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  • Writer's pictureMark Bragg (Braggy)

The Rule of 3

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.” Colin Powell

Colin Powell’s quote strikes at the very heart of the leader's challenge and points to the way forward. Cut through…get to the heart of the problem… ACT!


Simplicity though, is hard. It requires both careful thought and tough decisions. Delivering a strategic direction with black and white clarity that is understood and acted on, is difficult even for a single team. For large organizations, it can be a nightmare.

So, you have to constantly ask yourself;

  1. Am I complicating things for the people I manage?

  2. Have I provided them with simple, clear and concise roles and objectives?

  3. Have I asked them to do things that are of little or no consequence?

My father, a wonderful teacher, would always say when instructing his students on speaking in public.

“If you have a book turn it into a page. If you have a page make it a paragraph. If you have a paragraph reduce it to a sentence and if you have a sentence you only need a couple of words.”

It was exceptional guidance for public speaking, more importantly it taught you to look through complexity, to search for the heart of things, stripping away stuff that didn’t matter.


The rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that ‘come in threes’ are inherently funnier, more satisfying and more effective than other numbers of things. Research shows that we find it easier to understand and remember information if it is delivered in threes.

Watch any video of the late Steve Jobs introducing a new product and you will see the rule of 3 applied over and over again. Examples: "We have three revolutionary products for you today" or "The new iPad2 will be thinner, lighter and faster".

Jobs was also very clear about the toughest part of simplicity and focus. "People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas."


Here are examples of strategic and tactical/execution questions, you and your team might think about in applying the Rule of 3:

  1. What 3 words describe our culture?

  2. What are our 3 metrics which will determine our success?

  3. What are our 3 most important strategic initiatives?

  4. What are the three projects/initiatives we should kill? (STOP DOING)

  5. What are our top 3 priorities NOW?

  6. What 3 processes or systems DON’T we need. (Most companies are loaded up with unnecessary software).


  1. It causes you and your team to think carefully about what's important.

  2. It will help remove or STOP doing stuff that isn't.

  3. Applied weekly it will maintain a ruthless focus on execution.

Ultimately your team will have clearer direction, less distractions and guidance they both understand and buy-in to.

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