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.
Note: This is an excerpt from my latest book, Drive One Direction: How to Unleash the Accelerating Power of Alignment. In the One Thing chapter, we highlight companies who unleashed the accelerating power of alignment with an intense focus on One Thing.