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LinkedIn-Post_BTI360-1BTI360 ( is a rapidly growing software development firm that works with government clients.

They create alignment—and a Differentiating Competitive Advantage—with an intense focus on One Thing.

BTI360 provides their software development as a prime contractor to the federal government. However, over three hundred other companies compete for the same work.

So, how do you stand out when you have 299 competitors that look alike, sound alike, and essentially provide the exact same service?

BTI360 decided that they could become differentiatingly great at “developing ultimate teammates.” This led to phrases like “software development is a team sport” that are a key part of their unique culture.

Thus, “developing ultimate teammates” became their One Thing.

MJ Wivell, their co-founder and CEO, says it this way, “Most companies use people to build the business. We use the business to build people.”

BTI360 then applied our “Decide One Thing, Align Everything, Win!” model to align everything in their company.

“Once we found our One Thing, decision-making became very easy,” said Jeremy Nimtz, BTI360’s co-founder. “We would simply evaluate everything with one simple question, ‘Will this help us become differentiatingly great at our One Thing?’”

Since going through the Decide One Thing process, BTI360 has experienced amazing results. The company has quadrupled in size and has won eight—and counting—Best Place to Work awards.

I am (obviously) biased, but I think that aligning your entire company with the strategy of becoming world-class great at One Thing is one of the best models.

Customers may not care about your vision. Or your mission. Or your values.

But they will flock to a company that is world-class great at solving One of their problems.

Is developing people your One Thing?

P.S. BTI360 calls people teammates, not employees, which is exactly what you would expect from an organization that puts people first. 




Photo Courtesy of Bud Moeller

Ferrari (NYSE: RACE) might be the ultimate fast-lane company.

When your stock ticker is RACE, you better be fast.

Ferrari began competing in the Formula One World Championship in 1950, the year the competition was established. Ferrari is the only constructor to have raced in every Formula One season—and they have won more championships than any other team.

Ferrari’s One Thing is racing, and they put their money where their One Thing is.

Ferrari invests roughly $600M per year in their Formula One racing program. While the majority of this is recovered through sponsorships and Formula One’s profit sharing, the net investment is believed to be in excess of $100M.

When you invest over One Hundred Million Dollars in one thing … it is your One Thing!

In 2003, they started Corse Clienti, which enables a small group of people to buy and race Ferrari Formula One cars. Here is how they describe the privilege, “Corse Clienti makes the car’s owner feel like a real Scuderia [Italian for “stable”] Ferrari driver. Owners don’t have to worry about anything except putting on their gloves and helmet, driving, and having fun, Corse Clienti does the rest.”

In 2010, Ferrari also started the Ferrari Driver Academy to develop young Scuderia drivers. “I’d like to think that Ferrari can create drivers as well as cars,” explained Enzo Ferrari.

A recent trip to a Ferrari store was a testament to the amazing power of Ferrari’s investment in racing.

The store’s prominent feature was a red (of course) Ferrari Formula One car on display. The store sold T-shirts, scale models of Ferrari cars, Ferrari sneakers, Ferrari hats, Ferrari luggage, Ferrari gloves, Ferrari pens, Ferrari sunglasses, Ferrari flags, and more.

There is even a children’s section that sold Ferrari onesies, Ferrari baby shoes, and all sorts of other items to indoctrinate your child into the faithful.

Several years ago, I was in Italy on the weekend of the Formula One race at Monza, Italy—the home of Ferrari. The Ferrari Scuderia won the race, and the entire nation went wild.

Very few brands achieve iconic status. Fewer still achieve the kind of fanatical evangelicalism among their customers that Ferrari does. And the most fascinating thing about Ferrari is that most of its passionate fans will never own one of their cars. (They only sell 9,000 cars per year!)

Think about that. How many people who will never be your customers are nonetheless fanatical ambassadors for your brand?

For Ferrari, it all starts with racing.

Is speed your One Thing?



LinkedIn-Post-HermanMillerHerman Miller (NASDAQ: MLHR) is a manufacturer of office furniture, equipment, and home furnishings based in Zeeland, Michigan. Founded in 1905, the company has over 8,000 employees, over 600 dealers in 109 countries, and 33 Design Within Reach retail studios.

