What If Your Issues List Isn’t Working?

Issues List

In a recent Quarterly Pulsing Session, a client of mine had a ridiculously long Issues List that was getting out of control. They never seemed to be making progress on resolving their issues. In fact, their issues seemed to be exploding!

EOS promises to help you solve your company’s issues for good. Over time, you should be seeing fewer issues and gaining new ground as an organization.

But what if your Issues List isn’t working? What happens when you feel like you’re rehashing the same issues over and over again? Or when your Issues List seems to grow rather than shrink?

I call this Issues List fatigue.

It’s a symptom that something is off in your IDS process or the way you’re setting Rocks. Usually all it takes is a simple fix. I’ve put a couple of the common causes below to help you diagnose what’s going on with your Issues List, as well as a couple of practical strategies to help you fix your Issues List for good.

Cause #1: Incomplete To-Dos

Often, an issue will stay on the Issues List because the to-do that’s assigned to the issue doesn’t get done. If your to-dos don’t get done, your issues will stick around indefinitely—and they could even get worse!

The Solution: Every to-do should be assigned to a specific person on your team. Track every to-do and keep the item’s owner accountable for it in your next weekly meeting. If it isn’t completed, ask the owner what they need to get it done in the next seven days. As a rule of thumb, 90% of your weekly to-dos should be completed every single week. If you’re noticing a pattern of someone habitually not completing their to-dos, you may have a right seat/right person issue.

Cause #2: Lack of Clarity

Sometimes it’s not entirely clear what the issue really is, even after you IDS it. Maybe you thought your whole team understood the issue, but since your last meeting it became clear that there was some miscommunication in the meeting, the to-do wasn’t clear, or a new facet of the issue came to light.

The Solution: In either case, you need to go back and do some more IDSing until everyone is on the same page on the issue—and the solution. You’ll also want to make sure that your to-dos are crystal clear by making them SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

If to-dos aren’t defined in a way that clarifies exactly what needs to be done in the next week, they won’t get done in the next week. Take the time to clearly define what needs to be done, and wording it to be SMART, so that everyone is on the same page.

Cause #3: Taking On Too Much

Some of my clients have tried to solve issues by creating series of to-dos that really ought to be Rocks. If the solution is too big to resolve in a week, it’s a sign that you haven’t predicted your use of time well, and you need to set better 90-day Rocks.

The Solution: Not every issue should be tackled with a to-do. However, if you compartmentalize your issues, you can correctly identify the Rocks on your Issues List. You’ll be able to determine if an issue can be solved through setting a one-year goal, a 90-day Rock or a weekly to-do. And when you identify an issue that needs a Rock, be sure your team has the capacity to take on that Rock. You shouldn’t have more than 3-7 Rocks at any given time.

You should also give your team permission to pass issues on to other departments or levels of your company, when it’s more appropriate for another team to solve them. Your leadership team is not responsible for solving every company issue!

Make Your Issues List Manageable Again

Your ability to solve your issues is directly related to your company’s ability to thrive. Using these three strategies, you’ll have the tools you need to leverage your Issues List effectively, opening the path for healthy, sustained growth.

If you’d like to explore more strategies for creating an Issues List that moves your company forward, listen to the Growing Leaders, Growing Companies podcast, episode #15.


  1. Thanks Kevin. Enjoyed this read. Kate


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