One of the biggest challenges leaders have is to ensure that preparation and analysis add real value and provide the framework for action. The biggest enemy to action is analysis paralysis.
One of the most difficult habits to break is the habit of continuing to create and analyze choices long after decisive action should have taken place. Analysis paralysis is the graveyard of many organizations and careers. It's procrastination – on both the organizational and individual level – caused by fear of failure, fear of consequences, fear of not being thorough, fear of making a mistake.
Analysis paralysis results in too many choices. Too many choices drag down the energy, the time and the effort of all those who are part of the issue.
Here are ten ways leaders have ensured they and their organizations do not fall victim to analysis paralysis.
1 – Define success as the result of a cumulative process – built on a cycle of action, evaluation, improvement – then action, evaluation, improvement. Nothing creates fear – and analysis paralysis – quicker than to be told that whatever decision is made will result in failure or success – with no other possible outcomes. Creating a either / or success or failure situation will almost certainly result in careful – read lengthy – analysis and preparation. Define ideal outcomes and solutions and use them as guidelines in setting goals – just do not let the ideal be the only acceptable solution.
2 – The best course of action in the vast majority of situations is the one that "meets requirements." Save the "best possible" course of action for the relatively few high value, high impact decisions.
3 -Impose constraints – money, time, resources – that keep the focus on action, not on preparation and analysis
4 – Set up a ready, fire, aim behavior. Insist on enough information to act with a reasonable degree of confidence in the decision, and establish a measuring mechanism to allow for changes as they become apparent.
5 – Realize that simplicity and limited choices can be very liberating – they create a structure that allows for action, rather than a constant evaluation of ever increasing alternatives. Complexity is the partner of analysis paralysis.
6 – Value attitudes that place a premium on information – but information as a means to act, not as an end in itself.
7 – Insist on action at every step. Direction and priorities are created through goal setting. Accomplishment is the benchmark of success – not activity.
8 – Accept that mistakes are part of improvement. The biggest enemy of innovation and development is often the fear of making a mistake – or of being blamed for a mistake. A problem solving climate accepts mistakes as part of the process of improvement. It punishes non risk taking behavior, as well as behavior to cover up mistakes. "If you're not making mistakes you're not accomplishing anything" is a belief in problem solving organizations.
9 – Adopt a "Principle of Good Enough" (POGE) attitude toward action. Software developers use POGE to act – knowing that the only way to implement and improve is to throw the switch – go live – measure the results and improve – and then do it all over again. Adjustments based on the results of action are an accepted part of the process – not an indication of failure.
10 – Keep progress reviews simple and frequent and highly structured. It's amazing how even the most worthy goal can become hostage to analysis paralysis – if it's left unattended by people in a position to see the bigger picture. Make course corrections a routine part of the process – an accepted and vital part of meeting goals. A question that should be asked in every progress review should be "" What course corrections do we have to make to meet this goal? "
Take an inventory – of yourself and of your organization. Ask yourself if the conditions for analysis paralysis exist – or if analysis paralysis is already hard at work confusing activity with accomplishment. Then use the suggestions from the leaders who contributed to this article to increase your personal and organizational competitive advantage.