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Nov
04

The One Thirds Two Thirds 1/3 – 2/3 Rule for Military Leaders

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one thirds two thirds ruleThe One Thirds Two Thirds Rule is an important rule for military leaders and for people planning military missions.  The 1/3 – 2/3 rule states that a military leader should not spend more than 1/3 of the time allocated to accomplish a mission with the planning phase.  For instance, if your unit has a mission to accomplish six days from now, you would want to finalize your plan by the end of day 2.  This gives your subordinates 4 days to do their planning and resourcing and get ready for the mission.

This is a simple rule that gets violated all the time.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been give an OPORD or mission to accomplish with little or no time to plan.  And worst of all, in many cases my boss knew about the mission for days or even weeks beforehand. By the time I learned about the mission, I almost had to “wing it” and “shoot from the hip.”  Of course, I got the job done, but it would have been a much smoother process if my boss followed the one thirds two thirds rule.

I’ve also been guilty of violating this rule myself.  As a Company Commander, sometimes I didn’t give my subordinates enough time to plan and get ready for missions. Every time this happened, the mission did not go the way I wanted it to. I think there is a valuable lesson to learn from that.

The moral of the story is that you need to follow the one thirds two thirds rule whenever possible.  If you are in charge of others, you need to be an information sharer, not an information hoarder.  Whenever you find out about a mission, send a Warning Order immediately to the people who will be assigned the mission.  Share the information that you do know.  Start your military planning immediately and finalize your game plan as quickly as possible so your subordinates will have time to do their own mission planning.

Even if your plan isn’t perfect, that’s okay. It’s better to have an 80% solution ahead of time than it is to have a perfect solution too late. Do the best you can. Develop the best plan you can with all of the information you do have, and push the orders out to your subordinates as quickly as possible. As you get additional information you can push out FRAGOs as needed.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the One Thirds Two Thirds Rule is a military rule for mission planning.  Military leaders should never take more than 1/3 of the allocated time allowed to plan for a mission.  That way their subordinates have 2/3 of the available time to do their mission planning and accomplish the mission.  I hope that helps.  What are your thoughts?

Categories : Mission Planning

Comments

  1. Amy Skalicky says:

    This is great time management information. I know people who get lost in the planning stage and never make it to actually preparing or “doing.” The civilian working world is also fraught with leadership getting information about a project and its due date, but failing to put it into play until the last minute. At this point, it gets delegated and becomes someone else’s problem. I’ve been in that situation too many times, and it seems that the first time I got it done (somehow) on time, that opened the door for me to get all of the last minute projects. Being good at it doesn’t make it any more palatable.

  2. Ron Warren says:

    Thanks for the tip!

  3. An average but complete plan that is effected on time is far better than a superior, incomplete plan, implemented late, or worst of all when it dips into subordinate units’ planning time to finish the job. Warning orders by company commanders and other officers in charge should be given just before each 1/3 begins, right? One Thirds Two Thirds Rule makes sense in private industry and public service.

    • The 1/3-2/3 rule is designed to get mission orders out quickly so subordinate leaders have ample time to do their mission planning and execute the mission. Like you said, it really applies to every organization (or should anyway). Failing to give your subordinates enough time to plan, rehearse and execute the mission is one of the major causes of failure.
      Chuck

      • Candace Ginestar says:

        A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week. – George S. Patton

        This is why using the Troop Leading Procedures are a very effective way to get things done while continuing to refine the plan. A lot of leaders will get caught up in the details, when most of the time all the NCOs need is to be told what the mission is and the part of the execution paragraph that pertains to them – then they can initiate movement while you continue to refine your plan.

        • Good General Patton quote, Candace.

          I’ve always believed that executing an okay plan today is better than waiting for a perfect plan next week.

          Thanks for the comment.

          Chuck

  4. Neil O'Donnell says:

    Understandably, there will be times when Commanding Officers must withhold information vital to a mission until the last minute. Such instances should not be the norm. The One Thirds Two Thirds Rule sounds like a good blueprint for making certain subordinates have sufficient time to complete a mission. During the planning stage, it would likely speed planning along if NCOs and other critical personnel were included in designing the strategy.

    • The whole purpose of the 1/3 – 2/3 rule is to give your subordinate leaders adequate time to do their mission planning. Even if you don’t have all the information you need for a complete mission order, you should still follow this rule. You can always issue FRAGOs and last minute updates as you get them from higher.

  5. Michelle says:

    While it’s always important to plan ahead, it becomes even more important to inform others about the task at hand when they are involved in carrying out the mission itself. If one person withholds information, it causes a chain reaction. If not handled appropriately a mission can crumble. I can definitely see why the 1/3 – 2/3 Rule for Military Leaders is important when planning missions.

    • So true, Michelle. I’ve been on both sides of this issue in my career. There were times as a leader when I violated rule and saw firsthand the effects it had on my organization. And there were also times when my superiors violated the 1/3-2/3 rule in their mission planning and it had a negative impact on me and my unit. When possible, it’s vital to follow the 1/3-2/3 rule.
      Chuck

  6. Don says:

    … and the effective (if less efficient) leader anticipates when a WARNO is not going to be provided in a timely manner and arranges for his unit to be prepared anyway.

    I have yet to figure out how to achieve that to my satisfaction.

    • chuckholmes says:

      Great leaders do anticipate missions and share the information with their followers, in order to be proactive. Sometimes this is much easier said than done though!

      Thanks for commenting, Don!

      Chuck

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