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Monday, January 9, 2012

5 Ways to Break "Paralysis by Analysis"

It’s always good to have options, but sometimes when you have too many viable options, you can find yourself struggling to make a decision. This sets the stage for “Paralysis by Analysis”.

Here is a typical “P by A” scenario: You have a decision to make, so you wade into the morass of available data, examine the impact of each option, but one option does not present itself as the one that you are confident is the best; you find yourself feeling unready to make a decision. So, you start to review the data and to search for more data, hoping that the “right” decision becomes more obvious.  If this process becomes protracted, and the delay of making a decision starts to negatively impact other aspects of your business, you are suffering from Paralysis by Analysis.

So, what do you do when you just can’t seem to make a decision and move on? Here are 5 suggestions that might help.

1.      Lock in a Deadline.  If your decision doesn’t already have a “must do by” date in your business strategy, then lock one in. Delaying this decision could negatively impact other steps in the execution of your game plan. .

2.      Stop Collecting Data.  Although, when having difficulty in making a decision, our natural reaction is to seek more information, at this point, chances are good that you know you don’t need more information; you need to make a decision. Review the data you have with the decision deadline in mind (as above). Often additional data will just aggravate the situation. Make  a decision and move on, understanding that you are making the best possible decision and that if that decision needs to be adjusted down the  road, then so be it.

3.      Review “Worst Case” Scenario.  Perhaps the delay is motivated by fear of failure. Ask yourself what the consequences could be if you make the wrong decision. Could you recover from the situation? Does this situation have a timeline and/or budget that would allow for any necessary revisions later? What are the consequences of not making or delaying a decision (often these consequences have a greater negative impact than making a decision that needs some fine-tuning)?

4.      Delegate the Decision. Is there somebody else in the organization qualified to make this decision? Give them the responsibility. Let them know that you are at an impasse and are too close to the data and/or that you are too busy to devote the time needed to make the decision.

5.      Ask for Input. Even if it is not the type of decision on which you would normally invite feedback, getting another perspective (from inside or outside your organization) could help you identify the best possible option. Along with the new perspective, sometimes, psychologically there is a “safety in numbers” factor that helps you finalize a decision; some support might help you feel more comfortable taking the next step.

Have you ever found yourself in a “paralysis by analysis” situation? What did you do to break yourself out?

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