Triads really do work. The key is getting three people to work together seamlessly. Starbucks succeeded with this because Howard Schultz, the founder, was able to give up his stage three need to control and surround himself and trust his Stage Four triad.
Howard Schultz writes in Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time (Hyperion 1999),
“Howard and Orin were both older than I was, by about ten years. Both took pay cuts to come to Starbucks but joined because they understood the passion and the potential and they believed their stock options would one day become valuable. To a lot of entrepreneurs, hiring more seasoned executives can be threatening, and actually delegating power to them is even more so. In my own case, I have to admit, it wasn’t easy. My identity had quickly become so closely tied up with that of Starbucks that any suggestion for change made me feel as if I had failed in some aspect of my job. Inside my head, it was a constant battle, and I had to keep reminding myself: These people bring something I don’t have. They will make Starbucks far better than I could alone.
Both Howard and Orin brought not only skills and experience but also attitudes and values that were different than mine. What I found, as we worked together year after year, was that Starbucks was enriched and broadened by their leadership. If I had let my ego or my fears prevent them from doing their jobs, we could never have matured into a sustainable company with strong, people-oriented values.” (p154-55)
By 1990, I had assembled a management team that worked together so tightly and synergistically that people called us “H2O” for Howard, Howard, and Orin. We stood for the vision, the soul, and the fiscal responsibility. In many respects, Howard and Orin are polar opposites, but each of us has provided an essential ingredient to Starbucks’ success.” (p 155-156)