Decide: Fourth Habit of Strategic Thinkers

strategic habit decide

If you have joined us on the journey through the previous three blogs, you may be grappling with a load of diverse information, a plethora of data, multiple sources of insight, and more than a few ideas about which trends are most relevant for you and your firm. Even with all of these resources, you may feel that you still don’t have enough data to know which path you should take or what you should do. You may be looking for perfectly complete information, fearful of making a mistake. In short, you may find your team in the throes of analysis paralysis. It’s time to learn more about how to decide.

Strategic Habit #4

According to Wikipedia: 

Analysis paralysis (or paralysis by analysis) describes an individual or group process where overanalyzing or overthinking a situation can cause forward motion or decision-making to become paralyzed, meaning that no solution or course of action is decided upon. 

Sound familiar? We have all been in meetings where a lot gets said but nothing gets decided. It is frustrating, to say the least. Oftentimes this happens because the issues are ill-defined – too broad, too vague, lacking specificity. The key, as Paul Schoemaker says, is: 

To develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:

  • Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter.
  • Balance speed, rigor, quality, and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers.
  • Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views.

The foundational point is that you must get very specific about the problem you are solving or the goal you want to achieve. Although a number of paths may be possible for your firm, you need to focus on just one. Multiple priorities are not priorities. As Patrick Lencioni said “If everything is important, nothing is.” So, you need to narrow your focus down to one item to allow yourself “to get to the crux of the matter.”

Overthinking can kill your creativity.  Recent studies at several universities have revealed that the less analytical thought put into a decision, the higher the level of creativity in the design of the outcome.  Furthermore, over-analysis eats up your willpower.  Decision fatigue is a very real phenomenon, with successive decisions generally being made at a more and more impoverished level.  Automatic actions, like taking a shower, take little willpower. However, when we struggle with a choice, we exhaust our limited supply of willpower much more rapidly, causing us to feel fatigued and overwhelmed.

So how does your firm do that when there are so many good ideas competing for your attention? How do you get out of your own way?  The first step is to make your firm’s vision and mission statements the central focus of your process. Stay highly attuned with why you are in business, what you do best, who you do it for, and what your clients truly want. If you evaluate opportunities from these perspectives, you will find that a few may satisfy several of them…but only one is likely to satisfy all of them.

The second step is to have a process for making decisions. As Schoemaker says, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it needs to allow for the exercise of intuition and instinct to signal whether you are heading in the right direction. What might your decision-making process look like? Consider this example from Upskill Nation.

Making a good decision can be intimidating if there is time, money, and reputation on the line. Keep in mind that the implementation of your decision is likely to occur in phases, with each phase presenting an opportunity to evaluate progress, course-correct if needed, and recommit. 

Many decisions can also be implemented for a specific period of time: if you can make a decision only effective for, say, six months, after which you will stop and reevaluate, it will free you up to make that decision more readily. 

It is also critical that key members of your team – if not the entire team – be fully on board with what you want to do. The fifth strategic habit that we’ll talk about in the next blog is Align.

What are your thoughts? What are the steps in your decision-making process? What are the signals that you are heading into analysis paralysis? How do you keep momentum going to bring your team to a successful and satisfying decision?