Turning an Issue Into a Solution

Issues Into Solutions

Issues are a fact of life. It’s time to embrace them!

Admitting that we or our businesses have “issues” doesn’t make us any less effective, incapable, or less likely to be successful as an entrepreneur — it just makes us normal. Everyone and every business has them.

Issues are inescapable if you are pushing forward on your vision. I’ve yet to meet a “perfect” business, and I’ve found that the ones that pretend to be, tend to have bigger issues than the rest! So the sooner we throw our hands in the air, call it out for what it is, and admit that we have them — bucket loads of ’em — the better!

It isn’t the issues that are the thing. It’s how we choose to SOLVE the issues, the methods we employ, and the time frame in which it takes to address those issues that could lead to us and our businesses missing our goals and objectives (at least) or (at worst) ultimately having to shut down and fold up.

Having worked with 60+ businesses over the past decade, from start-ups to multimillion-dollar organizations, I see the same mistakes over and over when it comes to tackling issues.

Solve Those Issues!

Take a team I have been working with as an example. During one of their recent quarterlies, they opened up and admitted that they weren’t solving many issues as a team (which is an issue to solve in its own right!).

They found that the same ones kept coming up time and time again. They realized they were having conversation after conversation about the same thing without making much progress. Nothing seemed to go away, and if it did, it soon came back. They even joked that one of these issues had been around for so long that they had become quite attached to it, and they would miss it if it were gone … sound familiar?

I offered to observe the team at work and see if we could help get to the bottom of exactly what was going on for them when they were trying to tackle their issues. We set out to focus on a few of the most important issues. One of the team members was brave enough to put a topic on the table for discussion, then away they went. It was quite a sport to observe!

The team (now given their “fresh meat”) went straight to task, throwing in opinion after opinion, having discussion after discussion, with perspectives and thoughts coming in from left, right, and center. Yet after five minutes of energetic talking and debating, the conversation wasn’t naturally heading to any path of resolution. It just went round and round, seeming to regain new life and new energy when new streams were thrown in here and there about related topics and connected conversations. It was at this point that one of the team turned to me and asked: “Is this normal?”

I replied that for most teams, this is indeed “normal,” and yet it certainly doesn’t have to be normal for them.

This team was facing a common problem, which is that they assumed they were talking about “the issue.” They weren’t. This team was certainly focused on an issue — up at the macro-level (satellite view), rather than down at the micro-level (with a magnifying glass).

This team hadn’t first gained clarity about what it was specifically that they needed to focus on. They had a common understanding of the topic that the issue was connected to and all the things that relate to it, yet hadn’t clearly identified the specific issue that as a group they would move on to solve — the one that was underpinning most of all the other associated noise. I liken it to the team throwing darts at a dartboard from a hundred feet away whilst squinting, rather than taking the time to get up close and focus on hitting the bull’s-eye with every shot for best effect.


We pulled out the Issues Solving Track™ (IDS) from the EOS Toolbox™ and dug deep into the very specific three steps that would help them better solve their issues down at the root, for the long term and the greater good.

1. IDENTIFY: Curiosity Killed the Issues

The challenge with their issues started at the beginning of their conversation, not digging deep enough or taking enough time to get absolutely clear on the root of it all. They didn’t get up close and take aim for the bull’s-eye — they just began energetically throwing darts at that metaphorical dartboard willy-nilly. We ran through the first stage of our Issues Solving Track: “Identify.”. This is where we took the time to clearly identify and agree on what the ‘real’ issue is, the one we need to be solving as a team… we were looking for the bull’s-eye.

The team lacked curiosity with their identification stage before this and they weren’t asking the right questions to uncover the real problems underneath these symptoms. So instead of throwing in opinions and views to fuel the conversation, we took the time to align the team on asking questions to uncover the exact issue we were going to move forward to solve, getting agreement that they felt this was the ‘right’ issue. Once they agreed, we committed to focus on solving just that one thing and block everything else out… for now.

2. DISCUSS: Get Everything Out on the Table

From here we moved on to the second stage, the discussion stage. Now we were clear on the real issue we wanted to solve. It helped to rein in their conversation to that specific thing and it made it easier to streamline their thoughts, perspectives, and discussion to focus on this issue. Doing so brought the conversation right down to the ground instantly. From time to time, the team would digress and shoot off on a tangent or disappear down a rabbit hole. They were able to get back to the real issue, and every time they uncovered a new issue, they captured that as a separate issue for the team to come back and solve at another time. Taking the time to laser-focus on the one thing to solve, they were able to keep the main thing the main thing.

Being clear in the “Identify” stage led us to much deeper and open conversation around the issue we needed to do away with. Of course, it created some good levels of healthy conflict. Important to note that as a healthy team, we certainly weren’t looking for everyone to agree with each other’s opinions and perspectives; we simply needed them to hear other people’s thoughts, listen, understand, and get all the ‘colors’ of the issue out and on the table. Sometimes the best solutions come from a team being able to disagree strongly and still move forward with an unwavering commitment to get the job done together.

3. SOLVE: Decide, Decide, Decide

The result we want to get from the Issues Solving Track is clarity. Clarity of what the REAL issue is, clarity of WHAT can be done to solve it, and clarity of WHO can solve it. We want the HOW, WHEN, and WHERE to get solved in the business to ensure that it doesn’t return and haunt us again.

Because the team had taken the time in the early stages to get clear on the actual issue they were solving and then put all of the opinions on the table, what to do to solve the issues became quite clear. Very quickly, they were able to assign some to-do actionable items to people on the team who were able to leave that room knowing exactly what had to be done to start the process of solving that issue. We then agreed to check in the following week to make sure it had been done.

With a new vigor and energy for solving their issues in this new way, the team excitedly got to work on their next issue and have since told me that by using IDS, they have solved more issues in the last 10 weeks than they did in the last two years! And long may that continue.




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