Their One Thing is perfectly clear: “design is a central part of our business.”

Herman Miller’s designs are part of museum collections worldwide. They have also received the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and ranked Number One on Contract Magazine’s list of “Brands that Inspire” for four straight years.

Some of the notable Herman Miller designers include Charles and Ray Eames, designers of the famous Eames lounge chair and ottoman; Isamu Noguchi, designer of the iconic Noguchi table; George Nelson, known as the father of American Modernism; and Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick, designers of the Aeron, Embody, and Ergon office chairs.

A visit to the Herman Miller website features the profiles of dozens of other designers from all over the world.

In the last chapter, we learned that while not everyone at Dyson is an engineer, they encourage everyone to “think like one.”

Herman Miller expresses the same idea, “You don’t have to be a ‘designer’ to make things better—for customers, for the communities we do business in, and for a better world.”

In addition to designing better furniture, Herman Miller is committed to designing better workspaces:

“Organizations are struggling with the remnants of standardized workplaces, which only accommodate two broad categories of work—individual and group—by providing two generic types of spaces—workstations and conference rooms. This type of floorplan cannot begin to support the diverse array of activities people do throughout the day.

It’s clear that we need a more human-centered and diverse model for the workplace. And to implement this model, we need a more aligned process for designing and delivering the workplace—one where each stakeholder, from Facilities to HR to IT, is connected and involved from the outset.”

They apply workspace design to improve organizational alignment!

Herman Miller is good at lots of things. Perhaps they are great at several things. But they are world-class at design.

Is design your company’s One Thing?



LinkedIn-Post_DysonFrom its origins in a small workshop in rural England, Dyson ( has grown into a technology company with a global footprint. They now employ over 8,500 people.

Dyson is good at lots of things, but they are differentiatingly great at engineering.

The Dyson website makes this crystal clear, “For us, engineering is everything.” Or, in our language, engineering is their One Thing!

Not everyone at Dyson is an engineer, but they encourage everyone to think like one. And they are focused specifically on “transforming people’s lives with our radical ideas, by solving the problems others ignore.”

The story of Dyson is a testament to the irrational perseverance required to become differentiatingly great at something. It took James Dyson five years and 5,127 prototypes to perfect the Dual Cyclone technology that is at the core of the Dyson vacuum.

In 2007, Dyson created The James Dyson Award, an international award that inspires the next generation of design engineers. Each year, hundreds of engineers submit their designs.

In 2018, the grand prize went to Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani for their O-Wind Turbine, a 25cm sphere that converts wind into electricity. Other winners included a water-cleaning robot, a smartphone device to test for malaria, and a wheelchair designed for air travel.

In 2017, the company launched the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology in partnership with University of Warwick. Students work in a position at Dyson for four days a week, receive a salary, and have their tuition fees paid, allowing them to graduate debt free.

“These capable young engineers will be developing new technology alongside world-leading engineering practitioners, creating real products that end up in real homes—doing their academic work alongside their engineering projects.” explained Dyson.

“Our philosophy remains the same as it was 25 years ago when James Dyson invented the first cyclonic vacuum cleaner. We remain family-owned. We don’t bow to outside shareholders or report to the stock exchange. Instead we plot our own path, unshackled from conventional thinking.”

James Dyson is driven to apply engineering to solve problems that other companies ignore. Perhaps that is why he is now Sir James Dyson, appointed to the rank of Knight Bachelor in 2007.

Is engineering your company’s One Thing?




Every company does lots of things.

Sadly, most never become truly great at anything.

For those of you who have not yet read my book, Decide One Thing, I will summarize it in One Sentence: you must be good at lots of things, but the way to win is to become differentiatingly great at One Thing.

In 1990, C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel introduced the idea of corporate competencies in a Harvard Business Review article entitled, “The Core Competence of the Corporation.”

