Does this sound familiar? Your company has a handful of issues that seem to impossible to solve. They keep cropping up in meetings, and when they do, an endless discussion ensues on where the issue comes from, who’s responsible, and how to solve it, but no real solution is found. The issue just sort of… goes away.
…Until the next time it pops up.
Or how about this: You run into a big issue and do everything in your power to fix it. Later, it turns out that some people already suspected this would happen. They just didn’t flag it in time.
Either of the above scenarios can cost your company precious time and money. Ideally, you want to keep meticulous track of your issues, and fully solve them when you decide to tackle them.
Luckily, there is a fairly easy way to do exactly this, and solve your issues once and for all.
Three lists, three steps
The method below is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) as described in the books Traction and Get A Grip by Gino Wickman. EOS is a comprehensive, practical system for managing SMB’s. In my experience, it lends itself extremely well to the light management style preferred by many videogame companies.
Now, I should say that the approach I describe here works best when used along with the rest of the EOS system, but even on its own you should be able to use this to your advantage.
Let’s dive in!
The Issue List
The core of this method is to use an issue list, where you keep track of all the issues in your company. Issues can negatives, as in problems that need to be solved, but also positives, like opportunities that are worth investigating.
Any issue that cannot be addressed right away goes on the list.
Just using the list accomplishes two things:
First, you make it clear that issues are to be called out instead of hidden away. When you put all your issues in one list, you make it easier for yourself and your colleagues to, as Jim Collins calls it, “confront the brutal facts“.
Second, having a list makes it easier to prioritize some issues over others. Whatever is top of mind is not necessarily top priority, and this list helps you get back to the stuff that really matters.
In practice, EOS advocates using three versions of this issue list:
In EOS, company issues are listed on the Vision/Traction Organizer (V/TO), which is their version of a one-page strategy document. EOS works with quarterly Rocks, and the issues listed here are the issues that are not related to your current quarter and Rocks.
These can be things like new product ideas, finding an outsourcing partner, new strategic initiatives, or technology needs. Whatever they are, they don’t mesh with your current Rocks so they stay on the list until you start planning for your next quarter.
The leadership team has their own list of management issues, which EOS advocates discussing on a weekly basis. These are the issues that are relevant for the Rocks of the quarter, or the week.
Some companies extend this way of working to other departments. These departmental issue lists cover everything that is relevant to the weekly work of that department.
Solving the issues
Ideally an hour a week, but at least half a day per quarter, you work through the issues using a three step process called IDS, referring to the three steps in the process:
Step 1: Identify
Start every session by selecting the top 3 issues. This is key, because rather than discussing whatever is top of mind, you pick the most pressing issues.
Selecting the top issues should take about 30 seconds. Everyone in the meeting should be ready to suggest a top priority issue.
Step 2: Discuss
Starting with the most pressing issue, discuss what is going on. You want to do a root cause analysis, and find out the underlying cause of the issue. This way, you make sure you’re not just fighting symptoms or assigning blame, but attacking the problem at its core. A simple tool for this, adopted from the Lean methodology, is to ask “Why?” five times.
The trap here is the situation that I described in the opening paragraph. If everyone wants to share how the issue impacts their own work, or starts repeating themselves to try and influence the outcome, your meeting has turned into a lot of talking and no problemsolving.
A healthy leadership team will encourage every team member to share their perspective to get a complete view of the problem and possible solutions, and then move swiftly on to aligning on the solution.
Step 3: Solve
In the last step, you define a concrete solution in terms of actionable steps and persons accountable. This way, you close the loop and prevent the issue from slipping away and cropping back up later.
When you’ve solved your top 3 issues and have time left in your meeting, simply pick three more and repeat.
And that’s it!
Three lists, three steps, and a whole bunch of solved issues. If used right, this simple approach can make your meetings more effective, make your issues go away, and facilitate your company’s long term growth.
Here are some next steps you can take if you like what you’ve just read:
- Subscribe to my newsletter to get new essays just like this one straight in your inbox, every two weeks on Tuesday.
- Read summaries of Traction, Get a Grip and more business and management books by getting Better Book Notes for Busy Game Professionals.
- Get the books on Amazon. Traction describes the system in more detail, Get A Grip is written in narrative form and is more easily digestible.
- If you really want to dive in, I help leadership teams build better videogame companies using methods like the one described here, and I can help you too. Schedule an introductory meeting through my calendly page and let’s see if there’s a fit!