Triple Threat ‘Initiative’ Leadership



So, what on earth is a triple threat leader?  Are you one? Do you need to be one?  Today’s business world continues to move and change with incredible speed and complexity.  It can be quite difficult to bring order to the chaos.  When it comes to leadership being a triple threat leader could serve you well.

Let’s start with a definition. Being a triple threat leader looks at initiatives (projects) from three distinct but highly interdependent perspectives of requirements management, project management and organisational change management. You may have heard of the phrase triple constraints, which is a project related concept to balance between scope, time and cost.  The triple threat leader is similar in that requirements management, project management and organisational change management must be carefully balanced and utilised to achieve the business benefits desired.

The good news is that management in larger organizations is, by and large, becoming more aware of how difficult it is to successfully deliver project outcomes. The bad news is management is realizing things that most project professionals aren’t ready to handle. Not only are we not ready for them, but also our professional associations are making it HARDER to prepare for overall project success. What is the problem? We are focusing our learning on becoming better business analysts, project managers or change managers, when in reality we need to become “triple threat leaders” and know how to manage all three equally well.

How are our professional bodies making this harder?

It is appropriate that we focus on improving our capabilities in business analysis (BA), project management (PM) and organisational change management (CM). However, we are taking a backwards approach to the balance required to ensure business outcomes are brought to fruition. Right now, most of the professional associations meet about 8-10 times a year and address issues and learning objectives in their specific discipline, and on rare occasion, they meet jointly with their BA/PM/CM counterparts. It would seem to be better if this was closer to 50/50. As we become more aware and competent in our specific discipline, we frequently become more critical of our professional counterparts. We need to learn to work better together, and reduce the “handoffs” between the BA, PM and CM. We often complain that the businesses we serve work “in silos”, we are creating our own silos with BA, PM and CM and the divisions will be greater, not smaller, if we don’t concentrate on become more seamless.

What does a triple threat leader look like? If we do become more seamless as project professionals, what will that look like?

Largely, the answer to these two questions is very similar. The concept of a triple threat leader is one that understands and can integrate the activities and skills of business analysis, project management and change management for the benefit of the sponsor and stakeholders. It does not matter what her skills are based upon; it does not matter if she has a business analysis background, a project or change management background. What matters is that they can see an initiative from a business lifecycle versus a requirements lifecycle, project lifecycle, or change management framework.  The notion of an idea surfacing, an evaluation of that idea being performed and analyzed, a project to produce deliverables being designed and executed, and an organisational change plan being derived and executed to bring employees and customers on a change journey is an initiative, from the business’ perspective. They don’t care when the BA activity stops, the PM activities occur, nor when the CM gets engaged. They just want it to work…and we need to adjust our approach to working together to help make that happen more often and transparently to the businesses that employ us.

What can we do to make this happen?

First, start with your own initiatives. Have specific workshops that focus on how to integrate activities that ensure the BA, PM and CM are all working together. Awareness and input from each of these key roles into the overall plan and approach for an initiative is imperative if the concept of a triple threat leader is to come to pass.

Second, push your local association chapters for change. Have more meetings together, and focus on closing the seams. We cannot solve a common business problem or address a common business perception if we explore this as individual groups. Business analysts, project managers and change managers must work together if we are to APPEAR we are working together. Take the initiative to address issues, based on your own business challenges. Our experience has shown that many organizations have challenges in the area of integrating BA, PM and CM activities. If you feel this is true in your business, you probably aren’t alone. Propose an agenda that focuses on your particular business with specific suggestions on how to alter the interactions between the disciplines; you are likely to find common ground that your peers will benefit from as well.

Third, cross over your own skill. Take on the personal challenge of thinking beyond your particular BA/PM/CM “silo” and spend more time with your colleagues in other disciplines. Attend other discipline’s association meetings if you are not able to have co-branded association meetings. Read professional magazines and learn about that “other discipline”Create common plans for your own initiatives, cross over activities, and strive to be more seamless. It DOES NOT MATTER who ends up in the leadership role …working together more seamlessly will expand your personal capabilities and make you more valuable to your business and to the marketplace at large. Perform this discipline integration well and your career opportunities should blossom.

Last, create and track measurements for “initiative seamlessness.”  Polling your own stakeholders about what could be improved is a common activity. Translating that into action is another. Citing the truism “we control what we measure” is appropriate here. Understanding where your “seams are showing” and creating measurements to monitor those issues will give you guidance as you try to deliver business outcomes through initiatives seamlessly. Some potential measures involve the understanding of the intended improvement objectives (documented via the requirements and project management processes) by the “end users” who need to take a new process on board.

Another might be a question of authority. Does the project team and the stakeholders fully understand the roles of the BA/PM/CM and what responsibilities are handled by each role? Better yet, do the stakeholder perceive talking with a leader of any of these three disciplines results in ALL of them understanding and knowing their needs?  Determine which discipline (in general) is weakest in your organisation and work together to get that discipline to the desired standard.  If all three disciplines are delivering quality results to similar standards, this provides consistency across the initiative activities.

In organisations that have adopted the Triple Threat leader concept – the three disciplines are tightly interwoven – each succeeding due to their ability to effectively appreciate and leverage the capabilities of each discipline.  It’s not an either/or situation, it’s an AND situation with regards to timing, approach and activities coming together to achieve the business outcomes.

Awareness and accepting the validity of all three BA/PM/CM disciplines – and not arguing about who is better, more important or best over the others – is the first step to delivering seamless initiatives. By working together to better understand and integrate what we do – we will create the triple threat initiative leaders our businesses need.


Bob McGannon and Denise DeCarlo are Founders and Principals of MINDAVATION, a company providing project management training and consulting, leadership workshops and keynotes throughout North America, Europe and Australia.  The Mindavation team can be reached by calling 866-888-MIND (6463) in the USA or 1300 947 572 in Australia, or by sending an email to or via the web at WWW.MINDAVATION.COM

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