  • What, are we going to all join hands and sing "Kumbaya"?

After all, you can’t legislate morality.

Perhaps you are an alignment contrarian. Perhaps you have these questions and more. If so, consider these examples:

In 2014, the online retailer Zappos adopted a utopian “self-management” model called Holacracy. When Zappos adopted it, hundreds of managerial positions were eliminated. It was hailed as the future of work. Fully empowered employees. Free to contribute. Free to innovate. Free from creativity-stifling management.

Not so much. The Holacracy model has a formal constitution that is 42 pages long.

Consider Burning Man, the annual festival in the Nevada desert. It is designed to be the ultimate, utopian experience of individual freedom and “radical self-expression.” It attracts over 70,000 people from all walks of life (including, ironically, billionaires who fly in on private jets).

But even Burning Man has rules to keep everyone aligned.

Yes, but how about the anarchists?

The International Anarchist Federation is fighting for “the abolition of all forms of authority whether economical, political, social, religious, cultural or sexual.” Interestingly, even the IAF has rules. To become a member, you must agree to align with their statement of principles.

Amazing. Even anarchists need alignment.

I hope these examples help convince you that alignment is mission-critical for every organization.

If your company needs alignment, SHIFTPOINTS offers The Pit Stop Program -- a 30-day engagement that culminates in a One Day workshop. It is intensely focused on One Issue: unleashing the accelerating power of alignment. To schedule your Pit Stop Program, contact us at


Debate, Decide and Align

BussesOne of the most dysfunctional and destructive organizational pathologies is undermining, especially at executive levels.

Unfortunately, we see this all the time. 

Issues are discussed at the executive meeting.  Alternatives are debated.  And eventually, a decision about the best course of action is made.

Far too often, what happens next is that executives who did not get their way undermine the decision.  Sometimes, their undermining is overt, blatant, and public such as when executives say, “They made a dumb decision.” 

Most of the time, however, the undermining is much more covert.  Whispering at the watercooler.  Backstabbing in the bathroom.  Sniping at Starbucks.

This kind of behavior, especially at executive levels, must never be tolerated.

In contrast, high-performance executive teams debate, decide, and align.  Once a decision is made, everyone aligns behind it, even it if wasn’t their preferred course of action.

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies unleash the accelerating power of alignment, because ... 

Alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage™.




Memorial Day Weekend is the greatest weekend for racing fans. It starts with the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix … and then there is the Indy 500 … and the day culminates with the NASCAR Coca Cola 600.

In all three races, Pit Stops played a pivotal role in the outcome.

Likewise, offsite meetings play a pivotal role in the outcome of your company.

Companies have offsite meetings to focus on strategic issues. The goal is to generate new thinking, but they often fall short. The company ends up off-course, off-track, and often a bit demoralized.

There is a better way.

The SHIFTPOINTS Pit Stop Program® is a comprehensive offsite solution.

First, we leverage deep expertise in strategy development, organizational alignment, and performance management to lead the process. Therefore, we operate as a strategic catalyst, not just a timekeeper and scribe.

Second, we leverage extensive SHIFTPOINTS resources, such as our Drive One Direction® methodology and The Acceleration Index®, to customize the meeting agenda and focus energy on the most critical issue or opportunity.

Your organization will leave The Pit Stop meeting strategically aligned and intensely focused.

Refueled and recharged.  Ready to win the race.

Organizations have used The Pit Stop Program as a catalyst for strategic transformation. Our best clients have quadrupled in size. Several have doubled. Two have won Best Place to Work awards. One is in the Inc. 5000 Hall of Fame. 

SHIFTPOINTS® works with organizations of all types and sizes – from construction companies to churches, Fortune 500s to startups.  

You can learn more about The Pit Stop Program here:



jazz band

A lot has been written about teamwork.

Teamwork is the foundation of alignment.

But many people have never been on a high-performance team, thus they do not have a real framework or experience base to work from. They don’t really know what “team” means.

In addition, there are many kinds of teams:

A crew team is a homogeneous group. Each member has a virtually identical build and an identical skill-set. There is only One Team, and they must work in perfect harmony in order to win. They are all—quite literally—in the same boat!

