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LinkedIn-Post-ONETHINGEvery 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.




Note: This is an excerpt from Dave Ramos' latest book, Drive One Direction.

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.





Note: This is an excerpt from Dave Ramos' latest book, Drive One Direction.

Most of this book has been about corporate alignment. All that corporate stuff is fine, but alignment ultimately starts with One Person.


Perhaps you are the CEO of your company. Then, please be the Chief Alignment Officer.

If you are a member of the corporate executive team, please work as One Team and make alignment Job One.

But regardless of your position, you must make a decision.

You can either be a force for unity, or you can be a force for division.

That is because alignment is a decision.

You can decide to undermine, or you can decide to align.

You can opt-out, or you can buy-in.

You can be “me me me,” or you can put “we before me.”

You can drive the decelerating power of division, or you can unleash the accelerating power of alignment.

Which will you choose?

Imagine a company where everyone is aligned.

How amazing would it be to come to work every day and know that your team is 100 percent aligned with you—and that you are 100 percent aligned with them?

Live the core values. Implement the strategy. Deliver the brand promise.

If your team is aligned, you can overcome any obstacle. If EveryOne is aligned, your company can accomplish anything.

Hold yourself accountable. Hold other people accountable.

Look for things that are out of alignment and fix them. If you see a document with the old vision statement, fix it.

Yes, there are challenges. Yes, there are obstacles to overcome. Yes, there are processes to be optimized. There are customer complaints to satisfy.

What I am saying is that the best way to overcome obstacles, optimize processes, and satisfy customers is to work as One Team. To rally around One Vision.

To be One Company … driving in One Direction.

SHIFTPOINTS® helps companies unleash the accelerating power of alignment.

Because alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage.



LinkedIn-Post_onedecade(Note: This is an excerpt from Dave Ramos' latest book, Drive One Direction.)

In Part One – Alignment 101, we explored the radical changes that have happened in the workforce in just One Generation.

Alignment is radically harder than it was One Generation ago.

Therefore, companies must be much more sophisticated and intentional about creating alignment. That is why we developed the Drive One Direction® methodology.

The process starts with One Team.

But it never ends. Alignment is not a One-and-Done process.

One of the key insights from the exemplars was how consistent they were.

Johnson & Johnson has lived by their One Credo for over seventy years. GEICO has been using One Tagline for over fifteen years. Bognet Construction has been building The BOGNET Way for over ten years.

Amazon has been guided by their One Obsession since Day One.

Unfortunately, most companies do not have the discipline to stay with their One-Company Campaign long enough for it to actually create alignment.

Too often, what we see is more akin to the “Idea of the Month Club.”

Often, this comes from the top. Every time the CEO reads a new book or attends a new seminar, there is a new initiative. Rather than making a long-term commitment to One Idea, they have “One-Night Stands” with all of them.

We once worked with a company that wanted to Evolve! their company. It was supposed to be a long-term alignment campaign. They gave up after six months.

This kind of herky-jerky leadership makes employees reach for the barf bags!

In contrast, fast-lane companies understand the importance of consistency. It takes unwavering leadership and irrational perseverance to create strategic alignment.

Most companies want a quick fix. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.




(Note: This is an excerpt from Dave Ramos' latest book, Drive One Direction.)

Alignment is a contact sport.

Every manager has a role to play.

Many exemplar companies have institutionalized One-on-One meetings. They are an exceptional way to optimize alignment.

This short meeting, held once per week, can “connect the dots” between your corporate strategy, goals, plans, and initiatives and every employee’s individual activities.

Ideally, this starts at the top. The CEO should have One-on-Ones with their direct reports to model the behavior. The executive team should do the same.

Here are some questions that managers can use to turn One-on-One meetings into alignment meetings:

  • Do you think our vision is inspiring?
  • What do our core values mean to you?
  • Do you understand our corporate strategy?
  • How do your goals align with our corporate goals?
  • What can we do to improve teamwork and collaboration?
  • Do you see any areas of misalignment that should be addressed?

Obviously, there are hundreds of other questions.

One-on-One meetings are just one component of the process known as Continuous Performance Management® (CPM).

One of the benefits of Continuous Performance Management is that it allows companies to increase strategic agility. Fast-lane companies are revising their strategy and goals quarterly. When you develop strategy four times faster, you can respond four times faster … assuming that your company can dynamically realign everyone—and everything—to capitalize.

The second benefit of CPM is that individual performance improves. The discipline of regular One-on-One meetings, structured conversations, and improved coaching produces dramatic results. According to McKinsey, 68 percent of respondents agree that ongoing coaching and feedback conversations have a positive impact on individual performance.

