The Three Legged Stool with Proper Leadership

In a post last year, I shared the metaphor that a system is like a three-legged stool. Working with a number of clients over the years, I noted that concept did not show the whole picture; it missed the idea that Leadership and Discipline need to be in place to hold the legs of the stool steady. For some clients this was used to show the lack of leadership. For others, there was some important leadership, but other disciplines were missing.

stool3 with leadership

Specific aspects of leadership and discipline need to be in place between each pair of legs on the stool. The schematic above identifies those disciplines and the following notes elaborates on them. Together, hopefully, this leads to a strong partnership among the System Vendor, the Institution Management and the System Users.

Holding the Three Legs Steady with Proper Leadership

  • Between the System (Vendors and MIS) and Management
    • Vision
      • An understanding of where the institution or department is going
      • A shared view of technology directions to support the department and/or institution
      • A Partnership between the vendor and the institution
  • Between Management and Users
    • Commitment
      • Belief in the use of technology and understanding of both its benefits and costs
      • Commitment to adequate resources
    • Sponsorship
      • Management to sponsor or “champion” technology projects
      • Balancing technology projects with daily operational responsibilities
  • Between Users and the System
    • Project Management
      • Planning and control of technology projects
      • Routine reporting to management of operations and productivity
      • Discipline in processing report or change requests
    • Commitment to Quality
      • Commitment to learning system capabilities
      • Adherence to data standards and policies & procedures
      • Universal striving for data accuracy and completeness by ALL users
      • Emphasis on the systems as “institutional memory” for all users
      • Demand for continuous improvement

In summary, not only do you need people, processes and programs (the 3 legged stool), but you also need to watch over it and have the right disciplines in place to keep it steady.

I’d welcome any comments/questions via e-mail at  And please sign up for my periodic blog posts in the space in the column on the right!

 SDG, Charlie Hunsaker
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