When working on projects with a multiplicity of components, making correct and timely decisions is critical to productivity and progress. However, the weight of each individual decision can feel like a large burden that hinders progress rather than encourages it.
This struggle to make decisions and know when to take action is called analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis, in the simplest sense, is the trouble created when you are presented with an array of options and are overwhelmed by the possible choices and their consequences and therefore are hesitant of taking action. It often leads to over-analysing a problem in order to reach the optimal solution to a decision-conundrum.
More often than not, the inaction that is caused by analysis paralysis stems from the weight of consequences that an individual decision may have (whether good or bad). The more risk that is taken on in making a decision, the more hesitant one may be to make it. However, it is at this point that many businesses waste precious time by overanalysing all the variables in the decision-making process.
For many business owners and their staff, analysis paralysis is not a new struggle. But there is something about it that seems to have been heightened during the Coronavirus pandemic, as office staff moved into their homes.
Why does analysis paralysis happen?
Research has shown that when it comes to making decisions, a variety of options has a measured impact on our ability to make good choices. However, while having a range of options to choose from is generally a good thing, too many options can lead to analysis paralysis and indecision. This is to say that there is a point at which additional choices leads to diminishing returns when it comes to taking action and good decision-making.
There is a reason that office spaces work so well for productivity: they are semi-controlled, structured environments that somewhat limit the available options of the next action we are able to take. At the office, there are structures in place to help guide decision-making, to limit options, to increase accountability across the board, and to increase collaboration. At home, these structures (that most have taken for granted) are no longer available.
What are some of the ways to beat the problem?
Be deliberate in planning out your average day
Without routine and planning, even the most energised people will struggle to make good decisions without hesitating or getting stuck in analysis paralysis. If you know that there are important decisions to make, prioritise your decisions by way of importance. When one larger decision depends on smaller decisions, make sure to rank those decisions as well. Taking an orderly approach to decision-making can save you lots of time wondering about what comes next.
Unlearn your need for perfection
One of the most dangerous attitudes in a business-context is that of perfectionism. If you wait for the perfect conditions or insist on gathering all possible information before taking action, you will spend a whole lot of time on something that will not increase value to your decisions. This does not mean you need to completely let go of the hope of an optimal solution, but it does mean that you need to be able to establish, in advance, what you would consider a satisfactory solution to whatever problem you are facing.
This is probably the best advice for anyone who struggles to take decisive action. Speak to your team or colleagues regularly to share ideas. Many of those who have been forced to work from home during the Coronavirus pandemic have found that communicating quickly and effectively with colleagues takes more effort over the web. Many choose to rather not share their quick ideas or ask for input because it inadvertently adds one more aspect to the list of things to do. However, those who do put in a little effort may find that they are able to make smaller decisions more easily.
Limit your choices
Sometimes making better decisions relies on limiting your own susceptibility to over-analysis. If you are working on multiple projects, focus on one at a time. A browser with 20 open tabs is a sure-fire way to create an over-stimulus of information and limit your ability to focus on one thing at a time. Make a mental note when you do get distracted and come up with solutions to limit the distractions that make you lose focus on the task ahead of you.
Create a post-decision structure
Unfortunately, you will make mistakes from time to time. Whether it is a small or major mistake, having structures in place to measure the quality of your decision can help you make better decisions in the future and help you minimise the damage that stems from a mistake. As long as you are dutiful in your processes, your margin of error will not decrease significantly as a result of over-analysis. Rather, find a way to make better, faster decisions and discover ways to streamline your approaches after the fact.
Analysis paralysis comes as a natural result of wanting to make the best decisions for your business and is generally a good sign of an ambition to do better and to grow. However, it is a sign that processes of decision-making are too slow and that there is time being wasted on things that are unlikely to improve the quality of action taken.
How are you planning to tackle analysis paralysis when you next encounter it?
Spacek, M. “Is Your IT Project Struck in Analysis/Paralysis Mode?” Strategic Finance, 81(7), 24.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)