Close Menu

By Tom Gordon, Missouri Enterprise Project Manager

Matthew 6:24 tells us that you cannot have two masters, expand that idea into a dysfunctional organization without clear direction. EOS is a well-tried, and simple, approach that aims to get everyone in the organization marching in the same direction, like a platoon of Grenadier Guards outside Buckingham Palace.

All organizations have an operating system – the way that people plan, prioritize, communicate, measure, lead and manage. Very often that ‘system’ is opaque to the over-riding majority of people in the organization, leading to poor performance, a focus upon the ‘hygiene’ factors , frustration and a total confusion about priorities – ignorant and frustrated people practice creative inertia and, consequently, neither the company nor the employees even approach their full and true potential. If people do not understand the company system then they tend to ‘game’ it or go their own ways, expending loads of algorithmic energy trying to fool the company.

Matthew 6:24 tells us that you cannot have two masters, expand that idea into a dysfunctional organization without clear direction. When discussing ERP Systems, the great St. Ollie Wight made the point that motivated and well led people can make a mediocre system fly, compare this to the many failures of excellent systems, where people are confused, ill-trained and unmotivated by an unclear sense of direction.

EOS is a well-tried, and simple, approach that aims to get everyone in the organization marching in the same direction, like a platoon of Grenadier Guards outside Buckingham Palace. However, everyone in that platoon is a highly trained and capable soldier, who understands the mission and their individual contribution to the achievement of that mission.

EOS has proven most effective in a 10 – 250 person company, by ‘coincidence’ they are the typical organizations in the Missouri Enterprise playbook.

marching band entrepreneurial operating system

When you consider the key components of any organization it is quickly obvious that they can be distilled into: Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process and Traction.

Vision is about purpose and direction. It is really like a rifle bullet; unfortunately, in many organizations, it is a shotgun blast. The only way to achieve a consistent purpose is for everyone in the organization to know and understand how their role advances the vision. In EOS this process is termed the Vision/Traction Organizer [V/TO], it requires everyone from Mount Olympus to the Olive Groves to know and appreciate the Core Values, Focus, long term targets, strategy for achieving those targets, any rocks and shoals in the future river and things that can improve the company.

People. The EOS organization aims to put the ‘right’ people in the ‘right’ place. All teams go through the well-documented ‘Forming’, ‘Storming’, ‘Norming’ ‘Performing’ stages but the advantage with EOS is that everyone can see that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an approaching train. People, in an EOS environment, are treated as adults and able to understand their place in the organization structure. ‘Emotional Intelligence’ is the key to a successful EOS, and has four important elements – Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness and Social skills. EOS helps develop these attributes and depends upon that development for long term success.

Data. Data, in many organizations, are the result of creative inertia. What better way is there to give the impression that there is a high level of achievement than creating mountains of useless reports! In fact, that is activity and not achievement. Data should be so devised as to be a series of meaningful indicators, plotting the successful direction of the company. The Balanced Scorecard concept devised by Robert Kaplan, is a series of metrics based upon the company strategy – “What we have to do to service the Customer”, “What we have to be good at internally”, “What we have to be good at in the Financial field” and “What we have to be good at to survive and prosper in the future”. The Scorecards can be built into a structure rather like a Bill of Material; reaching all the way down to the Olive pickers in the Olive Groves below Olympus! XCEL is a very effective tool with which to do this, rolling up all the lower level scorecards into an executive scorecard, which can be then disaggregated to identify any ‘issues’.

Issues. Issues cover risk and opportunity. In all organizations there are areas that can be improved, leading to business opportunity. Deming pointed out that the people who do the job have the most information about how to do the job. EOS creatively mines this previously untapped source of improvement. Hubris is a common failing of management, Goleman’s ‘Coercive Style’ – do as I say and leave your brains at the door. Of course, in this environment management will only communicate the bad news!

Process. The advantage of a common set of processes is that the core activities have been documented and everyone follows them, creating consistency and efficiency. The process approach came into the ISO 9000 world in 2000 because it was realized that an organization is simply a set of inter-related processes. Consider a river and a canal. A river evolves naturally, creating many choke points; a canal is an artificially created structure designed to move product from A to B as efficiently as possible. EOS aims to create canals out of rivers.

Traction. A strong traction component in an organization is about accountability, execution and discipline. Getting things done and not making excuses. This encourages unproductive people to get their acts together or go and mess up another company. The German phrase, “auftragstaktik, embodies this principle – share the realistic vision and then hold people accountable for getting it done.

In summary, EOS is a process that places trust in the workforce, giving them to tools for the job, meaningfully monitoring progress and then “letting them get on with it!”

If you want to learn more about EOS or just how to get your troops marching in the same direction, connect with your Area Business Manager