Monday, September 6, 2010

Analysis Paralysis

There was a great blog post a few days back on the topic by Jeff Stibel. He was writing about a fortune he had saved from his childhood that said "Avoid decisions, avoid life". Many people live by that mantra. They believe by putting off making a decision they can avoid the outcome of the needed decision and things will just somehow go on without any consequences.

Here is the real truth: making no decision is a decision. Hard as you may try to avoid the decision making process - it will happen. You can take control and make the decision you wish, or let things happen and hope for the best which still ultimately turns out to be your decision. I opt for the first option - to take control and make a decision.

John Maxwell talks about the need for us to fail forward in our decision making process. To fail forward, you must create many decisions each incrementally improving your business. It isn't exactly Six Sigma, but it does drive many companies forward and proves that success by failure can truly work.

Jeff Stibel writes these words in his blog on HBR. I have condensed a couple of his paragraphs down, but here are his thoughts: "People get overwhelmed with choices, bombarded with information, and become afraid of the risk of drawing a line in the sand. Psychologists have a term for this — choice overload. In the presence of an abundance of information or too many choices, people often become overwhelmed and frozen. Those individuals inevitably revert to what is easiest, effectively making no decision at all. That can be dangerous in business and in life.

Another painful lesson in choice aversion is the fact that far too many people choose not to choose, by default allowing decisions to made for them. They go through life trying to avoid risk, and that often means avoiding decisions. As a general rule, "losses loom larger than gains" and that is what causes people to regret bad decisions and reflexively avoid them altogether. Part of the fun in what we accomplish is learning, exploring, and trying new things. You just can't do that without making decisions".

Decisions will always be a key differentiator among business leaders. Those who are willing to step up and make the difficult decisions with confidence and assurance will either sink or swim, but it will be their choice that leads to the result. My feeling around decision making is that analysis paralysis is a disease we cannot tolerate in small business today. We have to make decisions, take risk and drive our company, failing forward as we go. In my opinion this has to be the guide:

Action without perfection must always trump paralysis caused by waiting for perfection.

We can't afford to wait until everything is always exactly the way we want it to be. We have to take decisive action and make things happen, realizing that there will be necessary course corrections along the way. But it is far easier to change the direction of a moving object than one that has not moved at all. Don't get stuck where you are in your business because you can't make a decision. The analysis may not always give you a clear direction. Sometimes it comes down to your gut. My dad told me often that to win you only have to be right 51% of the time. That is cutting it pretty close, but it is true. If you wait until you have everything exactly as you want it to be, well you'll still be sitting there while someone else moves past you over and over again.


WoodsWater said...

Wow! Kudos for a very inspiring piece - and exactly what the Dr. ordered. Bottom line - "Done is better than perfect" I'm going to print this one out and post it in my office, exactly where I can see it, daily.

theritzman said...


Great read & big forward.
Mohit Vij - of General Informatics - said something like this in our last HTG5 Session:
"Out customers don't want perfect systems, they want excellent systems."
You say in your post:
"Action without perfection must always trump paralysis caused by waiting for perfection. "
I forwarded this to my family with this note:
- Procrastination is the definition of choice avoidance.
- 100% impeccable responsibility is a worthy value: " too many people choose not to choose, by default allowing decisions to made for them."
A great read,
Michael Ritsema
i3 Business Solutions, LLC

theritzman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stuart R. Crawford said...

Arlin, we had this discussion during our Calgary Peer Group meeting on Friday. One of our members is always waiting for things to be just right and the market is passing him by.

I remember hearing a song from the late 70's or early 80's by a band named RUSH. Canadian band. In their song "Free Will" the lyrics are all about choice. During the chorus the words go something like this.

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice"

Very powerful

Stuart Crawford
MSP Marketing Coach