Complexity is your enemy

by edcallahan on August 30, 2016 · 0 comments


A graduate EOS client and friend, Kevin Labrecque, sent me an article from the Harvard Business Review by Rita McGrath,- To Reduce Complexity in Your Business, Start with Pen and Paper. You can read the whole article here. Ms. McGrath provides several examples of  businesses whose success masked the complexity that had crept into their business. They include Nokia, Circuit City and Home Depot. She points out that a management-through-presentation culture is often a harbinger of this issue and produces a tangle of complex growth. She infers that Power Point (or its equivalent) is a tool of the complexity. I agree.

A solution she advocates is to make pen and paper model of the business. She suggests looking at variables in 4 columns:

  • Outcomes (what you are trying to achieve, as in sales)
  • Drivers (what you believe causes the outcome to occur, or not)
  • Leading indicators (how do you know how you are doing on the drivers?)
  • Work streams (what are you doing to influence the leading indicators).

A Simple System to fight Complexity

Ms. McGrath provides an example of how she used this model to help a retailer get back on track with its core focus. What I love about Ms. McGrath’s observations is that the business system I teach – EOS – the Entrepreneurial Operating System – does exactly what she suggests. We develop all of the work we do on white board or easels. I am sure Ms. McGrath would approve.

  • Outcomes – EOS challenges all leadership teams to agree upon and document their outcomes in Russian nesting doll fashion – a long term goal, typically, although not necessarily, 10 years; a 3 year picture; a 1 year plan and then finally the outcomes they will focus on for the next 90 days. These four items are all documented in a simple two page document we call the Vision/Traction Organizer (V/TO).
  • Drivers – There are many tools in EOS which help leadership teams focus on the drivers of their business. A key one is the accountability chart where the goal is to agree on one, and only one, functional owner for all the key functions (drivers) in the business.
  • Leading Indicators – EOS advocates agreeing on 5-15, activity based, leading indicators of the outcomes you want and then tracking them weekly in an instrument we call the Scorecard. Read this post to understand the difference between a Scorecard and a Dashboard.
  • Work Streams – EOS suggests that there are 6-12 Core Processes in each business which need to be documented and followed by all in order to assure the outcomes you want occur repeatedly, profitably and can scale.

There are lots of systems available to help you do what Ms. McGrath advocates. If you would like to learn more about this one – you can read Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman which explains EOS entirely. You can buy it here or you can ask me to give you 90 minutes of my time and I will perform the movie version of the book for you and your leadership team.

Graphic credit: Versionz

Do you hire team players?

by edcallahan on August 23, 2016 · 0 comments

The Ideal Team Player

Patrick Lencioni latest book, a business fable, The Ideal Team Player, is a perfect companion to his now famous The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

In Five Dysfunctions Lencioni identifies what happens when a team has low trust among them. He does this with his now well known Dysfunction Pyramid.  I described the Dysfunction Pyramid in this earlier post.

In the Ideal Team Player he identifies how to avoid the Dysfunctions by consciously hiring great team players. He identifies three traits which he believes accomplish the goal,- humble, hungry and smart. These form the three pillars on top of which vulnerability based trust can be built quickly and easily. They could be part of your core values, but I see them more as being thought of as permission-to-play values or traits, given that Core Values are largely unique to companies and these traits ideally would be used in all companies.

Read the book to find out how these traits get you great team players. You can order it here. If you aren’t a book reader, here is a short summary. Let me leave you with some observations about the three traits,-

  • Humble – We all love people who are not self promoters, who are willing to do the least important tasks if that is what it takes for the team to succeed, and who always give credit first to others.
  • Hungry – Who wouldn’t want a co-worker who always volunteers for more, who helps out if someone else is falling behind? Some one who always is improving their skills and knowledge. Someone who is hungry to be better.
  • Smart – I like the clarification brought out in the fable – by smart Lencioni means people smart. Human beings with people smarts instinctively recognize that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to working with different people. Styles are different. Different people react differently under pressure. Recognizing the different needs people have is important for a team to run smoothly.

How do you test for these traits when interviewing? Lencioni addresses this concern by adding a workbook-like section at the end of the fable, where he provides interview questions to help probe for these traits. He also explains why all three traits are important. How missing any one of them can lead to major issues.


As a member of the EOS Worldwide Leadership Team for two and a half years now and a seven and a half year member of the EOS Worldwide Professional EOS Implementer Community I am proud that I do see parallels to these traits in the EOS Worldwide Values, as follows:

  • Humble: This clearly equates to the EOS Worldwide value of being Humbly Confident.
  • Hungry: This is very much equivalent to the EOS Worldwide value of believing you must Grow or Die.
  • Smart: People smarts is like a combination of the EOS Worldwide values of Help First and Do The Right Thing, although I’ll let my EOS colleagues decide if I am reaching here.
Book Cover by Lencioni and Amazon.

Make it hurt, don’t be hurtful

by edcallahan on July 12, 2016 · 0 comments

Wall Street

Dale Williams, a soon to be Professional EOS Implementer, sent me a article which he noted seemed very EOS-like. The title of the article is News Without Novocain.  It is a summary of an interview with Jimmy Dunne III senior managing principal of the investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners. It was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant. It was published in the NY Times on May 6, 2016.  You can read the whole article here.

I agree the article described some EOS-like principles, even though it described them in Wall Street jargon in a Wall Street setting. Note that our typical EOS client is not a Wall Street firm. We work with small business owners employing between 10 and 250 people.

Attack the Issue, not the person

The most EOS-like principle is when Dunne espouses confronting team members in public and attacking issues, not people. If we change ‘public’ to an EOS company’s weekly leadership team meetings we might be describing the IDS portion of that meeting. IDS stands for Identify, Discuss and Solve. It’s that portion of the weekly leadership meeting where the senior leaders of a small business bring all the obstacles, impediments and barriers to the company’s success to be addressed and resolved in priority order. It is a high trust environment where you know that speaking the truth is what is expected and won’t get you fired or chastised for doing so.

Each leader when teeing up the issue uses a technique we call: Who, Who, What. The first Who is the leader who put the issue on the issues list. The second Who is who you are addressing, typically the leader who is responsible for the portion of the company where the issue resides. The What is a brief description of the issue, best if said in one sentence. The issue bringer should “make it hurt, but not be hurtful” which means to make clear the pain the issue is causing the company but to be sure to focus on the issue not the person who owns the function where the issue resides. To learn more about Who, Who, What read my earlier blog post on the subject here.

Thanks for sharing the article Dale. Confronting issues when and where they occur and solving them by attacking the issues and not the people is the right way to go in any size company.

Photo Credit: Dave Center