The 3-legged stool: essentials for business operations


Forward thinkers in business often point to the model of the three-legged stool to emphasize three essentials in operations: knowledge, tools/skills and expectations. All are needed to empower operations teams to be efficient, resolve issues, and succeed. And these critical components should be built into a company’s organization in order to drive top performances from team members.


“The bad leader is he who the people despise; the good leader is he who the people praise; the great leader is he who the people say, "We did it ourselves,” is an important quote from The Fifth Discipline, Peter M. Senge’s classic book on how businesses can create a learning organization. This is because an empowered team is a happy team, and happy teams provide great results. But in order to do so, they need stability.

Here’s what global management consultants shared following a 2017 study: “The image of the stool conveys a couple of important points. First, the stool must have all three legs to be stable enough to support anything, especially the capacity to create your own future. Second, if you do not develop these capabilities more or less together as an ensemble, the stool will have legs of different lengths and will be too wobbly to support anything for very long. So, even though you might experience momentary success in creating your own future, it will be short-lived if you do not balance the development of the three core capabilities.”


Organizations can break down each leg of the stool to find ways to enhance teams through specific actions based on the value of each of the three legs.


1. Knowledge.

In business, external roles are obvious: to provide a product or service. However, the internal roles of an organization relate to its structure and what it provides for its staff. In a motivated workplace, team members are driven by more than just a paycheck but by increasing their own knowledge and skills in ways that benefit themselves and the organization.


2. Tools/Skills:

The business sphere is competitive, and the tools your organization utilizes can determine its success or lack thereof. While most organizations expect a fast return on investment, organizations that provide resources that increase general skills and tools to help that increase find that the pay-off extends beyond the goal.


Boost Midwest has found in consulting on business operations that team members who most benefit from this approach share these qualities:

  • Curiosity.

  • Desire.

  • Self-awareness.

  • Vulnerability.

3. Expectations.

Setting expectations is an essential responsibility that many business owners gloss over. Managers should be clear about the level of performance they expect from teams in order to receive the desired results. Yet, nearly half of all U.S. employees don't know what's expected of them at work, according to a 2016 Gallup study.

Clear employee expectations benefit your entire business and, when communicated properly, motivate teams and team members without throwing them into a panic.

Team expectations are similar to individual expectations, except that team expectations are something every team member should be accountable for while also holding others accountable.

Boost Midwest often recommends using SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound — goals to set team expectations. But leadership setting expectations should also:

  • Determine what their expectations are.

  • Make expectations clear to minimize any confusion.

  • State why the expectations are important.

  • Provide examples of why the expectations are important.

  • Provide the expectations in writing.

  • Have team members agree and commit to the expectations.

In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge defines learning organizations as those companies that continually enhance their capacity to create the results they truly care about. Using the three-legged stool model, your business will grow as your employees grow and change as your business changes, addressing problems as or before they arise.


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Ready to learn more about how Boost Midwest can help you optimize your project management and operations? Schedule your free consultation call with us today using our Quick Schedule Link here.



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