The 1–3–1 Method

Vivek Desai
3 min readSep 18, 2023
Photo by Karla Hernandez on Unsplash

I have been using the 1–3–1 method more and more to empower and streamline the decision-making process on complex and “politically charged” projects. As leaders, your ability to context shift and delegate decision-making is a big part of being successful.

The “One Three One” method, when applied to problem-solving, is a structured approach to breaking down and addressing complex issues or challenges. In this context, the “One Three One” method doesn’t refer to a basketball defense but rather represents a simplified problem-solving process that consists of three stages or steps, each with one overarching goal.

One Goal:

In the first step of the “One Three One” method, you start by identifying and clearly defining one specific goal or problem statement. This is the central issue you want to address or the outcome you want to achieve.
The key here is to make sure that your goal is clear, concise, and well-defined. It should answer the question, “What problem are we trying to solve?” or “What outcome are we trying to achieve?”

Three Strategies:

Once you have a clear goal, the second step involves brainstorming and developing three distinct strategies, recommendations, or approaches to tackle the problem or achieve the desired outcome.
These strategies, recommendations, or approaches should represent different paths or methods to reach your goal. They might involve different resources, techniques, or approaches to problem-solving.
The idea is to encourage creative thinking and generate a variety of potential solutions or ways forward.

One Best Approach:

In the final step of the “One Three One” method, you evaluate and recommend the best approach or strategy among the three you developed in the previous step.
This involves considering factors such as feasibility, resource availability, potential risks, and the expected impact or effectiveness of each strategy. The goal is to make an informed decision and select the most promising strategy to implement.

Here’s a simplified example of how this method might be applied to a real-world problem:

Problem: Increasing employee engagement within a company.

One Goal: Define a clear goal — “Improve employee engagement within the organization.”

Three Strategies:

Strategy 1: Implement regular feedback sessions with employees to address their concerns and ideas.
Strategy 2: Create a mentorship program to foster professional development and relationships among employees.
Strategy 3: Organize team-building activities and events to enhance workplace camaraderie.

One Best Approach: After evaluating the three strategies based on factors like cost, feasibility, and potential impact, the company decides to focus on Strategy 1: implementing regular feedback sessions, as it seems to have the highest potential for improving employee engagement.

The “One Three One” method simplifies the problem-solving process by breaking it down into manageable steps. It encourages clarity in goal setting, diversification of potential solutions, and a deliberate selection of the best approach. The thing I like most about this method is that empowers the person(s) defining the 3 strategies, recommendations, or approaches to own the problem and shows the organization that we trust their analytics skills. However, it’s important to note that real-world problem-solving often involves more complex situations and may require additional steps, such as implementation planning, monitoring, and adjustments as needed.

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