Embracing Challenges with the Entrepreneurial Operating System
The world has changed significantly since Spry Digital was founded in 2010. And as a small company that recently celebrated its 13th birthday, our company has also changed over the years, evolving as we grew and responded to external forces.
The one constant in business is change, and managing successfully through changes is hard. We’re not unique in facing this challenge, and Spry has worked through changes brought by a variety of reasons: our company growth, additions to our leadership team, the types of organizations we worked with, technology advancements, and transitioning to a remote-first company, to name just a few.
These changes also fundamentally impacted how the company leadership planned and executed priorities. When everyone is working remotely, every area of the business needs explicit clarity, structure, and vision. Any ambiguity is amplified when most communications and interactions happen online.
As we continued to work through change and uncertainty, our CEO Sheila Burkett recommended implementing the Entrepreneurial Operation System (EOS) at Spry. Having known about it for years, she believed it could help Spry navigate not only the changes we were currently facing, but also what would likely be an increasing rate of change going forward. The team agreed, and so we began our EOS implementation journey.
What Is EOS?
EOS defines itself as "a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that have helped thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide get what they want from their businesses. Implementing EOS will help you and your leadership team improve at three things: Vision, Traction, and [Organization] Health."
Spry worked with Shea Peffly, an EOS Implementer, to solidify and strengthen our practice of the components of EOS: Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction. Entire books have been written about these components, but the short version is that focusing on these six components helps everyone at a company:
- Know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there
- Ensure every employee is a good fit
- Analyze where the company is based on objective, forward-looking data
- Prioritize and solve problems together as a team
- Understand how things are done at the company by following documented processes
- Doing what needs to be done by defining short-term goals and taking accountability for getting them done
EOS provides processes and tools to get clarity, consistency, and traction across these components. For instance, one of the first tools we implemented was the meeting pulse: meeting consistently and defining a standard agenda for each type of meeting. We now consistently meet quarterly to define our annual and quarterly goals. We also consistently meet weekly to review metrics, prioritize and process issues, and share progress on our quarterly goals.
How Has EOS Helped Spry?
For us at Spry, EOS makes everything a bit better. EOS offers support and direction in areas we need help in and adds a bit of polish to things we already were doing well.
Communication across a business is complex, and successfully communicating is the most significant factor in navigating change. Although we greatly improved over time, we still struggled to communicate effectively and consistently. EOS has helped us level up in communication in a few different ways:
Some of us avoid them, and some throw everything we have at them to “win” the debate. EOS provides a process to make sure you’re having effective conversations. Called the “Identify, Discuss, and Solve (IDS) process,” this technique ensures you clearly Identify the issue, discuss the matter thoroughly, and identify steps to solve the problem.
Using IDS ensures that we know how to talk about issues productively. Those hesitant to bring up issues can feel confident that the discussion will be objective and productive. Those who jump headfirst into a debate follow the process to ensure they give time to all viewpoints. And the process isn’t complete until actions come out of it, so there is a reward for everyone involved.
Effective communication requires both expressing yourself and being heard by others. The “hearing” portion of the equation can be challenging, especially when communicating remotely.
EOS supports effective communication through the structure of meetings: we have a company-wide, quarterly State of the Company meeting, where we repeatedly review the company vision, goals, and core values. We then frequently review many of these topics in department meetings and our weekly All-Hands meeting. These topics are also captured in a document called the V/TO (Vision/Traction Organizer), located in the same app as our meeting agendas. This ensures that we all know who we are and where we are heading as a company.
It’s challenging to hold on to company values as a company grows and as other changes impact your company. One of the tenets of EOS that I appreciate the most is the central importance of Core Values. Any company implementing EOS spends time defining and refining its core values. But it doesn’t end there – EOS provides the structure to talk about our core values in meetings, hire and reward based on core values, and recognize each other when we demonstrate a core value.
Spry’s core values aren’t just words on our website; they guide how we interact with each other and our clients. They are woven into everything we do and inform our decisions. Spry better navigates change because we have the guideposts of core values.
Staying focused on what’s important can be challenging over time. It’s easy to scale back or hold off on initiatives that will improve your company in the long run when project deadlines loom large or unforeseen changes tempt you to change your focus.
EOS helps companies understand that you have to consistently execute your vision in order to make progress on your goals. EOS does this through Rocks, which are 90-day goals for the most important things a company needs to get done. These are bite-sized projects that need to happen in order to meet annual goals.
Wrapping it Up
Overall, EOS has been an incredible addition to Spry’s toolkit, helping us navigate change, establish clarity, and determine our direction in an ever-evolving world. Thanks to EOS, we have the systems, processes, and infrastructure to support growth and rapid changes while staying true to our core values. The components and tools of EOS have been invaluable in helping Spry become the best version of itself in an ever-changing world.
EOS isn’t a cure-all, and much of it can seem like good, common-sense practices. But EOS gives companies a shared language and process to grow and manage change effectively. It’s a good fit for small- to medium-sized organizations in any industry. You can implement it on your own or with a certified EOS Implementer. If this has piqued your interest, take a look at the free online resources EOS Worldwide provides to learn more.
Meet the Author: Julia Koelsch
Julia Koelsch, Co-Founder and Chief Purpose Officer of Spry Digital, has over 18 years of experience in the design and development of IT solutions. She possesses a unique combination of technical expertise and analysis from a business perspective. She has a passion for developing technical solutions for organizations that allow them to better focus on their own areas of expertise.
Julia’s interests have always balanced the technical and non-technical. Her love of literature led her to a degree in English from Washington University in St. Louis. Soon after graduation, her love of programming led her to take Computer Science classes at Webster University. Julia is Spry’s first Chief Purpose Officer, focusing on employee recruitment, employee growth, processes and tools, and our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility efforts.