How to avoid Analysis Paralysis

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Frank Stieger Published at

Nobody wants to be responsible for making bad decisions. In the quest to avoid doing so, we seek out as much information as possible. Which is good – at R&G we totally condone the use of data-based analysis to deliver the insights that help generate desired business results.

However, we have also seen incidences of decision-makers becoming overwhelmed by the amount of information and possibilities on the table. In an effort to make sense of it, they end up asking yet more questions, challenging the validity of the data and entering into endless rounds of discussions. All of which have the effect of broadening the parameters rather than narrowing them down, pushing the decision further and further away.

This is the state of Analysis Paralysis.

So what do you do in a world where there’s a seemingly never-ending amount of information to investigate? You’ve got no chance of reaching a decision if you accommodate every new insight and viewpoint that enters the frame. The answer is to make one more important decision before you start. You have to decide when to stop analysing!

To help you avoid succumbing to Analysis Paralysis, we’ve put together a few handy tips.

Set a strict deadline. There’s nothing like having a hard deadline to focus the mind and force a disciplined approach. The decisions you arrive at will inevitably impact the decisions and actions other people have to take, both within and outside of your organisation. Even if timing is of no consequence to you, it could be massively significant to them. It’s your responsibility not to create a contagion of paralysis. So figure out when your decision is needed by others, set yourself an appropriate deadline and, most importantly, stick to it!

Don’t go it alone. In an effort to be decisive, it might be tempting to shut other people out of your decision-making process. But inviting others to give their opinions is often the key to reaching the most beneficial conclusion. Additional voices mean you accumulate diversity of thought that enriches the context. And the more context you have, the better equipped you are to zoom in on what really matters. There will be occasions when time constraints render this impractical. But if you can plan it in, you’ll arrive at a more satisfying conclusion.

Manage your curiosity. Getting into too much detail is a classic root cause of Analysis Paralysis. It’s natural to want to gain as deep an understanding as possible. But this can easily lead you down a rabbit hole of endless questions. And every unanswered question is another hurdle blocking your progress. The way to manage this is to determine parameters for what you need to know (now) vs what you’d like to know (in the future). When you’ve got enough information to satisfy the current needs, it’s time to move forward.

Recognise there are no perfect decisions. No matter how much information you have, there will always be more out there. For this very reason, no decision will ever be perfect. But that isn’t a reason not to make one. Remember, others are waiting on you. There are, however, optimal moments for wrapping up your conclusions to-date. Remember that making a decision doesn’t mean you can never update it.

One step at a time. Do you really need to make a one-time, all-conclusive decision right now? Or is it feasible to deliver smaller, yet actionable, decisions that can eventually lead up to “the big one”? Even just the tiniest bit of momentum can have a positive snowball effect that gets you out of the paralysis associated with making the “perfect” decision.

Change is ongoing
The simple fact that change is never absolute means no decision is ever really final. Staying competitive requires continual progress in harmony with ongoing change. And that is achieved via adaptable decisions which can be iterated and improved upon as and when necessary.

Frank Stieger is Operations Director for R&G Global Consultants in The Netherlands

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