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Rule of Three

January 2, 2012
Performance management and rules of three

Performance management and rules of three

The number of objectives that an individual should be expected to manage is a challenge for organizational leaders. To reach the objectives described through a corporate agenda or Balanced Scorecard Strategy Map requires coherent planning. Organizational transparency embraces communications that support an agenda of structured flows throughout the enterprise. Simple solutions are not always apparent. Business may be able to learn from the military which is structured with cascading transparency of communications.

A management model comes from the United States Marine Corps Chain of Command. The Marine Corps uses the “Rule of Three”. Limited to three major objectives results in focused training and removes distractions from competing influences. The rule works like this: each Marine has three things to worry about. Three men to a firing team commanded by a Corporal. That is three men plus the Corporal for a total of four on the team when the team leader is counted. Three fire teams to a rifle squad commanded by a sergeant. Three rile squads to a platoon commanded by a Lieutenant. Three rile platoons to a company commanded by a Captain. Three companies to a battalion commanded by a Lieutenant Col.… When business process follows a similar model to the “Rules of Three” the drill down provides a clear picture of performance at all levels of the organization.

Cascading the rule of three through an organization’s performance measurements connect individuals to a common set of goals and objectives. Every individual becomes responsible for a limited number of results limiting other distractions. Each organizational level is responsible for specific areas of decisions that roll up to the company objectives.

Model of process improvement and “Rule of Three”

Use the familiar steps to determine what to measure:

  1. First: Determine the crucial performance areas that need to be measured.
  2. Second: Determine the critical success factors necessary to succeed.
  3. Third: Study each critical success factor and define the performance indicators that will measure success.

The process moves from general to specific resulting in relevant and useful performance measures. When performance measures are assigned to individuals the rule of three will result in focus understanding, minimal ambiguity, and a strong understanding of measurement changes.


Big Data versus Strategy-Focus

November 14, 2011

What is Big Data? Defined by Wikipedia Big Data are data sets whose size is beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time. Big data sizes are in constant change and currently considered to be in the range from a few terabytes to many petabytes in a single data set.

What is a Strategy-Focused business? According to Kaplan and Norton, a strategy focused organization translates strategy into operational terms, aligns an organization to the strategy, makes strategy everyone’s everyday job, make strategy a continual process, and mobilizes change through executive leadership.

What does Big Data have to do with strategy-focused organizations?

Organizations that are looking at ways to mine Bid Data in order to improve their business performance should have that activity aligned with the overall strategy. Companies that are not Strategy-Focused, the data that is being mined may not fit within the definition of the organization goals. Strategy-focus companies apply collaborative process that are linked together in a holistic manner to insure that everyone understands the organizational direction. When Big Data is analyzed and does not support Strategy-Focused objectives the exercise may be futile since it does not facilitate or support the organization based on the existing strategy.

It is critical for organizations to align their data requirements to that of their organizational strategy. Big Data complicates this because of the volumes of information that can enrich the understanding of the business. Strategy-Focused objectives when used as a guide to define Big Data mining will insure that the retrieval of data supports the organizations overall business objectives.

Suggested steps to help foster Strategy-Focused data mining:

1. Understand the organizational objectives
2. Define the measurements to be used to analyze objectives
3. Determine if the measurements are material
4. Deliver the measurements using a pre-defined timetable

These few steps will clearly identify the data that is material to manage the success of the business environment.

LinkedIn: Evaluate your connections

September 5, 2011

After years of using LinkedIn it was time to test the power and quality of my connections. Reentering the job market the list of connections became one of the first assets I turned to in my search for a new opportunity. I created a marketing message about my status using MS Publisher and identified the type of position I was seeking. The self-marketing brochure included buttons to an online resume, LinkedIn, and personal website. The result of this effort brought forth several useful insights.

There are three categories of connections to think about when using LinkedIn: collector, selector, and friend. Each type of connection has differences:

Collector: Connections identified as collector increase the number of contacts in the profile. Generally, these connections are people with limited firsthand background knowledge beyond that provided on their LinkedIn profile. Recruiters have a large volume of connections in this category because of the need for an inventory of resources.

Selectors:  Individuals in the selector category are associated with an event or a common experience. Examples of people in this group are business associates, alumni, special
project participants, or people where the connection is based on a memorable experience. This group remembers you because of a shared experience.

