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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! 


Misalignment: The Root Cause of Organizational Dysfunction

PotholesI believe that the root cause of virtually every organizational problem is misalignment.

Why do I believe that? Let me count the ways!

When your market vision is misaligned, you miss growth opportunities.

When your business model is misaligned, you lose money. 

When your human resources strategy is misaligned, you hire the wrong people.

When your product development team is misaligned, you build the wrong product.

When your operating model is misaligned, people spend endless hours in internal coordination meetings.

When your mission-critical processes are misaligned, you miss your deadlines and irritate your customers.

When your management system is misaligned, decisions are frequently overturned.

When marketing and sales are misaligned, you miss your revenue targets.

When management and labor are misaligned, workers go on strike.

When the board and the CEO are misaligned, the CEO gets fired.

I could go on, but you get the point: misalignment is the root of virtually every organizational dysfunction.

We also see misalignment as the root cause of most interpersonal conflicts.

For example, recently I was coaching an executive who was struggling to meet his numbers. I asked him, “Why are you missing your numbers?”

He gave me an explanation that seemed plausible, but then I asked, “Would your boss agree with that explanation?”

“Probably not.”

Given that the executive and his boss were not aligned on the root cause of the problem, there was little chance that they would agree on the executive’s proposed solution.

In another session, a different executive was recounting her accomplishments. Again, I asked the question, “Would your boss agree with that list?”

“Probably not.”

In both cases, the executives and their bosses were misaligned.

Alignment is both a strategic corporate issue and a tactical interpersonal one.

That is why improving alignment is Job One!


Divisions—by Definition—Divide

shutterstock_62272-OneProblemWhen companies are small, they are in One Business. They target One Market. They sell One Product. There is One P&L. Everyone probably sits in One Office. But, as companies grow, they create divisions. 

There is only One Problem: divisions—by definition—divide.

Just to be clear, even small, One Business businesses can have alignment problems. (We’ve even worked with solopreneurs, otherwise known as One Person Companies, who had alignment problems.)

But the larger you are, the more likely you will struggle with strategic alignment. The big turning point is when your company creates divisions.

Some companies divide by product line. Some divide by geography. Some create business units. Some organize by function.

How is your company divided?

By product? By market? By function? By geography? Some other way?

Once your company has divisions, you must decide if it is important to align them.

Yes, I said “if.”

Theoretically, your company could allow the divisions to operate totally autonomously, with virtually no alignment. Some companies, such as Berkshire Hathaway and Virgin, operate as a “company of companies.” There is just a very thin, lightweight corporate alignment process to hold the operating companies together.

However, most companies decide that it is indeed important to create a high level of alignment.

“We must unite the divisions!”

As we explained, companies must align the divisions with corporate and they must align the divisions with each other.

In addition, each division adds its own strategies, goals, standards, priorities, policies, etc. to the things that cascaded down from corporate. Then, departments are expected to align with both the things that cascaded down from corporate and the things that cascaded down from the divisions.

And on and on it goes.

The alignment challenge grows exponentially once a company has multiple divisions. Aligning a company with two divisions is four times harder. Aligning a company with four divisions is sixteen times harder.

Many companies exacerbate the alignment problem by constantly reorganizing. Every time your company reorganizes, the alignment operating system must be rebuilt.


Workforce Changes Radically Affect Alignment

Runners uphillMy dad went to work at General Electric in January 1962.

In just One Generation, the workforce has radically changed, and creating alignment is now radically more difficult.

In my dad's generation, the workforce was very homogeneous. Most of the “white collar” workers were white males. Most of the women in the workforce were in secretarial roles.

Now, the workforce is tremendously and beautifully diverse. The increase in diversity is a great thing. Let me say that again, the increase in diversity is a great thing, but it does make alignment much more difficult.

In my dad’s generation, a large percentage of the workforce had military experience. They were comfortable in top-down, command-and-control organizations. They were trained to obey orders.

Now, the workforce is radically different. Many were raised in the “me” generation. Millennials have a very different worldview. As a result, the old command-and-control way of creating alignment is no longer effective.

In my dad’s generation, there was a basic civility and decency in society. Children were trained to say, “Yes, Ma’am” or “Yes, Sir.” Politicians referred to each other as “distinguished colleagues.” There was a respect for authority.

Now, people denigrate each other every night on TV. They attack each other in social media. They shoot the police. This makes alignment much more difficult.

In my dad’s generation, many companies had either explicit or implicit guarantees of lifetime employment. My dad spent thirty-one years with GE. In fact, when I started at IBM in 1979, the company still had a culture of lifetime employment.

Now, the workforce is extremely unsettled, and most people will work for multiple companies in their careers. Companies expect loyalty, but they don’t give it in return. This makes alignment much more difficult.

In my dad’s generation, the majority of people working at a company were officially classified as employees.

Now, the workforce is an ever-changing mix of employees, long-term contractors, temporaries, and gig workers. This creates multiple classes of workers with different benefits, different rules, different loyalties, and different goals. This makes alignment much more difficult.

In my dad’s generation, when you wanted to communicate with someone who worked in your building, you walked down the hall.

Now, people send an email to the person sitting in the next cubicle. This makes alignment much more difficult.

In my dad’s generation, companies had physical offices.

Now, many companies have large numbers of full- and part-time telecommuters. Some companies, such as Zapier, are 100 percent virtual.

In my dad’s generation, the Fortune 500 was extremely stable: companies remained on the list for an average of sixty-one years.

Now, the average tenure of a Fortune 500 company is fifteen years. Companies are constantly merging, reorganizing, divesting, etc. Companies that were models of stability—like Arthur Andersen, Nortel Networks, and Lehman Brothers—are completely gone.

The combination of these organizational and societal forces has made alignment radically more difficult.