More recently, Strategy&, the strategy consulting arm of PwC, advised companies to develop a set of “differentiating capabilities.” However, they do so with a word of caution:

“Too many companies don’t identify the few cross-functional capabilities they need to excel at in order to deliver on their value proposition. Not being clear about those capabilities, functions often decide to pursue functional excellence in silos. They strive to be world-class at everything they do, but often spread their resources too thin, and they don’t excel at anything.”

We strongly agree.

That is why we advise companies to pick ONE corporate competency and make it your One Thing.

Try to complete this sentence, “We are the best in the world at ______________.”

Most companies cannot honestly fill in that blank. After all, only One Company can be the best in the world.

However, every company can aspire to become the best in the world at something. So, every company can—and should—complete this sentence, “Our ambition is to become the best in the world at _____________.”

Step One is to choose something that your company could indeed become the best in the world at. And of course, there are many things that you can choose.

Step two is to align everyone—and everything—with your One Thing. After all, becoming the best in the world will require intense focus and disciplined investment. This is what turns your One Thing into a Differentiating Competitive Advantage.

We believe this is the most important component of creating alignment. Unfortunately, most companies do not have the discipline to Decide One Thing. That is why they can have visions, missions, values, and strategies … and still be massively misaligned.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that you lock this down before working on your vision, mission, values, strategy … or anything else.

In the One Thing chapter of my book, Drive One Direction, we will explore how Dyson, Herman Miller, Ferrari, and BTI360 unleashed the accelerating power of alignment with an intense focus on One Thing.





Valiant Integrated Services ( provides mission-critical services to the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence communities, including our Joint Forces commands, the U.S. Army, Army National Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, and coalition forces and has over 5,000 employees in over 20 countries across the globe.

Valiant was launched in February 2017 and certainly qualifies as a fast-lane company: they grew from zero to over $700M in fifteen months!

To build a company this fast, the executives had to quickly come together as One Team.

Valiant’s impressive growth was fueled by three strategic acquisitions. In May 2017, they acquired selected assets of the Defense & Government Services business of the Supreme Group. In June 2017, they acquired ABM Government Services, and in May 2018, they acquired Cubic Global Defense Services.

While the press releases call them acquisitions, Valiant thinks of them as mergers. As Jim Jaska, Valiant’s CEO explained, “You acquire groceries. You merge people.”

For Valiant, alignment means blending three companies, with three different cultures, different brands, and different values into One Company. Of course, this starts with molding the executives into One Team.

There is a big difference between a group of executives and an executive team.

Groups of executives sit in the same room and present PowerPoint slides to each other. But people just pretend to listen and are probably checking email.

In contrast, high-performance executive teams have a shared vision, common goals, high accountability, and demonstrate a “we before me” attitude.

To help develop your executives into One Team, consider four factors: decisions, outputs, outcomes, and shared rewards.

  • Decisions are the unique things that your executives decide as a team. In some companies, this list is actually quite small, since most of the decisions are made by individual executives without bringing the issue to the entire executive team.
  • Outputs are the unique deliverables produced by your executives as a team. These include things like corporate strategy documents, annual budgets, or company goals.
  • Outcomes are the unique results that your executive team is responsible for delivering as a team. These include things like corporate financial results, increasing shareholder value, or improving overall employee engagement.
  • Shared rewards are the percentage of incentive compensation that executives earn as a team. At Valiant, each division is run by a Chief Operating Officer. To incentivize cross-divisional cooperation, 70 percent of each COO’s incentive compensation is tied to corporate, not divisional, performance.

While Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have been together for six decades, Valiant’s executive team had to come together in six quarters. Jim Jaska has worked hard to make this happen, “When vision, objectives, and plans are shared, everyone works together to the benefit of the organization and the client.”

Do your company’s executives operate as a group or a team?



BERKSHIREBerkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.B) is a multinational conglomerate holding company that owns 63 companies, from Acme Brick to the XTRA Corporation. The diversity of industries where they compete includes candy confectionery, retail, railroad, home furnishings, airlines, publishing, manufacturing, real estate, utilities, and more.

This eclectic mix of businesses is held together by One amazing Team.

Warren Buffett met Charlie Munger in 1959.

They have been business partners for six decades and have created billions in corporate and personal wealth.

