A Three-Step Process to Better Issues Solving
One of the most common frustrations I hear from the entrepreneurs and business leaders I talk to and work with is that they keep struggling with the same issues over and over. No matter how much time they spend talking about and meeting to solve their issues, the same ones just keep coming back up.
At its core, I believe the problem lies in something that many of us find incredibly difficult: openly and honestly addressing the true root causes of the issues. When we fail to hit the nerve when addressing issues, we find ourselves stuck talking about symptoms of deeper issues, and we rarely, if ever, solve our issues at the root. Failure to “kill it at the root” means it will keep coming back.
That leads me to the title of this blog. Some of you may recognize it as the first part of Proverbs 27:6, which says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
Let’s look first to the latter and put this in the context of a team. If somebody is giving undue praise, or avoiding bringing up something that is holding the team back because they don’t want to upset anybody, they are acting as an enemy to the team. Their unwillingness to get their thoughts or concerns out of their head is actually holding the team back and hurting the overall team’s health. In their mind, many people often justify this as being nice or not wanting to upset anybody.
Now to the statement, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” When we really care about something or someone, we must be willing to be completely open and honest about the root causes of our issues, even if it may be difficult for someone on the team to hear. When we do, we are acting as a friend to the team. We are actually saying that we care enough about the person and the team to accept the temporary punishment or discomfort that may come back on us for being open and honest with them. Of course, there are productive ways to do this, but to really get to a high level of team health and successful issues solving, team members must be willing to accept that sometimes there will be short-term discomfort when they are open and honest. Ultimately, it is all about doing what is best for the greater good of the team.
So think about that the next time you are preparing for a meeting. Can you create an open and honest issues list? Can you get the issues out of your head and written down on a piece of paper to take into the meeting? As a team, can you create an issues list on a flip chart or white board during your meetings so that all of the issues are out of your heads and on display for everybody to see? There is great therapy in just getting them out of your head.
Three Steps to Better Issues Solving
As a Certified EOS® Implementer, the process I teach teams for solving issues efficiently and permanently can be summarized by with three letters: I-D-S. The letters stand for the three steps of the process: Identify, Discuss, and Solve.
- Identify: Start with your issues list on display, and ask the team to quickly state the three biggest issues on the list. (In the event that you run out of time, you always want to solve the biggest issues first.) Once the top three are identified, just start with number one. The first step is for the person who brought that issue to the list to restate it in the shortest sentence possible, really trying to hit the nerve of the issue. When that is done, go around the group and be sure that everybody agrees the stated issue is really getting to the root and that there is nothing deeper. Doing this well will help you dig down to root causes and stop just putting bandages on symptoms.
- Discuss: This is the step where each person gets to say their peace or state their opinions about the issue—but only once—because more than once and you’re “politicking.” It is in these endless political debates about issues where most teams get stuck wasting countless hours accomplishing nothing. Strive to get in and out of this step efficiently, and don’t go back.
- Solve: If you really got to the root cause in step one, and if everybody said what really needed to be said in step two, then the solutions often become obvious and are almost always already in the room. During this step, it is critical that you stay focused on solutions and don’t drift back into “discuss.” Ask yourselves what action items can be carried out in the next one to two weeks that can bring about a solution to the issue. As you create this list of action items, put them on a to-do list. Be sure that somebody on the team owns each to do, and follow up in the next week’s meeting to be sure the to dos are getting to done.
Confronting the root issues like this takes courage and it takes being a true friend to the team and to the greater good of the organization. Creating a strong issues list is the first step to solving issues so that they go away forever. Mastering this process takes time and practice, but if you stay focused on following this simple three-step process to issues solving, you will begin to find that you are able to solve issues in a way that makes them go away forever.
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