When the Normans conquered England in 1066, they brought with them their flag – two golden lions on a red background (it is still the flag of Normandy). A hundred and twenty years later, Richard the Lionheart added a third lion. It is now the royal flag for England but the three lions symbol has been permitted for other representations of England, such as the men’s and women’s soccer teams. For King Richard, the lions represented his three domains, his three sources of power: England, Normandy, and Aquitaine in south-west France.
It is not the only model where it is considered that you need three critical attributes for success. Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema came up with the concept of the three value disciplines in the early 1990s. The idea is that a successful organisation has to excel at one of the value disciplines and reach a high threshold in the other two. The three value disciplines are: customer intimacy (think Amazon), product leadership (think Apple), and operational excellence (think Wal-Mart, FedEx, or Dell).
These three value disciplines were later adopted into the Harvard balanced scorecard which documents the components that enable you to execute your strategy, establish excellence and then monitor those components for any weakness that might undermine maintenance of the disciplines. It is at this level that risk assessments can be applied to ensure that controls are in place to achieve success.
If your organisation has three critical attributes, three secret weapons that differentiate it from the competition, then it is the risks to those attributes that should be focused on in the first instance.
And as if to echo the message of the three lions badge that every England soccer player wears, there is an axiom in international football that you can only ever win the World Cup if you have at least three world class players. This may explain why the England men’s team has only ever achieved this once.
Data Sources: The Balanced Scorecard – Kaplan and Norton; Kings & Queens of England – Richard Cavendish; Wikipedia