"We've had so much fun in our partnership over the years," Buffett told CNBC in a joint interview with Munger, who called the partnership "almost hilarious, it's been so much fun."

Munger added they "don't agree totally on everything, and yet we're quite respectful of one another."

Buffett quipped that when they do disagree, Charlie says, “Well, you'll end up agreeing with me because you're smart and I'm right.”

(I tried using this line with my wife, but it did not go over very well!)

Jim Collins made “getting the right people on the bus” part of the business lexicon. But the real issue is aligning all the bus drivers to work as One Team … driving in One Direction. Fragmentation and infighting among the leadership team is one of the most caustic problems an organization can face. Yet, it is far too common.

Teamwork, alignment, and trust start at the top. The organization is never more aligned than the executive team.

But addressing executive team alignment issues will take courage. Skeletons will have to come out of the closet. Dysfunctional interpersonal relationships will need an intervention. People will have to address the conflicts they have been avoiding.

Someone will have to tell the emperor that he—or she—has no clothes.

Unfortunately, most executive teams never really deal with their misalignment issues.

Why? Because executives are afraid to speak their minds. Their need for self-preservation kicks in.

We see this all the time. We can tell that executives are holding something back. We can see their discomfort with the discussion or the decision that is about to be made. Yet, they are afraid to speak up.

Google just did a fascinating study about teams. They concluded that “psychological safety” was a key component of high-performance teams. It is this psychological safety that creates the environment for executive teams to have vigorous and candid debates about the company.

Psychological safety is the prerequisite to candor. And candor is the key to productive debates.

Creating psychological safety starts at the top. CEOs must create an environment where candor is valued, and opinions can be expressed without retribution.

How does your company’s executive team resolve conflict?



LinkedIn Post_CARLYLEThe Carlyle Group (NASDAQ: CG) is a global alternative asset manager with over 1,600 professionals operating in 31 offices around the world. They manage over $200B on behalf of over 1,925 investors from 90 countries.

Carlyle unleashed the accelerating power of alignment with their One Carlyle Culture.

At The Carlyle Group, alignment was built into the company by their three founders from Day One.

In fact, the One Carlyle Culture is a key component of how they deliver value to their customers. Glenn Youngkin, Carlyle’s Co-CEO explains it this way, “Our professionals work together across product lines, sectors, and time zones to harness the knowledge, resources, and wisdom in our global operation to help create value for our investors.”

“Carlyle has a culture of cooperation that is genetically embedded in the organization. If you look at our investment teams, we almost always have co-heads, not single heads. It is not a weird thing at Carlyle—in fact, it’s the opposite,” explained Kewsong Lee, Carlyle’s other Co-CEO.

Obviously, this idea also was used when Carlyle appointed Glenn Youngkin and Kewsong Lee as the firm’s Co-CEOs.

The private equity model has many virtues, but one foundational aspect is the alignment of interests.

Since the firm’s inception, Carlyle professionals, Operating Executives, Senior Advisors, and other professionals have committed more than $11 billion of their own money alongside their fund investors. When an investment succeeds, everyone benefits. When an investment fails, everyone loses.

“We constantly work to break down the natural silos that might exist across funds, across countries, and across sectors. In the end, we are only as good as our people,” explained Pete Clare, Carlyle’s Co-Chief Investment Officer. “And we are better when we work together in the spirit of One Carlyle.”

They also use recognition to reinforce their culture. Each year, the firm presents one employee in the world with the One Carlyle award, the highest honor that can be bestowed on an employee.

The Carlyle Group designed a culture of teamwork to deliver extraordinary value for its investors. Clearly, it has worked. The three founders are all billionaires.

Does your company have a One-Company culture?



