Every company has issues. What separates an industry leader from its peers is their ability to effectively and efficiently solve them.
According to the Issues Solving Track (IDS) laid out in Gino Wickman’s Traction, “When addressing issues, leadership teams spend most of their time discussing the heck out of everything, rarely identifying anything, and hardly ever solving something”.
If you find yourself continually punting problems down the road or solving issues you’d thought you’d already solved, it’s time to rethink how your organization approaches problem solving.
The first step to a better problem-solving process is creating an issue list. If you don’t have one already, create one. Ask your leadership team to be open and honest about the issues facing your business and write them down. This will be a transparent, running list that will add structure and organization to your problem solving process. Bring it with you to every leadership meeting.
With your list in place, you can begin to implement Gino’s simplistic & straightforward IDS (Identify, Discuss, Solve) process. When followed, it can transform your company into a well-oiled, problem solving machine where you tackle issues with little to no wasted effort. Here’s how it works:
Each meeting, examine your list and rank the issues in order of priority. Don’t jump in and immediately discuss solutions. Wickman says “the underlying issue is always a few layers down. Most of the time the stated problem is a symptom of the real issue, so you must find the root of the matter”.
Continue to pull the string: Is it a communication, process, or person issue? By investing time in the identification phase you’ll not only address your biggest issues but you’ll likely notice a few smaller problems will go away on their own, as they turn out to be symptoms of the root issues you’ve already solved.
Once you’ve clearly identified an issue, this is everyone’s opportunity to offer thoughts on a resolution. Push to hear from everyone, open and honest discussion around issues will build trust amongst your team.
According to Wickman, everyone should say what they believe but should say it only once. Get everything out on the table. Offer solutions that contribute to the greater good, not what’s best for you or your department.
One more thing to keep top of mind as you discuss solutions: avoid tangents at all costs! Call them out to stay on track. If a tangent is a legitimate issue worth discussing, add it to your Issue List and continue discussing options, solutions, and concerns regarding the issue at hand.
The goal for solving any issue should be that once it’s solved, it’s gone away forever. To make that happen, you have to align the solution with the long term vision for your company.
Wickman likens it to driving a car, not having a destination, and making turns randomly. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t make decisions on which way to turn.
Issues may take longer to solve from this approach but the time spent clearly identifying and discussing the root issue will save you time and effort in the future.
Solving problems through IDS will provide structure to your process and force you to be intentional in tackling problems the right way, not the easiest way.
If you’d like to see how Strey can systemize IDS - or any other concepts from Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) - let us know, we love talking about this stuff!