by Don Kardux
Business Navigators, Inc. has developed the Issues, Barriers, Strategies System (IBS©). IBS helps individuals or groups quickly identify major problem areas, develop possible solutions, and implement the best possible solution. It's also a tool that can easily be taught to both managers and employees.
Stage One: Planning
The IBS process uses 3x5 index cards to capture important ideas, barriers, and strategies. The idea is to pin these cards to a large bulletin. This allows you to move them around to clarify their relationship with each other.
PHASE ONE: ISSUES. First, you need to prioritize the issues. An issue is a problem, concern or opportunity that when resolved will improve your company. Here are those steps:
The idea explosion — Pass out cards to all of the participants and have them write one issue on each card. This should take only about 5 to 10 minutes . Then, pin the cards to the bulletin board.
The one-a-ways — Next, put the cards in groups with identical ideas that will be resolved by similar strategies.
The method we use is to have the group facilitator choose a card at random and place it on another board. We call this step "the one-a-ways" because the facilitator is placing a single card "away" from the others.
A second card is chosen and the facilitator decides if it is similar to the first card or if it is to be in another group. If it is a different issue, place it "away" from the first.
It's most effective if the facilitator makes the decision and the team reacts. If members of the team disagree with the location the facilitator chooses, they should offer their suggestions. If everyone agrees with the suggestion, then the card should be moved. However, if there is disagreement among members of the team, the card should be placed in its own category.
After all the "idea explosion" cards have been sorted into groups, the cards should be stacked so that the card that is most representative of the others is on top.
Drive a pin through the stack and place them across the bottom of the board.
- Lobbying — Each member of the team should be asked to state and explain which group of issues they believe is the top priority for the company to address.
This lobbying process allows team members to hear the reasons behind each other's opinions and perhaps, be persuaded to change their minds regarding which ideas are most important. Questions for clarification are allowed. However, heated exchanges of opinion should be limited.
The horse race — After the lobbying takes place, each team member is then asked to vote for the issue, when resolved, will have the most positive effect on the company.
It is as if we were looking down on a racetrack and the cards are lined up across the bottom of the board waiting for a race to begin. An imaginary line is drawn just above the cards.
As each vote is announced the group of cards selected is elevated on the board one 'length'.
After each member of the team has voted and any 'dead heats' have had their own race, the team has prioritized the issues.
PHASE TWO: BARRIERS. Now, you need to prioritize the barriers, which are those things that stop us from resolving the issues selected.
Repeat the steps used in phase one:
1. Idea explosion (what are the barriers?)
2. One-a-ways (grouping similar barriers together)
3. Lobbying (hearing why barriers are important)
4. Horse race (prioritizing).
PHASE THREE: STRATEGIES.
Next, you need to prioritize the strategies, which are actions to be taken to reduce or eliminate the identified barriers.
Repeat the steps used in phase one and two:
1. Idea explosion
4. Horse race
All that is left now is the implementation of the strategies selected.
Stage Two: Implementation
While the IBS process identifies and prioritizes critical issues, the truth is, deciding to do something without accountability and consistent monitoring is useless.
Three frogs are sitting on a lily pad. One decides to jump off. How many are left on the lily pad? The answer is three. The moral of this story: Deciding to do something doesn't ensure it will get done. This is why the implementation process is critical, and it's what makes our system work.
At least once a month, the team has a meeting. The team can be a collection of employees from different departments (the employee input team) or members from specific groups (installation, service, office, sales, management).
We call these meetings Reverse-Flow © meetings because in many businesses, communication flows downhill. The purpose of these meetings is to reverse the flow of ideas back up to the top.
These facilitated monitor/review meetings focus on identifying and prioritizing issues. Working with barriers and strategies is done with groups inbetween meetings.
The key to the success of these meetings is for a person to volunteer to "own" a task card. This makes him or her the captain of the team that identifies barriers and determines strategies, which they will recommend to the decision maker. The "owner" will report at subsequent meetings on the status of the card.
Each meeting begins with the facilitator asking each owner about the current status of their cards. Card owners will respond by indicating what his or her team has accomplished since the last monitor/review meeting.
If the owners have decided upon a strategy and offered it to the decision maker, they will share that strategy with the group.
The decision maker has two weeks to respond to the suggestions of what could be done to reduce barriers or advance opportunities. There are four possible responses as the decision maker "ARMS" the plan:
1. Accept (I believe your plan will work, let's implement)
2. Reject (I don't believe the plan will work because, because, because)
3. Modify (I'm adding and subtracting ideas, then let's implement)
4. See me (Let's talk. I really couldn't understand your proposal).
If the decision maker opts to implement an idea, then a big fat red check is made on the card by the facilitator with the month and year noted on the tail of the check.
If, however, card owners report that there is more to accomplish before a plan can be submitted, they indicate when they will report on the status of the card. They fill out and place a postit note on the card, which identifies the specific action his or her group will take to advance the issue.
At the next monitor/review meeting, the facilitator can review the post-it notes to see if the groups completed the actions they identified.
When all the owned cards have been reviewed, the facilitator leads the group in deciding if any of the unowned cards should be removed from the board. A blue check indicates the group unanimously has decided not to pursue the issue. A red check indicates that the issue has been addressed and resolved.
The last part of the meeting is to give participants the opportunity to add and own additional cards.
The facilitator reviews the meeting activities, announces the day and time for the next meeting, and dismisses the group. Finally, the facilitator moves the cards to a "master board" placed in a location where all can see the results of each Reverse-Flow meeting. Dates and times for subsequent meetings are also posted on this board.
The End Result
The IBS process has numerous benefits. It improves problem solving skills, encourages teamwork, and fosters a sense of camaraderie among managers and employees alike. It also just may remove those barriers preventing your company from going to the next level of success.
Don Kardux is president of Business Navigators. He can be reached at 800/253-4085 or by e-mail at [email protected].