Alan Mulally was the CEO of Ford (NYSE: F) from September 2006 to June 2014.
During his tenure, Mulally led a highly successful alignment initiative called ONE FORD.
Perhaps more than any other exemplar we studied, the ONE FORD plan embodied the Drive One Direction mindset. That is why it is our first One.
Besides, what better way to start the exemplars than with a car company that is driving in One Direction!
Mulally’s turnaround of Ford is now legendary. Business “Hall of Fame” legendary.
The ONE FORD plan had several components that were so simple that Mulally had them printed on the back of business cards he would hand out. Here’s what they said:
ONE TEAM: People working together as a lean, global enterprise for automotive leadership, as measured by: Customer, Employee, Dealer, Investor, Supplier, Union/Council, and Community Satisfaction.
ONE PLAN: Aggressively restructure to operate profitably at the current demand and changing model mix; Accelerate development of new products our customers want and value; Finance our plan and improve our balance sheet; Work together effectively as one team.
ONE GOAL: An exciting viable Ford delivering profitable growth for all.
In addition, Mulally created sixteen “expected behaviors” that formed the basis of the cultural transformation. (This list is available in my book, Drive One Direction.)
Mulally also instituted a new management process known as the Business Plan Review. Every Thursday, Ford’s entire global leadership team was required to attend. This provided a very practical and hands-on way for Mulally to add management discipline to the ONE FORD plan.
“The expected behaviors and the Business Plan Review created the culture and management system to align everyone around a compelling vision, a comprehensive strategy, and a relentless implementation plan” said Mulally. “Everyone knew the plan, the status against that plan, and all the areas that needed special attention. Everyone was working together to change the reds to yellows to greens.”
In 2014, FORTUNE magazine named Mulally the third best leader in the world, following Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The ONE FORD plan produced amazing results. During Mulally’s tenure, Ford rebounded from a $12.7 billion loss in 2006 to a $6.3 billion pre-tax profit in 2014. The stock price roughly doubled during his 8 years as CEO and rose an astonishing 1,640 percent from the low during the financial crisis.
Does your executive team work as One Team?



In his landmark book, Good to Great, Jim Collins introduced the concept of “first who, then what.”

So, let’s start by clarifying your “who.”

We believe that your corporate executive team is ultimately responsible for creating alignment. Therefore, Step One is for them to accept that responsibility.

This starts with your CEO. Your CEO must operate as the company’s Chief Alignment Officer.

Randy Papadellis, the former CEO of the cranberry cooperative Ocean Spray, referred to himself as the “Chief Alignment Officer.” Papadellis joined Ocean Spray in July 2000 as the Chief Operating Officer and was promoted to Chief Executive Officer in 2002. Here is how he described the transition,

“I believe the biggest difference between being CEO and COO is the job of alignment. When I became CEO, I realized very quickly that it was my responsibility to take the many constituencies we have in our business—our grower owners, our Board of Directors, our key suppliers, our key customers, or most importantly our employees—and make sure that they were aligned and moving in the same direction.”

Aligned and moving in the same direction! My sentiments exactly.

Second, the entire corporate executive team must embrace alignment as a critical corporate initiative. There are several reasons for this:

  • The corporate executive team is ultimately responsible for aligning the company’s multiple divisions, departments, functions, and geographies.
  • The corporate executive team is ultimately responsible for aligning the interests of the company’s multiple stakeholders, including investors, creditors, employees, boards, vendors, customers, governments, the communities where you operate, and more. These stakeholders often have competing interests which must be aligned.
  • The corporate executive team is ultimately responsible for aligning the company’s multiple strategies, tactics, goals, priorities, and initiatives into a coherent corporate strategic plan (One Plan).
  • The corporate executive team is ultimately responsible for aligning the company’s resources— both human and financial—with the corporate strategy. Budgets must be allocated. Headcounts must be approved. 
  • Each corporate executive has the responsibility to align their functional area. The Chief Financial Officer must consolidate the budgets. The Chief Marketing Officer must integrate the marketing plans. The Chief Sales Officer must roll up the sales forecasts. 
  • Finally, the corporate team “sets the bar” for alignment. If they are not aligned as One Team, the rest of the organization will be dysfunctional. They must be role models for alignment. A misaligned executive team will never create an aligned company.

Let me say that again. A misaligned executive team will never create an aligned company.

While no team is perfect, in my book, Drive One Direction, we will explore how Ford, The Carlyle Group, Berkshire Hathaway, and Valiant Integrated Services unleashed the accelerating power of alignment by working as One Team.