Alignment is a complex, multidimensional problem.

Therefore, aligning your company requires an integrated, multidisciplinary approach.

To help our clients implement the Drive One Direction® methodology, we developed a list of twelve best practices. We call them The Twelve Disciplines.

The Twelve Disciplines are twelve best practices that exemplar companies have used to unleash the accelerating power of alignment.

Much has been written about the process of leading change and the high percentage of corporate change initiatives that fail.

We believe that alignment is a special type of change. Therefore, creating alignment needs a special type of change management process.

The Twelve Disciplines will provide the } you need to transform and align your company.


 If you share our conviction that alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage, then creating alignment is not a tangential, tertiary, nice-to-have issue for your company. It is mission-critical.

Otherwise known as Job One.

The exemplar companies completely embraced this idea.

Of course, this starts with the CEO.

During my interview with Alan Mulally, he actually used our tagline, “Alignment is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Randy Papadellis, operated as Ocean Spray’s “Chief Alignment Officer.”

The founders of The Carlyle Group were so convinced of the importance of alignment that they codified the “One Carlyle” message from Day One.

Gail McGovern’s unwavering commitment to being “One Red Cross” was the key to their amazing turnaround.

Linda Chadwick, the Chief Executive Officer of Rita’s Water Ice, explained this emphatically, “Getting everyone going in the same direction is my Number One Priority.”

The executive team must embrace this idea as well. They must truly believe that alignment is mission critical.

Too often, we see passive “lip service” commitments to alignment initiatives. People say that alignment is Job One, but their actions deliver a different message.

We recommend that companies use assessment tools like the SHIFTPOINTS Corporate Alignment Percentage or the Acceleration Index to quantify the their current level of alignment.

We also suggest that companies use those metrics to calculate the true cost of misalignment. For most, this will be a startlingly high number.

Once you have quantified the cost of misalignment, improving it will surely be One of your priorities … but will it be Number One?

It seems redundant to say, “One Number One Priority,” but some companies have so many priorities that everything is a priority. Too often, companies even have competing, contradictory priorities.

Bill Pollard, the retired chairman of ServiceMaster, was talking with Peter Drucker about priorities. Peter said, "Bill, it wasn't until the 20th century that we pluralized the word priority. For most of its history, the word has been singular."

So, if you can only have One Number One Priority, what should it be? We obviously think that alignment must be Job One.

To turn alignment into a competitive advantage, it must be Job One. 


If your company is massively misaligned, you may need a One-Company Campaign.

Before you decide, remember that many people are jaded, cynical, skeptical, and distrustful of these kinds of initiatives.

And that is on a good day.

Nonetheless, should you decide to implement a One-Company campaign, your company should employ several best practices, including:

  • Inspire results with relentless, unwavering leadership. Alignment does not just happen. It takes lots of hard work and an intentional focus on the issue.
  • Manage alignment with a high-powered A-Team. The Alignment Team will manage the alignment process. (Some companies call this a program management office, or PMO.) They must have the organizational credibility and political capital to build coalitions and break down barriers.
  • Create excitement with a high-energy launch. One way to accelerate results is to launch the change with town hall meetings, e-mail blasts, videos, web content, posters, banners, and the obligatory T-shirts. While these elements can be fun, their impact is short-term. So, launch with fanfare, but sustain the effort. And remember, many people are cynical about these kinds of things. Don’t be lame.
  • Accelerate alignment by leveraging key influencers. It is essential to have key influencers, both internal and external, on board with the program. Find and empower your early adopters. These people “get it” right away, and incorporating their suggestions is critical to accelerating success.
  • Visualize progress with a war room that dramatizes the change. This is a fantastic tool for highlighting misalignment. This can be especially helpful when your company has lots of “old versions” of things. Use a progress wall so everyone can see the before and after.
  • Build endurance with a steady stream of wins and validations. Delivering early wins is a must. Celebrating them publicly will generate momentum, but avoid declaring victory too early. Many programs start out well but hit the wall. Easy issues are resolved first; difficult ones are procrastinated. Success requires endurance.
  • Drive progress with a clear project timeline, roadmap, and deadlines. Often, this means going faster than most think is possible or prudent. Some may worry about the timeline being too aggressive, but our experience is that organizations can change a lot faster than they think they can.
  • Run the transformation in 90-Day SPRINTS. SHIFTPOINTS has had tremendous success with the 90-day SPRINT model. Start by breaking the transformation into specific initiatives that can be accomplished within 90 days. Meet at the start of every quarter to review progress. Color-code each initiative with red, yellow, or green to indicate whether it has been accomplished.

These best practices will improve the probability of success.


Every company has a culture.

But most have a dysfunctional one.

The Three Musketeers is a novel by Alexandre Dumas set in seventeenth-century Paris. It tells the story of a young man named d'Artagnan who wants to join the Musketeers of the Guard.

The Three Musketeers made the phrase “all for one and one for all” famous (“tous pour un, et un pour tous”).

All for One and One for All.

This sounds a lot easier than it is. Unfortunately, the cultural dynamic we often see is “All for me and none for you!”

Companies actually have dozens of cultures.

The accounting team has a culture. The European sales team has one. The manufacturing plant has a different one.

The key is to build a One-Company culture that unifies and aligns everyone.

Unfortunately, Bain & Company research found that only 10 percent of companies have a high-performance culture.

While there are many reasons for this, one of the most dysfunctional is infighting.

Sometimes, this behavior is demonstrated in the budgeting process, which is often managed as a zero-sum game. Sometimes, it manifests itself in unhealthy internal competition and power struggles.

Peter Drucker famously said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That sounds good, but I am not sure it is true.

What is true is that companies with One-Company cultures can leverage the full breadth and depth of the firm to win and serve customers. These highly aligned companies eat their fragmented and dysfunctional competitors for breakfast … lunch … and dinner!

Ideally, your company has built the One-Company mindset into your culture from Day One.

If, however, you have allowed your culture to disintegrate into warring tribes and dysfunctional fiefdoms, you have a lot of work to do.

Does your company have a One-Company culture?


Every 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.

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?


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.


In addition to optimizing each of The Twelve Accelerators, you must take the additional step of looking at them holistically.

They must deliver One Message.

This extra step ensures that each of your One(s) is aligned with each other—and this step is critical.

Every research study confirms that most employees are disengaged. One root cause for disengaged employees is something we call “corporate hypocrisy.” This takes place when the company’s words, actions, policies, decisions, and behaviors don’t match.

In our experience, mixed messages kill alignment.

Awhile back, I worked with a sales executive who had cut his teeth in a hard-core door-to-door sales organization.

The company sold coupons for automotive repair services. Each representative would knock on hundreds of doors every day, facing mindboggling levels of rejection.

Although I have had hundreds of hours of sales training, he taught me something I had never heard before: “The confused mind always says no.”

The corollary for leaders is, “The confused employee always shifts into neutral.”

To prevent your employees from shifting into neutral, you must deliver One Message.

First, your words must be aligned. Your vision must align with your brand promise. Your mission must align with your values. Your executives must speak with One Voice.

Second, your actions must be aligned with your words.

You can’t proclaim that you value diversity and have twelve white men on the board. You can’t talk about being One Team and tolerate undermining. You can’t promise One Wow! and not deliver it.

The Drive One Direction® methodology is an integrated system. Ensuring that everything is aligned to deliver One Message is a critical step in the process.

You can’t win the race if confused employees shift into neutral.


A 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.


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 our 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
  • 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.”)

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.”


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 is 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.


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.


In 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. Bognet Construction has been building The BOGNET Way for over fifteen 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.


The first eleven disciplines have 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.

But 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.