Friends: Individuals in the friend category are connected because of a special relationship, which may include something similar to unconditional love. These connections will go to great lengths to help even if they are not sure what you are looking for because they believe in you.

The self-marketing email was sent to 400 LinkedIn connections. The selector category responded to the email with the highest percentage. Selector category remembered me because of a common experience that connected past work history, personality, or a shared experience. Friends had the second highest response rate because they wanted to help in any way possible. Connections from the collector catagory provided very few responses to my email.

From the 400 notes emailed, I received responses back from 78 individuals, which represents 19.5% response rate. Responses ranged from the simplest statement; “I will keep my eyes and ears open” to unsolicited introductions to specific hiring managers inside companies. Some viral marketing occurred with my original email being forward by connections expanding the initial email reach beyond the 400 original connections.

Lesson learned: 1) Complete an inventory of connections to determine their category based on the three connection types. This information will help to provide a picture of contact list “value” based on the intended use. 2) Whenever you have a good experiences with a colleague invite them to LinkIn with you. They will be part of the selector group and most likely category to remember you in the future. Selectors will be your strongest advocates if you need assistance looking for a new opportunity.

Environmental Perspective

October 19, 2009

It is time to consider a new Balanced Scorecard perspective.  The new perspective is focused on clean energy and the carbon footprint of a company.  The new perspective can be titled with any number of names including carbon footprint, green energy, or the environmental perspective.  As the green movement evolves, the reality of a world with limited resources presents an opportunity to create a perspective dedicated to this challenge. Organizations are being required by federal and local law or mandated to change the way business handles environmental concerns. 


Business can no longer operate in a vacuum concerning the overall impact on the environment. We are no longer Sampson facing Goliath as individuals facing environmental concerns.  We must work in concert with each other as a society to save resources and use energy in a manner that conserves.  Each business needs to operate being mindful of the environment much as Noah did when he saved the animals.  We are bound by decisions that have consequences across society.  Companies need to act in concert and measure progress in order to maximize and support public policy around environmental impact.  A focused through an environmental perspective would help to measure the actions of organizations.


A Balanced Scorecard environmental perspective would highlight the importance of these issues on business operations.  By monitoring, everything from carbon footprint to paper recycling, organizations have a vehicle to communicate environmental issues through the holistic manner of the Balanced Scorecard.  When incorporated into the Balanced Scorecard the perspective becomes a high-level visible measurement of the importance of the environment to the organization.   The news is full of stories about environmental change and organizations that help prevent negative change from affecting our world.  If this were measured at a company level, each business could include a discussion focused on the environmental impact of business decision.


Encouraging organizations to incorporate an aggressive and progressive response to environmental issues will become evident with an environmental perspective.  I would challenge Balanced Scorecard practitioners to focus more closely on the impact, of environmental concerns and business operations.  The Balanced Scorecard is an excellent management tool to manage environmental responsibility.

Job Search Using Improvement Techniques

June 19, 2009

The resume’ enters the black hole called the Internet. It disappears into the bowels of an unknown entity within cyberspace of corporate America. Add a cover letter, little change is observed as the effort vanishes leaving no sign of a successful arrival on the hiring managers desks. Not even a peep is heard from the “consumer” that requires the information.

To count what has been submitted by job seekers is a simple matter of tracking email messages. It is more difficult to determine if the quality of presentation even catches the eye of the intended recipient.

My resolve is to determine the effectiveness of my personal job marketing campaign. What techniques can be used to measure the activity created during my job search? The premise; if one measures the change in activity opportunities open to take action.

Similar to improvement methodologies measuring change during the job search will provide indicators of success. When it is possible to determine change in activity an evaluation will become the basis for a success strategy. Counting the number of job applications submitted is a “feel good” latent measure that only establishes effort put forth but does not determine the quality of that effort. Leading indicators are the result of monitoring the changes seen in response to interest in ones job submissions.

