• August 15, 2016

EOS IDS: 4 Ways Leadership Teams Can Improve Effectiveness

EOS IDS: 4 Ways Leadership Teams Can Improve Effectiveness

EOS®, also known as the “Entrepreneurial Operating System” or “Traction” is an effective management operating system for businesses.

EOS incorporates proven processes and tools that help leadership teams achieve results.

The weekly leadership team meeting (the “Level 10” meeting in EOS terminology) is at the heart of the model. Within the L10 agenda is a segment called “IDS.” That is the acronym for the 3-step process used to resolve a business issue: 1) Identify, 2) Discuss, and 3) Solve. With a clear focus on problem solving in the weekly leadership team meetings, they can be useful and productive.

When a team can “IDS” consistently, the leadership team functions effectively and the Level 10 meeting scores improve considerably. When your leadership team addresses and solves critical business problems, the leadership team is improving the company. Such success improves the morale of the leadership and of the entire organization.

Why do some leadership teams master IDS, rooting out and resolving significant problems, while other leadership teams struggle using the same process? We have some observations and suggestions based on our experience with 45 clients over the past five years because we participate as facilitators in Level 10 meetings. Success with IDS is not as easy as it may appear on the pages of a book. IDS is a group skill and it takes practice, focus, patience, and time to develop that skill.

Typical IDS Challenges

In our roles as EOS facilitators we have uncovered the following typical challenges. We understand that many self-implementing EOS companies also encounter them regularly, too.

  • There never seems to be enough time in the L10 agenda to execute IDS well.
  • How to prioritize when every issue seems urgent.
  • Getting to root causes, not symptoms.
  • Confusion or ambiguity about EOS terms, such as “issue,” “rock,” and “action.”
  • Consistency in resolving issues: What is the key to solving multiple problems?
  • How to prepare and kick-off an issue to make IDS time most productive?
  • How can we follow up after we solve an issue – what happens next?

4 Ways Leadership Teams Can Improve Effectiveness

1. Effective IDS requires leadership team “organizational health.”
Organizational health is a concept developed by Patrick Lencioni, an author cited by Gino Wickman in Traction. It is the basis for the “open and honest” behavioral expectation underlying all of EOS and especially the leadership team. Organizational Health is the foundation for effective and efficient IDS. Lencioni’s recent book titled, “The Advantage” explains this concept and identifies the following characteristics of a leadership team that has organizational health.

  • Ability to address difficult issues, not just the easy ones
  • Open and honest exchanges in all IDS phases
  • Gains true commitment from all team members to decisions
  • Establishes accountability for actions – individual by individual
  • Focuses on greater good of the company, not narrow interests

It doesn’t matter how intelligent a team is, how well versed the team is in Traction, or even how quickly the team deals with an issue. If the team does not work together as a healthy, open and honest team, the IDS will only look good on the surface. If the same issues keep re-surfacing time and again, disguised in a bunch of new wording, it is likely a sign that organizational health doesn’t yet exist.

We believe that organizational health is not achieved on a quarterly basis. It is achieved by constant attention and discipline in the weekly Level 10 meetings. It is also achieved in other interactions between leadership team members outside the group meetings.

2. Adjust your Level 10 agenda – IDS as a Priority. 
Many leadership teams struggle to complete all the review segments of the Level 10 agenda in the 30 minutes. The suggested agenda assumes only 30 minutes for all the review segments and 60 minutes for IDS. In “real life” the business review segments regularly take 45-60 minutes. The remaining time in a 90-minute meeting simply isn’t adequate for effective IDS. Remember that the “I” includes not only identification of the problem, but also identification of the root causes. It may take 30 minutes to simply complete the “Identify” step before moving into “discuss” and “solve.”

As facilitators and coaches with experience in over 1,500 Level 10 meetings, we recommend a standard Level 10 agenda of two hours. This includes 60 minutes for the business review segments, during which important issues are identified for later discussion. This revised agenda then preserves 60 minutes for IDS, the core EOS recommendation. If the meeting requires less than 2 hours, it can be adjourned early.

3. Identify 3 types of IDS.
Not all issues are created equal. To help to clarify the various issues that come up during the IDS stage, consider 3 types:

  • Regular IDS – the focus or goal is on making a decision, listing specific actions with individual names attached, and monitoring progress weekly. So many issues, after IDS, are converted into actions.
  • Info Exchange – urgent and/or critical information that a team member wants the rest of the team to hear and understand. These items are too complex to review in the “customer and employee headlines” segment of the Level 10 agenda. But this should be a briefing, not a regular IDS segment.
  • Strategic input – begin exploration of a strategic issue, without expectation of resolution at this time. This is often used to identify an “issue” that belongs on the issue list and may have multiple components. It’s also a way to alert team members to begin thinking about it.

In all 3 types of IDS, the facilitator needs to periodically poll each team member to be sure that all relevant input is presented. Sometimes, a facilitator must ask, “Should we continue, restate, take offline, or do we need to do more research?” In some cases the issue should be tabled while additional information is collected.

4. Advance preparation will make IDS time more productive.
Most leadership teams come to their Level 10 meetings without preparing anything ahead of time. Background material that is distributed and reviewed well in advance (not 30 minutes before the meeting) will save lots of time. It will also force a clear statement of the issue, its significance, related information, and identify some potential options. One of our clients uses this approach. If the material is not available in time, the IDS for that issues is rescheduled. Here are the suggested steps:

  • Create a document or spreadsheet with the following:
    1. Written statement of the issue
    2. Relevant background data
    3. Important considerations
    4. Potential root causes
  • Circulate several days before the Level 10.
  • Encourage others to add notes.
  • Use the document as a discussion guide.

Simply reading the book Traction and self-implementing the model does not mean you now have a silver bullet. It takes practice to develop an efficient and effective IDS process within your Level 10 meeting. For most leadership teams, an effective IDS session is the key driver of the overall Level 10 meeting score. It’s also a barometer of leadership team organizational health. And of a thriving versus a struggling culture. Take the time to develop those skills.

It’s the results that count.


Originally posted in the August 2016 Issue of Manufacturers Alliance’s MA Insider Newsletter

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