The Role of EOS® in a Crisis

The true test of a business’s operating system comes when a crisis hits. A key customer cancels its contract, a major supplier goes out of business, a key employee suddenly quits to form a competitor: these kinds of events aren’t easy to plan for.

In fact, planning for them is a waste of time. Instead, businesses need to focus on building a strong foundation that can weather a big disruption.

With EOS, foundation building starts on day one

In my experience as an EOS Implementer®, most businesses start running on EOS during a lull in growth. They’ve hit a plateau in their growth process and they’re looking for strategies to move beyond it.

Hitting a ceiling is a normal part of growth. It’s a signal that the company needs to focus on breaking down the barriers standing in its way. For most businesses, a surprising number of barriers are internal: bad or missing processes, lack of shared goals, misaligned values, and so on.

Breaking through the barrier starts by getting the core of the business in good order. It starts with the Focus Day™, which often is the first time a leadership team has sat down together for an entire day just to concentrate on the business itself.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard someone say, “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” after finishing their first Focus Day.

Knowing the issues that need to be addressed is the first step. The rest of the EOS journey is about building a system that not only can break through the growth ceilings, but also withstand the headwinds of crisis.

Rely on your Vision

When a serious roadblock arises, an EOS business can draw strength from the self-awareness it originally developed in its Focus Day and Vision Building™ sessions, and has continued to refine over time. It’s starts with the business’s bedrock principles recorded in its V/TO™.

When a big crisis hits, it’s useful to fall back on the things that define you as professionals and as a team. Values don’t drive problems, they drive solutions. They can also prevent a team from losing sight of its core principles.

I work with a business that recently had to test this idea. One of their two founders announced at a regular Level 10 Meeting™ that she was leaving the company for health reasons. The news came out of the blue, and hit the team hard.

The business’s other founder was worried about how the departure would affect team dynamics. When we spoke a few days later, she told me she was looking at the V/TO every day. “I’ve been telling everyone on the team that our values haven’t changed, even if the face of the business is going to change,” she said.

It worked: The wave of departures she expected didn’t come. Instead, her employees recommitted to growing with the business, inspired by the values they shared in common.

When a crisis hits, Compartmentalize™!

Compartmentalizing™ is my favorite EOS tool to deploy during an emergency. The model is simple: separate objectives into realistic timeframes for accomplishing them. Goals might take a year to complete, rocks could take a quarter, and short-term to-dos are for the coming week. If something is going to take more than 90 days, it becomes a company rock that needs further Compartmentalization. Less than that, it becomes an issue for discussion at Level 10 Meetings.

It’s a simple tool, but it has an important function. It forces the team in a crisis to stop, assess, and plan. How is the crisis affecting the business, in detail? What problems need to be addressed right away, and what can be left for next quarter? Has the crisis raised issues that need to be tackled over the next year or two?

Going through this process can have a calming effect on a team. Amidst a chaotic situation, knowing your immediate tasks helps put the bigger problem into the background. I’ve seen Compartmentalization meetings start with people in tears and end with everyone smiling. The approach doesn’t make hard jobs easy, but it makes them easier.

Build your foundation today.

From the vantage point of 2021, it’s tempting to see crisis everywhere. How has EOS helped your business weather the challenges of the last two years? I’d love to hear your stories.

If you’re just starting to consider adopting EOS for your business, now is a great time. Send me an email or give me a call at (818) 649-1103. Let’s start building your foundation!