A golf team is a loose collection of individuals, all playing their own games. The team wins if enough people win their individual matches. However, it is possible for an individual player to win the individual trophy, yet have their team lose the match.

An improvisational jazz band is a different kind of team altogether. There is no conductor, no playbook, no scoreboard, no trophy, no match to win or lose, and no coxswain to keep everyone synchronized. Yet, the musicians demonstrate amazing teamwork.

A football team is a highly interdependent group of diverse players. Each player has very specialized skills. While there are sub-teams—offense, defense, and special teams—there is only one winner at end of the game. They win or lose as a team.

In 2015, retired General Stanley McChrystal discussed the complexity of sub-teams in his book, Team of Teams. In many companies, the real issue is that people are aligned with their “sub-team” but are not aligned with the other teams or with corporate.

  • The Boston office is tight, but they don’t get along with the New York office.
  • The marketing team is tight, but they don’t get along with sales.
  • The corporate finance team is tight, but they don’t get along with the divisions.
  • The European team is tight, but they don’t get along with the Americans.
  • The Democrats are tight, but they don’t get along with the Republicans.

People tend to get along with their immediate group. Their function. Their local office. Their clan. Their tribe. But they fight with people who are not part of their group.

So, as you embark on the journey to improve alignment, perhaps you should start by answering One Simple Question, “What does ‘team’ mean?”

Learn more about creating One Team



BlueprintCompanies operate in many ways. Some are highly centralized, others are highly decentralized.

Your corporate operating model is a key factor in deciding how to create alignment.

The following list is not meant to be exhaustive but can help you articulate your operating model.

The “One Business” Company

  • Company competes primarily in One Market
  • Most likely, the company is organized functionally (sales, marketing, manufacturing, etc.)
  • Most likely, there is One P&L


The Highly Centralized Corporation

  • Big, strong corporate headquarters
  • Most of the big decisions are made at corporate
  • Divisions are partially autonomous
  • Alignment is primarily created “top-down” by corporate


The Multidivisional Corporation

  • Strong corporate headquarters and strong divisions
  • Division leaders are General Managers
  • An even balance of power between corporate and divisions
  • Cross-divisional alignment is created by corporate


The Federation

  • Moderately strong corporate headquarters
  • Autonomous divisions, often led by Presidents
  • Only a small amount of “top-down” corporate-level alignment
  • Alignment is primarily created at the divisional level
  • Small focus on cross-divisional alignment


The Conglomeration – A Company of Companies

  • Small corporate headquarters
  • Company Presidents are highly autonomous
  • Alignment is primarily created at the operating company level
  • Little or no focus on cross-company alignment


The Association

  • Corporate has very little power
  • Members choose to affiliate—or not
  • Members pay to be a part of the association
  • Corporate has limited decision authority, and primarily exists to serve the members
  • Alignment is often around a common agenda


The Denomination

  • Many different operating models
  • Some have very strong corporate-driven alignment … others have very little
  • Always bound together by One Doctrine and/or One Tradition


The Abomination

  • If your company is in this category, you definitely need my upcoming book, Drive One Direction!


What is your company’s operating model?


SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies unleash the accelerating power of alignment, because

Alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage™.

Contact us at or




Alignment is mission-critical.

However, how you create it and how much you need is a function of what stage your company is in.

Here is a list of ten common company stages. Which One are you in?


Some startups develop a strong sense of alignment from Day One. Most, however, are so focused on survival that wordsmithing a mission statement seems like a big waste of time. Regardless, the primary alignment issue for companies in the Startup stage is product/market fit.


Scale-ups have built a viable enterprise but are still primarily focused on One Core Product and One Core Market. The primary alignment issue for Scale-Ups is focus. They must fight the temptation to diversify too much and too soon.


Expansion-stage companies are expanding beyond One Core Product and One Core Market. Companies in this stage are starting to add divisions. They might also be adding additional geographic offices. The primary alignment issue for companies in the Expansion stage is building a One-Company mindset before the divisions create division.


Companies in the Reenergize stage have plateaued and need to get the company growing again. The primary alignment issue for companies in the Reenergize stage is getting back to their core—they must prune the distractions.


Companies in the Realign stage are fragmented and dysfunctional. They have silos and warring tribes. They must confront tough issues and deeply ingrained dysfunctional behaviors—often within the executive team.

