EOS: A Focus on Success

In this episode, we take a deep dive into EOS with Ciminelli’s Vice President of Human Resources, Mariann Stiles.

Before we discuss how Ciminelli incorporates EOS into the company’s day-to-day, Mariann, can you tell us what EOS stands for and its purpose?

Mariann: EOS is an acronym that stands for Entrepreneurial Operating System. It’s a way for us to be consistent in the way we plan for the future, hold our meetings, solve our problems, and track our success, and still maintain that entrepreneurial spirit we’re so proud of.

So it sounds like EOS provides a measurable structure for entrepreneurial companies. How will Ciminelli Real Estate use it specifically?

Mariann: EOS is a process, and that process includes tools and templates to help us keep focused on success and minimize distractions.

We start the process with a tool called the Vision/Tracker Organizer (V/TO). What this tool does is it first asks us to define who we want to be as people and what we want to do as a company. Who we want to be is defined by our core values. We want to be a company that grows people in their knowledge base and help them develop a great business sense. We want people to have an above and beyond work ethic and be unwilling to fail. We like a culture that’s team first, where everybody’s voice is valued. Regarding the what we want to be, that is our core focus, and that’s to create a real estate value opportunity in the communities we serve.

How do we measure progress against our company’s quarterly rocks?

Mariann: Well it still starts with the Vision/Tracker Organizer, and on that organizer, we set forth what our 10-year goal is and what we need to do to get there. Then we take the 10-year goal and break that down into what needs to happen in the next 3 years to gain momentum to achieve the big goal. We then take the 3-year list and break it down again to what needs to happen in the next year.

That’s when our day-to-day activities start coming into play. We move from using the VT/O and start using another tool, which is called the “Rock Sheet.” “Rocks” is just another name for goals. Each department’s Rocks are documented and tracked weekly to determine whether they are “On” or “Off” track. This is how we hold each department accountable for doing what they say they will. And, when a department starts being “off track,” we can help each other get back “on track.”

That’s where we are now using EOS. Our Leadership Team is focused on Company and Department-level quarterly objectives, while always keeping that big picture goal in mind. Ultimately, what we want to have is individual work teams using the same process of identifying what needs to be done and to contribute to achieving their Department’s and the Company’s quarterly Rocks.

Let’s say there’s an unexpected problem that prevents us from accomplishing a rock or meeting a scorecard objective. What happens then?

Mariann: Well what happens if the rocks are not met is we use a process called “I-D-S,” which means to Identify, Discuss, and Solve. We try to identify what the real problem is – why the rocks aren’t being accomplished. Sometimes we think we know what the problem is, but in actuality what we think isn’t necessarily true, and there are some underlying issues. Some time spent on actually understanding what the root cause is of not achieving our goal. Then we move onto “D,” discussing it, and we are very cognizant that when discussing potential solutions to problems, we need to remain open minded and non-judgmental, so people can voice their opinions frankly. Once we have discussed the issue at length, then, we decide on the best course of action to Solve that problem. Sometimes the solution is clear. Sometimes, solving the problem includes many steps. The key is to not let go of the issue until it is really solved. The way we do that is assigning responsibility to an individual to keep that process going and take those steps on solving the goals, to our weekly meeting agenda, under what’s called the “To-Do List.”

How does EOS support Ciminelli as a whole?

Mariann: CREC has always been known to be an entrepreneurial company, which means that we have a willingness to develop and manage business ventures, along with their many risks, to make a profit. EOS helps us stay focused and, by staying focused we can minimize risks. EOS also helps us collaborate better by understanding what each department is focusing on and why they are doing that, so we can be supportive of each other and capitalize on all the great talent we have. It also helps improve our communication by using and understanding the same tools to track our success.

As an HR professional, you’ve seen several management and organizational systems come and go. In your opinion, how does EOS shake out? What makes EOS different than the rest?

Mariann: You’re right that I have seen a lot of different systems being used over the course of my career. Having been at Ciminelli for 23 years, it’s sometimes difficult to find an operating system that works well with an entrepreneurial company. Entrepreneurs by nature aren’t very structure oriented. They really value flexibility, and EOS is very simplistic in nature, it’s easy to follow, and yet it keeps us on track without being overly burdensome.

How does EOS focus the energy in the room, especially with so many high-energy entrepreneurial personalities coming together?

Mariann: You’re right, entrepreneurs tend to be very visionary and forward-thinking. What’s great about them is they find so many things interesting and worthy of discussion, so it’s really easy to get off track when you put several entrepreneurs in one room. What EOS does is give us a format to help bring the conversation into focus because while a lot of topics are interesting and they should be pursued further, we really need to capitalize on the time we have together as a group. We use tools like the Rock Sheet to focus on key issues and things that need to be accomplished each quarter and the Scorecard to measure and monitor those things that are essential to keeping our company afloat and profitable.

Where would an employee notice EOS first? Is it prominent during meetings and the review period? Where does the most exposure happen in a given day?

Mariann: I think the most exposure happens to EOS in meetings. That’s primarily where you see it in the forefront. It’s the way we structure our meeting agendas. The first thing we do is talk about To-Dos. What did we identify at our last meeting that really was a priority and needed to be accomplished? So we look down the To-Do list and call on the people who were assigned responsibilities for that action item. Always on our meeting agendas, we have what’s called an “Issues List,” and that’s to capture those things that are preventing us from achieving our goals and objectives. After we monitor what happened in our To-Dos, then we start looking at the Issues and determining what we can solve today.

So to wrap this all up, if there is one thing you want to leave us with regarding EOS, what would it be?

Mariann: I think it’s really important to know that the owners and managers of this company are really focused on making sure that we are the best in our industry and that we create the best environment for our employees because they are the secret to our success. We want to make sure that they are fulfilled and rewarded. Most importantly, we want to make sure they are heard. When you work in an entrepreneurial environment, there are a lot of loud voices, there are a lot of strong opinions, and people are often spoken over because the loudest voice gets heard. By using EOS, it’s a way for us to ensure every voice gets heard, and that’s important to us. No matter who you are in the company and what your role is, you have a lot to offer, and we want to make sure we capitalize on that.

Thank you for listening to our third installment of Ciminelli Chats, and a special thank you to Mariann for joining us. If you’re interested in learning more about EOS, check out the book What the Heck is EOS? A Complete Guide for Employees in Companies Running on EOS by Gino Wickman and Tom Bouwer.

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