Julia Langkraehr’s Blog

Post-it TO DO list

How to use your ‘Issues List’

One thing business owners and leaders tend to misinterpret is the term ‘Issues List’ when they are using the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

In order to understand, we need to redefine our definition of “issues”.  For most people, the natural reaction in their brain is to think of bad things once the word issue is used. Instead, you need to visualise it as somewhere to park all of the topics you need to solve in your business – positive or negative.

After all, no matter if you run an accountancy firm or a web design agency, you are going to be focusing on different tasks and topics every day, and you are going to think of different things that need to be done or changed. The beauty of the Issues List is that you can just get these ideas out of your head and put it on a list so that you can tackle it in the future.

It is a cathartic process of getting things out of your head and onto a piece of paper, in no particular order so that it gives you space in your head to work on solving your issues not just remembering them.

What is the ‘Issues List’

The Issues List is a place where both leadership teams and team members can park items that need to be fixed, improved or changed in the business.

Once we make an exhaustive list, then we follow the IDS process, during our regular meetings.

The first step is for the leadership team or department to look at the entire list and together as a team to pick the first, second and third items for them to solve that day.

This process of collectively prioritising acts as a team bonding opportunity. Once you have your top three priorities on the Issues List, the team then uses the IDS process.

I = Identify

D = Discuss

S = Solve

Most teams to come into a room, discuss an issue endlessly, then they leave the room and nothing happens and nothing changes. Most teams will relate to this. It can be very frustrating. Too often, we talk about a lot of stuff, but nothing changes.

How does IDS work?

Step One … Identify

We want to spend most time on identifying and solving, rather than discussing the issue.

The first step is to ask three questions, who identified the issue, adding it to the Issues List, who owns the issues, i.e. is responsible for it on the accountability chart, and what is the problem or opportunity, stated in one sentence, digging into the root cause, not just the symptom.  

For example, if a department isn’t productive or is stuck, we have to ask if it is the processes that aren’t working, the structure of the team, or the leader who is managing it?

The next step is to decide what you want out of the discussion – is it a brainstorm, an update, a decision, a problem to be solved.

Step Two … Discuss

Then we move to discuss. Go round to each of the team members involved in this issue and hear their solutions, not more detail about the issue.

We want to frame an open and honest environment where everyone can share their thoughts, concerns, ideas and solutions to the real issue. Once everything has been said, it is time to move to the solution.

Once everyone starts sharing their solutions of how to solve it and we start repeating ourselves, we call that “politicking”, this is the signal to move to solve.

It is more important for you to take a decision, than get exactly the right decision. This helps teams to avoid procastination.

Step Three … Solve

We then create one to several to-dos, due in seven days, that are needed to either move the issue on, or completely solve it. If the issue is genuinely solved, it comes off the Issues List. However, if it is quite a big issue, which will take several weeks to solve, it is left on the issues list until it is complete.

For example, we are currently refreshing the Bold Clarity website. This is an medium-term project with ongoing updates over several weeks or months, so it remains on the Issues List until the website launches. Each week we are breaking the project down into smaller manageable tasks.  

Read more: How one client uses their Issues List
Let’s take a look at IDS in action

To give you a better understanding of how to deal with your issues list, let’s take a look at how this works in action.

Today, at our L10 meeting, we talked about reprinting our EOS workshop booklets. This is an issue that needs to be addressed in our business, so it was added to the issues list by Susan. Beti owned it as the office manager, and Susan was talking to the entire leadership team for input on design and content.   

At the meeting we IDS’d it – identified the root cause of the issue, discussed all the possible solutions and options. This included whether we needed to update the design, and if so, who should do this, whether we needed to add new pages of content, and the best supplier to use for reprinting the booklets.

Susan took a to-do to add to pages to the booklets and redesign one. Beti too a to-do to get quotes, and how many days it would take to print, and Annie offered to proof-read the workbook before it went to print. All these to-dos were due by the following week’s L10.


The beauty of using IDS is that it will make long-standing issues and decisions, easier to priorities and action, so they “go away forever”.

For more information about the Issues List, and other EOS tools that will help you run your business more efficiently, please contact us a call on +44 (0) 7795 667480.

Tagged in
  1. business management
  2. Business systems
  3. EOS
  4. IDS

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