Spin Out

Companies in the Spin Out stage are being spun out from a larger corporate parent. They will have a new company name and a new brand. Their primary alignment challenge is to keep the best from their corporate parent and, at the same time, develop their own unique way of creating alignment.


Companies in the Consolidation stage are shedding non-core assets so they can refocus on their core business. As divisions are sold off, it is hard to maintain employee goodwill. Once the consolidation is completed, companies must align the remaining employees with the new vision and strategy.


Companies in the Transformation stage have old core businesses that have stagnated. They are focused on creating new ones. For many companies, this is seen as a “digital” transformation, but transformations can come in many forms. The primary alignment issue is maintaining the existing core business while liberating the new one.


Makeover companies are solid, but tired. The primary alignment issue for companies in the Makeover stage is establishing a new brand identity and positioning. It can be very difficult to change—aka realign—what customers think of you.


After a merger, the challenge is to make One Company out of two. Integration-stage companies literally have two of everything—two mission statements, two lists of core values, two accounting systems, etc.—and they must consolidate down to One. Companies in this stage have thousands of alignment issues.

Which life stage is your company in? How does that impact how you create alignment? 



FiveFighterJetsI strongly believe that alignment is Job One.

But every company must create alignment in a unique, One-of-a-Kind Way.

Three primary factors impact your company’s approach to creating alignment.

The first factor is your company’s life stage. Startups are worried about survival, and spinouts are focused on cutting the corporate umbilical cord. 

The second factor is your company’s operating model. Some companies run like denominations, and some churches run like corporations.

The third factor is your company’s business philosophy. Often, this is reflected in how many One and Only One corporate standards you use.

When you combine these three factors, the result is thousands of unique permutations.

However, regardless of your company’s unique situation, alignment is mission-critical.

Our goal was to develop One Methodology that would work for every company, regardless of life stage, operating model, or business philosophy.

This led us to develop the Drive One Direction methodology.

We believe that every company, regardless of life stage, operating model, or business philosophy, can—and should— apply the Drive One Direction methodology. However, every company should do so in a unique, One-of-a-Kind Way.

For example, every company has a brand. Your job is to create a unique, One-of-a-Kind corporate brand.

Every company has a culture. You must create a unique, One-of-a-Kind corporate culture.

Developing a One-of-a-Kind Way of creating alignment will differentiate you from your competitors. It will allow you to create a unique One-of-a-Kind Company.

Some of the exemplar companies, such as Amazon, use the term “DNA” to articulate their unique approach to creating alignment. We like that, since your DNA both identifies who you are and differentiates you from everyone else.

Alignment is Job One, but every company must create it in a unique, One-of-a-Kind Way.

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies unleash the accelerating power of alignment, because Alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage™.  Contact us at or




Corporate. [core-per-it]. Adjective – pertaining to a united group.

A key insight from the exemplar companies in my upcoming book is that they created alignment at the corporate level.

The strongest form of alignment is the “One and Only One” model. You literally have One and Only One for the entire company.

No divisions, departments, geographies, or functions can have a different one. Your One and Only One(s) are absolutely, positively, and nonnegotiably the same everywhere in your company.

For example, Tesla has One—and Only One—Mission Statement. Netflix has One—and Only One—Code of Conduct. Bognet has One—and Only One—Way.

In most cases, these items are exactly the same everywhere. In some cases, they are essentially the same. (For example, your One Tagline might be translated into other languages.)

You might think this is obvious, but many organizations will handle this differently.

For example, you might think every company should have One—and Only One—Mission Statement. But we have worked with companies where every division, department, and team had its own mission statement, none of which was linked in any way to the corporate mission statement.

But surely, every company has One List of core values. Nope. (As you will discover in the Hilton case study, at one time they had thirty different lists!)

Making something a One—and Only One—Corporate Standard is simple to understand, highly effective, very efficient, and very easy to enforce.

Of course, it can also be perceived as too centralized and too controlling. Sometimes, One Size does not fit all.

One Vision might not fit all business units. One Expense Policy might not be fair to all locations. The fashionistas might rebel against having One Dress Code.

Some companies create alignment with many Corporate One and Only One(s). Others delegate more autonomy to their divisions or operating companies.

