Analysis paralysis

There is a delicate balance
between using facts and
employing intuition to make important decisions.
Combining the use of both the
right brain for creativity and
the left brain for analytics has
been the formula for many
great success stories.

Managers often use a number
of proven methods to launch
the decision-making process.
Rarely, however, is there a single protocol or technique that
always works best. How one
approaches an undertaking
depends on circumstances,
including time and resources.

Under certain circumstances,
it makes sense to drill down on
what needs to be done, and
then, as Nike asserts: “Just do
it.” This method using the
right cranial hemisphere is
recommended when you
are well-versed on the subject and have successfully
done something similar in
either your current role or
another life.

More often than not, you
need to build a very tightly
crafted road map, which takes
you through each step, whether
it is launching a new product or
service, starting a business, or
reformulating a troublesome
strategy. In cases such as this, it
is not only understanding the
variables and paybacks but also
a matter of down and dirty
scrounging for the available
information, and then testing
and analyzing assumptions and
hypotheses before proceeding.

Analysis is a prerequisite to
establishing parameters and
arriving at a go/no-go decision.
The process must often include
a healthy dose of “time-outs”
when applicable to rethink
pieces and parts of a project for
either a sanity check or just a
double check.

Before passing the point of no
return, knowing how to proceed with an undertaking must
include digesting and interpreting data based on facts and history. It is pure bravado to pioneer without first learning from
what others have done previously to determine what
worked and what didn’t.

Analysis traditionally is an
integral piece of any puzzle.
However, analysis can be —
and often is — overdone. In
many cases, analysis can lead to
paralysis, which in business can
be fatal. The government
should require a warning label
on every business book and
business plan, which might
read, “Caution: Excess and
repeated use of facts and figures can lead to permanent
paralysis.”

In a perfect world, one uses
both hard-core analysis and creativity as the tools to reach a
conclusion. The best executives
use their head (for analysis),
their heart (for supplying the
passion and inspiration) and
their gut (for intuitively propelling them in the right direction). On a bad day, any one of
these faculties will get you
through the decision-making
gauntlet. On a good day, all
three kick in, and suddenly, you
can see through those clouds
that have plagued your project,
leading to the granddaddy of all
solutions.

However, there can be a big
downside to too much analysis.
It occurs when one wants zero
risk through even more study
and research before pulling the trigger. Analysis then becomes
an excuse for delaying or never
making a final decision.

Today, we do business where
“mind to market” is measured in
days and weeks, not months and
years. As they say, “He who hesitates is not only lost but can be
toast, too.” Many times, it is better to launch and then fix, rather
than continually postpone.

Typically, there are two types
of people. The first are those
who are almost exclusively fact-driven, and the second are
those who seem to shoot from
the hip and are often considered lucky when their ideas succeed. Given the choice, I would
rather be lucky than good.

Many executives are very
smart but not particularly lucky.
They’re the ones who, no matter
how hard they work, never
seem to catch that brass ring.
They’re always talking themselves out of taking the next
step until updated facts are available. Conversely, I know a number of successful people who
always seem to arrive at the
right decision at the right time.

Are these leaders lucky or
good? It’s probably a combination, but I believe that to be
lucky, one must also be smart
enough to know that he or she
is lucky and then simply seize
the opportunity. The best executives use their left brain to
interpret and analyze data but
give equal weight to all three
finely honed biological tools we
have: our head, heart and gut.

Sometimes, no decision is
worse than the wrong decision.

MICHAEL FEUER co-founded OfficeMax in 1988 with a friend and partner. Starting with one store during a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide, with annual
sales approximating $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in 2003 to Boise
Cascade Corp. Feuer immediately launched another start-up, Max-Ventures, a retail/consumer products
venture capital operating and consulting firm headquartered in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Feuer serves
on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and
building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at [email protected].

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