Everyone knows that spies (at least the ones in the movies) love their gadgets. When it comes to gadgets, the simpler, the better so that they use them correctly even under stressful situations. It doesn’t get much more stressful than a pandemic.
Tamara Christian, president and COO of the International Spy Museum, found the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) in February 2020, and her timing couldn’t have been better. As it turns out, it makes sense that an entity dedicated to the real James Bonds and Sydney Bristows would run on EOS.
Tamara knew she had to look into EOS after a few interesting encounters. She had dinner with a friend who talked about having a great EOS meeting. A week later, over lunch, another friend talked about meeting an EOS Implementer® on a plane and scheduling time with them. And then she had a conversation with a museum board member who mentioned running her business on EOS.
“It was just one of those things where I heard EOS three times in two weeks,” Tamara said. ”And I figured this was telling me something.”
After reading Traction, Tamara said everything made sense to her, and she quickly read the other books in the Traction library. She liked how EOS took a lot of tried-and-true principles and packaged them up in a neat box. All the elements tied together nicely and included measures to hold others accountable.
Tamara reached out to Expert EOS Implementer™ Jonathan B. Smith, who agreed to serve as the museum’s facilitator. He made the perfect fit for the organization with his interests in topics such as intelligence and cybersecurity.
The Missing Ingredient for Success
Although the museum already used some aspects of EOS – like having a mission and goals – they didn’t fit together well.
“We didn’t have the ‘secret sauce’ to know how to all row in the same direction,” Tamara said. “And we weren’t all using the same language. Those were real pain points. We were doing this okay, and I think Jonathan would say he didn’t inherit a mess. But he showed us areas where we could do better for things to really take off.”
After covering only one meeting’s worth of EOS material, the world went on lockdown for COVID-19. Some leaders of the museum questioned whether they should continue learning a new system right then. But they’d all agreed to the system, so Tamara pushed forward with it. She said she knew in her gut that the organization needed EOS, and right then they needed it more than ever.
With a 10-year goal of touching 100 million lives, they broke down what they’d need to do to achieve that.
The most immediate effect of beginning to run on EOS happened in the leadership team meetings. Before EOS, each member of the leadership team had four minutes to report out on their areas.
“They were boring and didn’t get us very far,” Tamara said. “To use the same rowing analogy, we kept rowing in circles, covering the same things over and over again.”
It didn’t take long for the Level 10 Meeting™ Agenda to transform how the leadership team functioned. Of course, they started off clunky, but each week got a little less awkward until they got the hang of it. Tamara attributed the rapid adoption of the Level 10 Meetings to the urgent need and the team seeing immediate results.
The leadership team got better at identifying true issues (not symptoms) and working together to solve them.
For example, if someone raised the issue of a lack of candidates for every open position, the team learned to dig further. Instead, they looked at a specific job opening with zero candidates and started asking why. Did the pay commensurate with the role? Was the job description clear and shared on appropriate channels? Were other things at play?
They learned to become more specific when raising issues to help address them appropriately. Although Tamara admits they still have trouble stating the issue in five to seven words. But working at it has created a discipline that carries over into other areas.
In February 2021, even during a pandemic, Tamara realized that everything was running much more smoothly. She could physically feel it.
She found that she managed fewer and fewer “emergencies” and staff conflicts. And she directly attributes that to running on EOS, particularly in improved organizational communications. Everyone receiving information and knowing the organizational goals changed the number of issues she needed to address.
During a crisis, having the components and disciplines of EOS helped them talk through issues and get on the same page. And Tamara said that happened because Jonathan held the team accountable for implementing EOS purely by not letting them skip steps. Plus, he had tons of resources at his fingertips and different materials to explain concepts and overcome any team objections.
“I’m really pleased with how we handled the pandemic crisis and got through it,” Tamara said. “Unlike many other places, we were more prepared and had a lot of resources to help us. And our leadership team stayed together, which was very important.”
Thinking About EOS
For anyone just beginning their journey to EOS mastery, Tamara encourages them to look at it as an investment.
“It takes a while to fully understand all the components and attributes that make an organization more efficient and productive,” she said. You don’t flip a switch and everyone knows how to use it the next day.”
And while nonprofits aren’t typically target clients for EOS, she said the system can easily be adapted to mission-driven organizations. Nonprofit organizational leaders typically shy away from revenue and Scorecard discussions, but Tamara sees the importance of understanding them.
“The Scorecard is the most difficult to get used to in a nonprofit, but it absolutely can be done,” she said. “EOS makes your life as a leader easier. Everyone has such a stronger understanding of their role in the organization and the overall goals.”