One of the most important functions of a leadership team is to solve problems. Unfortunately, most are poor to mediocre at best when it comes to that task. A good test for measuring problem solving is to keep track of how many of the same issues keep popping up. Effective teams solve problems for the long-term. In other words, they make them go away forever!
We teach EOS clients a powerful technique for problem solving called IDS. This stands for “Identify/Discuss/Solve.”
It’s amazing how talented leadership teams do very little of the “I” and “S,” but excel at the “D.” In fact, they discuss things to death but rarely come to meaningful conclusions that lead to clear action steps for permanently resolving issues.
One of the main reasons for this is that the stated issues are just symptoms of the true issue.
One of my clients was recently wrestling with an “issue” during the issue solve portion of their Level 10 meeting. The stated issue was “not enough lead-time from sales.” This came from the VP of Operations with the point that the sales people should be more proactive in placing their orders sooner to give manufacturing “reasonable” time to complete and ship on time. The “discussion” went on for over an hour until the VP of Sales jumped in to inform the team that their biggest competitor was providing turnaround for this particular product in less than half the time they were.
Suddenly there was new clarity around the issue. The salespeople weren’t the problem. In fact, the problem was that the competition was kicking their butt. They reframed the issue to a question: “how do we cut production turnaround time by 50%?” Once the team clarified the actual issue, they came up with three possibilities to cut lead-time in half. Then, they identified seven specific action items to move forward and eventually cut lead-times by over 60% — now outpacing the competition!
Issues always come up in growing businesses. It’s the nature of the beast. As we tell our clients, “it’s just an issue” — there’s nothing that can’t be solved. You just need to focus on the real issues and decide which are most critical at any given time.
The next time your team tackles issues, remember IDS with special emphasis on the “I” — because the key to effective problem solving starts with the ability to identify the real ISSUE.
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