Imagine a company where 100 percent of the people invest 100 percent of their energy in activities that are 100 percent aligned with the strategic plan. Imagine being able to quickly realign the entire company to capitalize on new opportunities or respond to competitive threats. Then, imagine having real-time analytics to measure and optimize goal alignment.

Fast-lane companies are leveraging the power of One-on-One meetings to accelerate alignment. In addition, new technology from companies mentioned in the Work as One chapter can help automate the process and give HR professionals a way to hold managers accountable for having them.

One-on-One meetings are an important component of driving your company in One Direction.

NOTE: Continuous Performance Management® is a registered trademark of Betterworks.




Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is an impressive company with a proud history. Although their headquarters is at One Microsoft Way, the company was notorious for its silos.

The Microsoft case is a great lesson on importance of leadership style.

In July 2013, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced a company-wide reorganization called "One Microsoft.” The plan was developed during a meeting at a Starbucks with Alan Mulally, who was still the CEO of Ford at that time.

Here is how Ballmer tried to sell the idea, "All of this means that we need to move forward as one Microsoft with one strategy and one set of goals. We’ll have one approach to the marketplace, whether it’s business partners, innovation partners, developers, IT people, or consumers. We’ll have one technology base to enable us in core areas as opposed to two or more. We’re one Microsoft.”

Clearly, Ballmer was highly influenced by the success of Mulally’s ONE FORD plan. But it was too little, too late. Six weeks later, Ballmer announced his resignation.

Satya Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft in February 2014. He decided to give the One Microsoft idea another try.

Here is how he sold the vision. “We are one company, one Microsoft—not a confederation of fiefdoms. Innovation and competition don’t respect our silos, so we have to learn to transcend those barriers. It’s our ability to work together that makes our dreams believable and, ultimately, achievable.”

By all accounts, Nadella is succeeding where Ballmer failed. The stock has more than tripled during his tenure so far.


When it comes to creating alignment, leadership style really matters. Nadella’s collaborative style, his inspiring personal story, and his deep credibility within Microsoft were keys to his success.

There are hundreds of books on leading change—but alignment is a special type of change and therefore requires a special style of leadership.

You lead change, but you inspire alignment.

Many of the exemplar companies we studied are also Best Places to Work winners. These companies are led by servant leaders. These servant leaders create environments where people align because they want to, not because they were forced to.

When I went to work at IBM in 1979, wearing a white shirt to work was essentially mandatory. Even though it was not a formal written policy, it was a key component of their culture and brand identity.

I loved IBM. I loved what it stood for. I was proud to work there. My parents were proud that I worked there.

I wore blue suits, white shirts, and “Captain America” ties to work every day because I wanted to, not because I had to.

In our exemplar companies, people enthusiastically and willingly align. They recognize that the standards are set to help them reach a higher ground, not just to force conformity to some ill-conceived program from corporate.

Ultimately, people align because they are inspired, not because it is required.

Note: This is an excerpt from my latest book, Drive One Direction.




Box (NYSE: BOX) is an enterprise content management platform that securely connects people, information, and applications. More than 41 million users—including SHIFTPOINTS—trust Box to manage content in the cloud.

Their new advertising campaign is entitled, “Work as One.”

Obviously, that caught my attention.

This chapter is not about Box per se, but about the incredible power of technology to improve alignment. An entire book could be written about this, but I will cover some of the highlights in One Chapter.

As part of the research for this book, I interviewed many software company executives, who provided insights that were extremely helpful. These companies literally go from A to Z, so I would like to thank them in alphabetical order:

  • AchieveIt
  • AlignToday
  • Atiim
  • com
  • Betterworks
  • Lattice
  • Slack
  • The Predictive Index
  • Workboard
  • Zoom

These companies are leveraging their technology expertise to solve the alignment problem. (I love how Zoom describes their value proposition, “More Teams. Less Work.”)

As we explained in the One Generation chapter, technology has changed the world. In addition, cloud-based tools have enabled cloud-based companies to change the rules of business. For example, Automattic and Zapier are 100 percent virtual. (Another A to Z!). These companies invest in cloud-based technologies in lieu of office space to create alignment.

Most companies, however, have a hybrid model. Some of their employees are in physical company offices, others are full-time teleworkers, and others are road warriors whose office is often a Starbucks or an airport lounge.

Whether your company has One Person or One Million, aligning everyone—and everything—is mission-critical. These new cloud-based tools provide a great new way to do it.

I strongly recommend that you contact these companies to learn how technology can help your team “Work as One.”

NOTE: This is an excerpt from my latest book, Drive One Direction.



LinkedIn-Post_ApplyOneProcessA few years ago, I took a trip to Napa Valley, California, and learned an important lesson about alignment.

The best wine comes from the vines that have been aggressively pruned.

