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Looking at the Entrepreneurial Operating System

A leadership and management system designed for small and midsize companies


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Would you describe your company’s leadership and management system as, simple, elegant and effective? How about one that creates an environment that people love to work in and results in a robust bottom line? Gino Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), is a leadership and management system that promises just that.

What is EOS?

It’s a set of simple tools that enhance the effectiveness of one another. None of the tools are revolutionary, but Wickman designed the EOS system and its implementation with attention to all the necessary nuances and interactions that make it not just good, but great.

How is EOS Different From Other Leadership or Management Systems?

  • It’s specifically created for companies with 10 to 250 people (entrepreneurial businesses). It’s not derived from a Fortune 500 company. Most leadership and management systems — such as Lean, Total Quality Management (TQM) and Six Sigma — were originated in large enterprises and are best suited for large companies. In fact, these three systems all have roots in Toyota’s processes.
  • EOS combines leadership and management skills. These are usually viewed as different, but leaders of small and midsize companies must do both, they don’t have the luxury of one or the other.
  • Accountability, priorities and focus are built into all parts of the system, keeping employees motivated, laser-focused and engaged on their top three to seven priorities.

The Model

Below are the system’s six key components. The goal is to become strong in each.

  1. Vision contains eight questions that, when answered, define your culture through a set of unique values and a two-page, specific strategic plan.
  2. People includes the tools to ensure you have the right people (those who fit your values/culture) in the right seats (they have the skills to be high performers in their position). To be a high-performance organization, you need people who are the right people in the right seat.
  3. Data consists of a scorecard for the executive team and the organization’s teams that would benefit (sales and operations also typically use them) and measurable actions (all employees have at least one measurable weekly action to focus them on their priorities).
  4. Issues are your greatest opportunity as leaders. The bigger the issues leaders solve, the more value they bring. EOS has a team process for solving complex issues, derived from high-performance psychology to quickly identify and solve root causes.
  5. Process includes documenting and following your major procedures, but not like a Fortune 500 company does. Entrepreneurial teams need to be fast, flexible and adaptable. Document the most important 20% that gives you 80% of what you need in your most important business systems (e.g., marketing, sales, operations, HR and finance).
  6. Traction is execution with discipline, focus and accountability. In my opinion, it’s a strength of EOS. During my three decades coaching entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed that almost all of them have big visions. However, their organizations frequently fall short of the discipline, focus and accountability needed to accomplish their vision and as Wickman states, “A vision without traction is just a hallucination.”

Editor’s Note: TC North is an implementer of the EOS system.

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TC North

TC North, Ph.D. helps entrepreneurs get more of what they want from their businesses. He is a professional EOS implementer, co-author of the best selling leadership book on Amazon, "Fearless Leaders," a high-performance executive coach, Huff Post blogger and leadership speaker. The entrepreneurs he works with create high-performing organizations with extraordinary profitability – that people love to work for. Two of his companies have transformed from having flat revenue to becoming members of the Inc. 5000. Contact North by email or call 303-665-8920 to learn more. www.TCNorth.com.

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