Issues Are a Good Thing
Does your company have issues? If you answered “no,” you are kidding yourself and may need to hang up your entrepreneurial hat. Issues exist in every business. Perhaps the more challenging and important question is, “What are you doing about your business issues?”
Facing and solving challenging issues is perhaps the largest contributor to a company’s ability to succeed and thrive. As an entrepreneur and business owner, I struggled the first few years after founding Envalo to get the business functioning at peak efficiency. After reading numerous books and meeting with coaches and mentors, I discovered the book Traction, by Gino Wickman. Traction explains the Entrepreneurial Operating System, or EOS for short. One of the key principles of EOS is a company’s ability to identify and solve issues.
Most leadership teams today fail in one of two ways:
1. They ignore their issues. They think that if they just ignore their issues, they will go away, or they think that issues are just an inevitable part of business and there is nothing they can do about them.
2. They discuss the issue incessantly with no real decision on a solution. Studies show that the inability to make decisions is a major contributing factor to failure.
Entrepreneurs are constantly faced with competing priorities – from client challenges to HR issues. The time required to run and manage our business can force us to fight fires instead of focusing on the truly important priorities for the success of our business; strategic planning, identifying and capitalizing on market opportunities, networking and building relationships. Most of us are familiar with the idea that we should be “working on our businesses vs. in our businesses.” It is important to implement a consistent, repetitive process to identify, prioritize and solve the root cause of the fires I had been fighting. This is a solution that keeps me working on my business while still supporting the day-to-day challenges.
“Your ability to succeed is in direct proportion to your ability to solve problems.” – Gino Wickman
In Traction, Wickman introduces the “Issue Solving Track” in which teams identify and create a list of issues either they are individually facing or issues the business is facing. These issues are then separated into two lists; smaller ones that can be discussed and solved in 60 minutes, and larger “Rocks” that require a little more effort to solve. The team then meets weekly to prioritize the issues list and set aside 60 to 90 minutes to solve the top 1 to 3 issues using a process Wickman refers to as IDS or Identify, Discuss, Solve. In this 3-step process, your team will:
1. Identify the real issue or problem. Often, an issue identified is the symptom of another issue and/or clarified when the entire team works to capture and write down the issue.
2. Discuss once the team understands the issue, take time to discuss possible solutions and the potential impact to other areas or processes of the company.
3. Solve after some discussion and input from your team. You make a decision, assign any action items or follow-ups, and put that issue behind you.
Once issues are resolved your team has one less item to be concerned with which then frees up time to focus on more productive projects. Will that be the end of the issue? Maybe not, but at least you and your team now have a solution to solve it quickly, preventing the stress and anxiety that comes with indecision.
“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide” – Napoleon Bonaparte
You will likely face two challenges with the IDS process:
1. Maintaining a cadence to issues solving meetings
2. The ability of your team to engage in a meaningful way
The first issue requires discipline and the second trust. The process will fail without them.
Finally, do not expect to get this 100% right the first time; it takes practice. Early on, correctly identifying issues will be a struggle. Furthermore, getting your team to participate in the discussion might be a challenge. You may need to foster a sense of trust among the team so they feel they can openly and honestly share what the issues are and their ideas on solving them.
Over time, as this process is fine-tuned and produces results, you and your team will gain a sense of both relief and satisfaction knowing the relative challenges you faced are gone.
Wickman further explains that there are different types and sizes of issues, and details how to schedule and time-box issue solving meetings within your company. The key point is to put a process in place to solve your issues. Reduce stress and spend time ‘on the business’ by having a scheduled, focused meeting to address the root causes of many issues that come up. If you are struggling with recurrent problematic issues, I suggest you pick up the book Traction by Gino Wickman, or find another issue solving process to implement with your team.
Michael Moores is the CEO and founder of Envalo, Inc. He is an 18-year veteran of the eCommerce industry and his expertise includes eCommerce, WebSphere Commerce, Magento, Strategic and Fiscal Planning, Organization Management, Project Management, Business Analysis and Product Management. He is passionate about Envalo’s mission of Creating Value for each project he undertakes and each person he contacts.