In order to unleash the accelerating power of alignment, your company must also apply the discipline of pruning. For example, you must:

  • Prune initiatives that are out of alignment with your mission.
  • Prune executives who are out of alignment with your values.
  • Prune products that are out of alignment with your strategy.
  • Prune messages that are out of alignment with your campaign.

The discipline of pruning allows you to shed the things—and people—that hinder your progress.

Harvard Business School professor Michael Watkins has a great way of explaining this idea, “If ‘the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do,’ as Michael Porter famously said in a seminal HBR article, then the essence of execution is truly not doing it. That sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly hard for organizations to kill existing initiatives, even when they don’t align with new strategies.”

Is your company struggling with the strategy of “more”? Do you suffer from “initiative creep”?

We once worked with a large nonprofit organization. They had just launched a major transformational initiative but were struggling to get everyone—and everything—aligned with it.

I asked the CEO, “Since launching the campaign, what have you stopped doing?”

His answer was, “Ummmm … nothing.”

One of the reasons we use the word “One” all the time is that it forces companies to ruthlessly prioritize.

Every goal is important … which is the most important One?

In addition, when you evaluate everything from the perspective of total alignment, you identify the cost of even small levels of misalignment.

When a division is 80 percent aligned with your strategy, it is still 20 percent misaligned. When a team is 90 percent bought-in to your vision, they are still 10 percent opted-out. If your delivery is just 5 percent misaligned with your brand promise, you will have a lot of unhappy customers.

My hunch is that you have people—and things—in your company that are far more misaligned than that.

You must have the courage—and the discipline—to confront and prune them if necessary.

Just like wine, the best results come from the companies that are aggressively pruned.

NOTE: This is an excerpt from my latest book, Drive One Direction.





To improve alignment, your executive team will likely have to deal with tough, deep-seated issues.

We strongly recommend that you use the “debate, decide, and align” model.

One of the most dysfunctional and destructive organizational pathologies is “undermining.”

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 tell their direct reports, “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.

High-performance executive teams use the “debate, decide, and align” model. Once a decision is made, everyone aligns behind it, even it if wasn’t their preferred course of action.

I recognize that this is difficult. Most people can’t simply turn a switch and become passionate champions for an idea they vehemently disagreed with.

We once worked with a company that was grinding through the process of selecting their One Number.

First, there was a debate about whether using One Number to improve alignment was a good idea or not. Frankly, some executives thought it was unnecessary. Eventually, the CEO decided that it would indeed help the company improve alignment.

Once the CEO decided to do it, there was another debate about which number to choose. Then, there was another debate about the formula they would use to calculate their One Number. Then, there was yet another debate about what the target should be.

That is why creating alignment can be exhausting.

Ultimately, we came to a decision. We would use One Number. We agreed on One Formula and One Target. We launched the idea in a company-wide campaign.

Unfortunately, one executive (who was part of the entire process) refused to comply. Every time he showed his metric in company meetings, he used his own (non-compliant) formula. This was blatant, intentional undermining.

I would have fired him, but the CEO was reluctant to do so because his division was the most profitable one.

Alignment is a choice. And so is undermining.

In some cases, the undermining is intentional and volitional. In other cases, it is passive-aggressive.

Sometimes, the underminer is a single individual, acting alone. In other cases, it is led by a group or coalition. (We once facilitated an executive team offsite where a group of executives came into the meeting with the expressed purpose of leading a mutiny against the CEO.)

You should use the “debate, decide, and align” model to address critical alignment issues.

NOTE: This is an excerpt from my latest book, Drive One Direction.




LinkedIn-Post_onesystemEvery company has a system for managing the business.

But most are not particularly systematized.

When your company is small, managing it is relatively easy.

As you grow, complexity increases exponentially. To effectively manage the business, companies must create a management system.

In the classic Harvard Business Review article, “Mastering the Management System,” professors Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton describe the need for a management system:

“In our experience, however, breakdowns in a company’s management system, not managers’ lack of ability or effort, are what cause a company’s underperformance. By management system, we’re referring to the integrated set of processes and tools that a company uses to develop its strategy, translate it into operational actions, and monitor and improve the effectiveness of both.”

There are dozens of different management systems. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • The balanced scorecard, developed by Harvard Business School professors Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
  • Objectives and key results (OKRs), developed by Andy Grove at Intel
  • “The Rockefeller Habits,” developed by Verne Harnish
  • “The Entrepreneurial Operating System,” developed by Geno Wickman and Don Tinney
  • “Holocracy,” developed by Holocracy One
  • “The Top Gear System,” developed by SHIFTPOINTS
  • And many others

Each of these systems can be effective, but we advise clients to pick One of them. When a company adopts One System as your Alignment Management System, it provides a common language, which speeds communication and reduces friction.

Does your company have One Alignment Management System?

NOTE: This is an excerpt from my latest book, Drive One Direction.