Jeff Whittle: What Is An EOS Issue And How Do You Solve It?

If you’ve read Traction or even know someone using the Entrepreneurial Operating System® to run their business, chances are you have heard of an “EOS Issue”. In fact, that’s probably all your colleague or friend talks about. To them, everything is an EOS Issue, and they’re constantly solving them.

The question I get from people who have had contact with EOS®, but have never really taken the leap is simple. They ask “What the heck is an EOS Issue and how is it they get solved so often?”

Well, convenient and totally real example person, I’ll answer that for you.

An issue what separates us from the animals!

No, really. I love this analogy, so bear with me.

Let’s say you’re a mouse. You love cheese and being adorable. You smell cheese, so, as adorably as possible, you scuttle over to the cheese to take a bite. But, before you get to it a cat jumps out at you. Being a mouse, you react with pure fear and run away back into your little hidey hole. There you stare longingly at the cheese and silently curse the cat with your little mouse curses. Eventually, you give up on the cheese all together. Woe is you.

Now, let’s imagine you’re an entrepreneur. You really want to open up a second cheese store, so you scout some locations, run some numbers, and get very excited about your new place. But, before you can break ground, the slow season hits. You have to turtle up and save extra cash until the late winter rush. Next year it’s the same story. You just stare longingly at the empty building that could be your new cheese store until, eventually, you give up. You sit around and curse the economics.


Solving an EOS Issue

The difference with a problem like the one above and an Issue, is that an Issue is made to be solved. An Issue can be a problem, an opportunity, a concern, or even a bit of good news. But the one unifying factor is that an Issue is decidedly solvable. 

When you use the Entrepreneurial Operating System, you look at things like expansion as an opportunity that will 100% be achieved. And, you do so by breaking it down into small, manageable chunks and actually achieving them.

Let’s look at how:

Step 1: Identify The EOS Issue And Capture It

The first step is always capturing the Issue. When you have an idea or a topic that deserves discussion, you write it down. Why? So you can discuss it later. 

Why write it down? 2 reasons: First, you’re building what’s called an Issues List™, and it will serve as your meeting agenda for fixing issues in the business. Second, studies prove that when you don’t write down ideas, they kinda wobble around in your head, taking up mental energy. The sooner you write it down, the sooner you free that space up.


Step 2: Define Your EOS Issue In  A Sentence

So you’ve had an idea and written it down. But, it’s not quite an EOS Issue first. Before you can make it an issue you need to define it. There are plenty of ways to reword problems to make them more manageable. In EOS, we use the “say it in a sentence” method. Using this method your goal is to narrowly define the issue so you and your team can solve it.

In a larger business you want to do this with the leadership team. But, honestly, you can do it alone to solve personal problems or in a small business setting as well. The point is, you’re reducing the problem to a single, solution based sentence. Once you have that, you can discuss what the solution looks like.


Step 3: Keep On Track

I’ve always felt this is the hardest part of solving an EOS Issue, or any issue really. It’s just human nature to get distracted.  However, if you want to solve issues like your friends using the Entrepreneurial Operating System, you’ve gotta stay vigilant.

These means focusing on the issue at hand and nothing else. To do that requires some growing pains, though. On a professional team, there will be people who want to derail the conversation. Not out of spite, they’ve just never been good at focusing. 

You will need to empower someone on your team to manage discussions and keep people on track. You’ll also need to be harsh about preventing people from repeating themselves to win arguments by attrition. And, when emotions flare, you’ll need someone to be responsible for managing conflict as well.


Step 4: Make A Decision

Simple, and yet so many people fail to do it. Talking without acting is just pretending to run a business. You want to make progress, you have to actually make a decision.