One of the steps in my process with my clients is to observe a Level-10 meeting about three months into our journey together.
A weekly Level-10 meeting is a 90-minute meeting for the leadership team of an organization. One of the goals of this meeting is to prioritize and permanently solve the short-term issues plaguing your organization. If you are running your meetings well, you should have 60 minutes to spend solving issues — what we at EOS call IDS.
IDS stands for "Identity, Discuss and Solve." It is a simple tool designed to help leadership teams effectively solve their issues. What often happens in meetings is lots and lots of discussing without identifying the real (root) issue. Rarely do meetings end with a plan of attack to solve the issue.
When I observe an L-10 for a client (quietly in the background with my legal pad), two areas consistently fall short: excessive discussion both during reporting and during IDS.
During my most recent observation, I once again witnessed the greatest weakness of all of my teams when they are new on their EOS journey. It is the ability to IDS, or solve issues. Let me explain.
This team is a brilliant group of leaders running a thriving $7 million business. The first items on the agenda are going well enough (I have just a few pointers for them here). Then we get to the meat of the meeting: IDS. There are at least 15 items on their Issues List. They prioritize their top three and begin with issue number one. And here is where they, like every other team, fall into old habits. They start with Issue #1 and begin immediately discussing the issue. They do this for 8 minutes when someone says, “Is the issue getting paid on this invoice or is it a culture fit with the vendor?”
They had skipped the I in IDS. When you dig down to identify the real issue first, you avoid solving the wrong problem only to start over.
Fast forward to Issue #2. Again, they dove right into discussion. The issue was Christmas gifts (and don’t even get me started on why this was elevated to the Leadership Team!). After 9 minutes discussing which vendors/clients should get gifts, what those gifts should be and at what dollar amount, the person who added it to the issues list said, “I was actually thinking about employee gifts.” (Insert slap to forehead here.)
Fast forward to Issue #3. This issue was a tangled mess from the get go. There was an attempt to identify the issue, but it became immediately apparent (within 3-4 minutes) that most members of the team did not have any of the requisite data to weigh in and offer thoughts. Nearly 30 minutes later circling the drain (and only then because I let them know they needed to conclude their meeting to allow time for me to debrief) they determined that the Integrator would gather the needed information and bring that back to the next meeting. The real issue was the lack of data; with the necessary data the Solve (for this issue) would have been evident. If they had taken the time (a few minutes) to uncover the issue, the team would have had time to tackle additional issues.
What is most shocking, is that this is typical. This is why the L-10 observation is a vital part of our Proven Process. Once the skill and discipline to effectively IDS has been developed, this same team would likely have plowed through six or seven issues as opposed to muddling through three.
Here is how I illustrate what I am seeing: iDs vs IdS.
I encourage my teams to first Identity the issue. Who brought the issue forward? Dig down and determine the root cause, the true issue. Often this is different from what is written on the board or document.
If you aren’t sure, deploy the "5 Whys" — ask "why" up to five times to get to the root cause. Ask if it is a people issue or a process issue? You may discover you have two issues (as in the first issue above) you need to address. If so, determine which is the priority this week. An issue identified is an issue solved. If you do this first step well, often there is very little to discuss.
Sometimes teams are afraid to state the real issue, to "rip off the BAND-AID." This is especially true when at its root, the issue is a people issue. If discussion is warranted, everyone should be heard. However, once the conversation becomes redundant (repeating yourself is just politicking), it is time for a decision. To-do’s are recorded based on the action items to solve the issue.
A great team working together can solve any issue — but only if you first Identify that issue! This is a learned skill that takes practice and discipline, but the results are worth the effort. You will save countless hours in needless discussions. And when you solve root issues, as opposed to symptoms, those issues go away forever instead of more "symptoms" cropping up because you didn’t dig down and solve the real issue plaguing your business.
I know from experience that when you do this well, your issues list gets shorter over time. And the issues that are arising (problems, ideas, opportunities) are bigger and meatier, which result in bigger and better results for your business.
Cheri Kuhn is a Professional EOS Implementer and founder of the Perfect Planner. Read her leadership blogs at traction-advantage.com/news/.