“Successful companies solve their issues. They don’t let them linger for weeks, months, and years at a time. Problems are like mushrooms: When it’s dark and rainy, they multiply. Under bright light, they diminish. In an organization where there is nowhere to hide, the problems are easily illuminated.”Gino Wickman is the author of Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business.
Issues are inherent in any business, and if you want to gain traction, you have to foster a company culture that identifies and solves problems as they arise. Issues is one of the Six Key Components of the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®). In his book, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, Gino Wickman details EOS® as a complete tool kit to help leadership teams improve and grow their companies. To learn more about EOS®, you can read our summary of Traction.
Your ability to succeed is directly proportional to your capacity to solve your issues. It feels uncomfortable to make tough decisions, as most people will procrastinate or not address their problems. The inability to take action will result in a lack of progress and may cause issues to get worse over time. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill presents a study of 25,000 participants who experienced failure. They found that a significant reason for that failure was either procrastination or lack of action.
The Issues List is an EOS® repository to keep your problems organized in one grouping.
All businesses have issues, and through time, the same few problems reoccur. Thus, as a leader, you have to anticipate and resolve your problems. First, you have to allow for issues to be discussed by fostering an open and honest work environment. This will allow problems to be uncovered and flow freely up to leadership. The problems can then be organized on one of three types of Issues Lists to promote transparency and solve the problems.
Vision/Traction Organizer (V/TO) Issues List
These company-wide issues can be resolved during future quarterly meetings.
The problems on the V/TO Issues List are broad in scope and do not rise to the level of having to be solved immediately in this week or quarter. Thus, they can be shelved and resolved during future quarterly leadership meetings.
Examples of problems that could go on this list include:
- New ideas for products or services
- Changes in human resources or employee policies
- Changes in marketing strategy
- Capital investments
- Technology installations or upgrades
Weekly Leadership Team Issues List
These high-level issues can be resolved during weekly leadership meetings.
The problems on the Weekly Leadership Team Issues List are company-wide and have to be dealt with on a shorter time frame either this week or sometime this quarter. Thus, these strategic issues should be covered and resolved during your Weekly Leadership Team meetings. Also, your team should not be dealing with problems that can be pushed down to the departmental level.
Examples of issues that could go on this list include:
- Company goals being off track
- Those indicated by the Scorecard or metrics
- Those related to your employees or customer service
- Those related to your processes or systems
Departmental Issues List
These local-level issues can be resolved during weekly departmental meetings.
These departmental-level problems are relevant and can be resolved during the Weekly Departmental meetings. Also, your department should not be dealing with issues that are broad on longer timeframes, as these can be shifted up to the departmental level.
Examples of department-specific issues that could go on this list include:
- Sales: Inability to deliver marketing materials, make a specific number of calls, close a percentage of the business, etc.
- Operations: Inability to deliver a certain number of products or services, reduction in customer satisfaction, etc.
- Finance: Negative weekly cash flow numbers, employee onboarding or offboarding, or poor technology performance, etc.
Issues Solving Track
Most teams waste time just talking in circles around their issues and never get to solving them. This indecisiveness is also known as Analysis Paralysis. Instead, you can use the IDS framework, which provides a simple, timely, and efficient way to help you resolve problems in your company. When using this tool in an open and honest work environment, you can move past the discussions and actually into problem-solving with three steps:
- Identify the three highest priority problems and determine the root causes for each issue.
- Discuss the potential solutions and create a plan of action to resolve the issues.
- Solve using the plan of action and assign someone to be responsible for each item.
First, the team must choose the three most important issues and order them in terms of importance. Remember, if you think that everything is important; then, nothing is important. Next, your team should dive deep and distinguish the specific problem, which can be written in a concise problem statement. The actual issue tends to be a hidden cause of what you thought the original problem was.
Many organizations and teams get stuck at this step. They spend a lot of time just talking around what they think is the problem and never get to solving. In the last step, your team identified a specific issue, so you can all now suggest potential solutions to the problem in the second step. Next, you will decide on a plan of action. If your team successfully identified the issue, the answer can sometimes be clear and obvious.
The last IDS step involves solving the problem with the plan of action from the last step. The team will create an action item on a todo list and assign someone to be responsible for the solution. That person will execute and complete the task, and the issue is finally resolved.
Issues are usually solved in one of three ways:
- The issue gets solved in the meeting and someone executes on the action item.
- The issue is a lack of awareness in the team and is solved by notifying everyone.
- The issue requires more information to solve, so someone is assigned to conduct the research and present the results at a follow-up meeting.
10 Commandments of Solving Issues
Wickman’s Ten Commandments are ten rules to help teams solve issues using the Issues Solving Track.
The Ten Commandments help teams prioritize and resolve problems effectively, decisively, and for the greater good of the company:
- Do Not Rule by Consensus: In the times that your team does not agree upon a solution, do not make decisions by majority rule. You or the person with the designated authority needs to make the decision for the team.
- Have a Strong Will and Resolve: The solution can tend to be complicated, so you have to do what it takes to make the decision.
- Be Decisive: You need to make decisions quickly with the understanding that you can make adjustments during execution.
- Do Not Rely on Secondhand Information: When solving issues, make sure that all the relevant people are involved in decision making.
- Fight for the Greater Good: Teams can get burdened by emotions, egos, fear, and lack of focus, so it is important to rise above that for the prosperity of the organization.
- Solve Issues in Order of Priority: There will always be a new problem to solve that gets added to a neverending list. Therefore, you solve issues by order of importance.
- Resolving Issues in Three Ways: When it comes to solving issues, you can either live with it, change it, or solve the issue. Living with a problem should be the last possible option.
- Choose Short-Term Pain for Long-Term Gain: You should work to solve your issues as soon as possible, due to the sustained impact they can have on your business.
- Take on the Most Fearful Issue: Sometimes, you need to take on the issue that scares you the most. We grow the most in uncomfortable situations.
- Don’t Wait and Propose a Solution: Someone needs to take a chance and introduce a solution to orient the rest of the team to decide on a solution.
Personal Issues Solving Session
It can be challenging to create a great team that fosters an open and honest environment. However, sometimes the environment takes a hit as two people are not getting along well. Then, a Personal Issues Solving Session can be used to bring the individuals together, clear the air, and resolve their differences between them:
- Each individual shares the other’s three major strengths and weaknesses.
- Create a list of all the issues between them and solve them.
- Create a list of action items for each individual from the decided solutions.
- After a month, meet again to confirm that all the action items have been completed.
Most of the time, you will resolve the conflict and can move on. However, there will be a few times that you can’t, and you have to remove one of the individuals from that role.