Avoiding analysis paralysis

When I first came home from the Navy we lived in the country. The nearest store was a small store in a community with no stop lights. The store had been serving that community for decades. The grocery side of the store consisted of two aisles. A meat department was located where you turned to walk down the second aisle. The meat department had some pre-cut meat, but most of what you wanted the meat cutter would cut fresh for you while you waited. You walked in the door, walked up one aisle buying what you needed, turned the corner and walked down the other aisle completing your purchases. At the end of that second aisle was the cash register. The thing that still amazes me about that store was that you could buy all your groceries there in just two aisles.

They could do that because if you wanted ketchup, they sold ketchup, but they didn’t sell twenty-five varieties of ketchup. The same was true of almost everything else a family needed. Shopping there was a snap because there were not a lot of options. Of course, that store isn’t in operation today. Like most things that existed in a simpler time, they are gone as we have decided we must have more options in our lives.

These options can be good in some instances and not so good in others. Options certainly make it more difficult to make decisions today. There are so many factors to consider today that perhaps did not exist previously. Some people find it almost impossible to make a decision because of these seemingly endless options to consider. This is sometimes called analysis paralysis. We are paralyzed in our decision making because we are waiting for more information to come in.

While every leader wants to make the best decisions possible with the best information available, we have to accept the fact that we will never know everything we need to know before making a decision. Sometimes we have to just make a decision with the information we currently have and be willing to adjust that decision if new information becomes available.

In a previous business I owned our employees were sometimes frustrated by how slow I was in making some decisions. I was a victim of analysis paralysis. I was so afraid of making a bad decision I wouldn’t make any while the problem continued to grow worse. That’s not leadership. It’s irresponsible and costly. It costs time, money and the trust of those who work for you. It can cost you your business.

When we make a decision based on incomplete information that turns out to not be a good one, it’s often not as harmful as not making any decision. While every leader wants to make good decisions all the time that is not always going to happen. None of the decisions we make should be set in stone. Wise leaders understand they may have to alter their decisions as new and better information becomes available. That’s a far better approach than analysis paralysis.

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