The corporate executive team should carefully balance the need for centralized control with the desire to empower EveryOne.

So, your company must decide.

What must be absolutely, positively, and nonnegotiably the same everywhere?

SHIFTPOINTS will help your company unleash the accelerating power of alignment!  Contact us at



rowing rew red circleThe classic illustration of alignment is the rowing crew.

But imagine an eight-person boat with only seven rowers.

Or worse yet, imagine that one of the rowers is rowing in the opposite direction.

Misaligned crews lose the race. Misaligned companies lose millions.

In the last article, we explored the many aspects of misalignment, but how much does that misalignment cost your company?

Fortunately, you can calculate the cost of misalignment.

Let’s say your company has 1,000 employees, and your Corporate Alignment Percentage is 80 percent.

That means that 20 percent of your employees’ time and energy is wasted … which is the equivalent of 200 people lost.

You are paying for 1,000 people, but only getting the energy of 800. If your average loaded cost per person is $100,000 per year, that is the equivalent of $20 million dollars!

Now, you should do your own math.

What is your total payroll? What is your Corporate Alignment Percentage (CAP)?

How much is misalignment costing your company? Conversely, how much value can your company recapture by improving alignment?

Perhaps an illustration will help you understand the benefits of improving alignment.

A few years ago, I owned a twin turbocharged BMW.

In case you don’t have a degree in automotive engineering, let me explain how a turbocharger works.

In a normal engine, gasoline is mixed with air and is then ignited by the spark plug to produce power. This process is not 100 percent efficient, so hot gases flow out the exhaust pipes into the environment.

A turbocharger is a small device that looks like a fan. It “recycles” the hot exhaust gases and forces them back into the engine. It converts the energy that would otherwise have been wasted into additional horsepower.

Alignment is the turbocharger of organizational performance.

The Drive One Direction process “recycles” the energy that is wasted by misalignment and turns it into additional people power.

This enables you to zoom past your competition!

My assertion is that improving alignment is likely the highest ROI activity you have.



How Do You Measure Alignment?A few months ago, I went to the car dealer for maintenance. As I entered the service bay, I drove over a special sensor on the ground that measured my alignment in real-time.

I was dismayed to learn that my car was out of alignment.

That’s right, the guy who was writing a book about alignment called Drive One Direction was driving a car that was out of alignment.

Imagine my shame!

I did some research and discovered that the system was made by Hunter Engineering Company in Bridgeton, Missouri ( Here is what I learned:

“Hunter’s patented alignment check system is the quickest way to measure alignment angles that affect tire life. The test takes less than a minute to produce total toe and camber measurements for both axles. Results are displayed in easy-to-understand, color-coded graphics.”

Ever since that experience, I wanted to create a radically simple way for companies to measure their alignment.

During my CEO interviews, I always asked them about the importance of alignment.

“Alignment is mission-critical,” was the Number One answer.

Then, I would ask them about the old adage, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Every CEO gave me the same answer, “I totally agree with that!”

Then, I would go on to say, “So, you told me that alignment was mission critical … and if you can’t measure something you can’t manage it.”

“That’s right!”

“So, how do you measure alignment?” 

At this point, there would be a long and awkward pause …

Measuring alignment is a complicated problem. We are still working on solving it. However, to get things started, we developed a simple One Question survey:

On a scale of one to ten, rate your company’s current level of strategic alignment.

  • 10 = We are like a perfectly synchronized rowing crew.
  • 1 = We are like a group of warring tribes. Civil war about to break out.

Go ahead … answer the question for your company … what’s your number? That is your Corporate Alignment Percentage™ (CAP). The survey is still under development. Who knows, perhaps it will become the Net Promoter® of alignment.

Regardless, we believe it is essential for your company to develop a way to measure alignment. There are three primary reasons.

First, strategic alignment is mission-critical. You simply cannot succeed without it. Second, strategic alignment is a leading indicator. Third, strategic alignment is EveryOne’s business. Thus, EveryOne can improve the metric.

So, how does your company measure alignment?

At SHIFTPOINTS, our mission is to help companies unleash the accelerating power of alignment. Our Acceleration IndexTM is a proprietary survey designed to assess strategic alignment. Visit to learn more!