A few tricks to measure changes in job search activity:

  • Web properties– During the job search encourage hiring manages to visit your profile on LinkedIn, personal web site, and blog.
  • LinkedIn– Profile “attractivity” can be measured by monitoring “Who’s viewed my profile?” on the home page. This information is updated on a daily basis. It is a very powerful way to measure change. The report indicates how often a profile has been viewed and how many times your name appears in searches. In addition LinkedIn provides clues to who viewed the profile.
  • Web Site– Establish a personal “professional” web site as an opportunity to expand upon background information. The web site can be monitored with tools including Google analytics. Reports from the monitoring tools provide information about visitors to the site. These reprots can be used to trace site visitors.
  • Blog– Monitor blog visits. Similar to the web site the log reports on visits. Like web analytics, clarity of visits will help provide an understanding about those seeking to learn about you.

The consolidation of information is a picture of those that have taken the opportunity to learn more about your background.

What does this mean?

The job search now can include tools that allow for a proactive monitoring activity around web properties. The ability to monitor leaves a trail of activityinformation. Studying this activity becomes a tool to adjust job search effort and take proactive action.

If change is measured than performance can be improved. Through a simple set of tools it is possible to monitor and take proactive action during the job search.


May 17, 2009

Convergence is the approach over time toward equilibrium which often is resolved through approximation of solutions. Most often it is an estimate based on a theoretical fixed value. In business, convergence is obtained by approaching solutions through collaborative efforts with the removal of barriers that hamper the flow of ideas.

Convergence is necessary to move new ideas or innovation from conceptual to execution stage. Organizational leadership needs to have the capacity and willingness to adapt change. Execution of innovation is never a straight path. Leaders that are the fulcrum of convergence understand the importance of collaborative efforts. These change agents need to be both promoter and defender. They must find a path that creates common ground that is horizontal across the organization.

Successful convergence includes:

Building relationship: Take the time to forge relationships. The collective strength of a team lends the strength of the collective knowledge of many. Group think is powerful and result oriented.

Building trust: One of the most challenging aspects of business. The foundation of trust is relationships. Strong relationships are the cornerstone for trust.

Developing a common vocabulary: Build a formalized vocabulary that defines common terms and concepts. Parties involved will understand what the meanings and expectations are for acronyms, special vocabulary, and expectations. Clarity of communications reduces ambiguity.

Convergence requires a “go with the flow” outlook. Never a straight path is found to the intended goal. Improvisation is to think on ones feet a necessity to arrive at common places in convergence.

Organizational growth includes adaptation to new ideas and concepts. The convergence of ideas within an existing infrastructure is organization evolution. Bring ideas together to a workable result does necessitate strong relationships built on trust. The convergence of ideas and concepts in an atmosphere of success will result in outcomes were reasonable people will make reasonable decisions.

Traffic Lights – What Do They Mean?

May 5, 2009

Traffic LightThe use of “traffic lights” is prevalent in communicating status of scorecard information. A quick reference, colors are used to provide current statues of projects, initiatives, and goals set by an organization. They are easily discernable and quickly communicate information. Most used colors on scorecards are red, yellow, and green. Colors are further clarified through accompanying action plans necessary to change red and yellow to green.

Using the traffic light concept is a straightforward way to communicate status of projects. This is especially true of green, which most often is interpreted as reaching success, similar to receiving an ‘A’ on a report card. Green represents a positive result and the color to strive for and achieve. Green with envy is the place that reds find themselves at times.

Red is used to indicate that a goal is not achieved. It is most closely associated with failure or a negative mark even if documentation notes otherwise. Red is often an indicator of an incomplete task or a missed deadline. Red is a visceral color in business not imbuing confidence.

Yellow is the most confusing of all colors. It often means that expected goals have not reached, reclassified as a work in process. Action plans are required to describe how yellow will be changed to green. Yellow is often interpreted as positive since it is not red. It can also indicate the lack of a serious discussion about the project or avoidance of a status change to red.

What would it be like to have only two lights; red and green?

Either the goal is reached or it is incomplete. This would improve clarity while removing the ambiguity of yellow. Complete or incomplete, provide a status that states that only green is complete and red incomplete. Scorecards would provide clarity of true success and completion. Being a little pregnant would no longer be an option.

Clarity in the world of scorecard is critical, a quick indicator of status that is shared with many different levels in an organization. It is important to face the challenges head on addressing incomplete work rather than the egg shell dance of yellow. Organizational culture would require managing the egos of red. Status would be required for all red just like yellows and reds of traditional scorecards.

Green would become the new black in business.