Nobody likes being wrong. The need to feel valued is an intrinsic human desire that manifests itself through the choices we make and how we communicate those choices to others. When it comes to making a decision, it’s natural to want to be “right.” After all, making the wrong statement or otherwise contributing in a wrongful way is about as fun as failing at a competitive sport (remember Martina Navratilova’s quote: ”whoever said, ‘it’s not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost.”).
Decision-making is similar insofar as the choices you make are a reflection of the values, beliefs, morals and intentions that not only shape your behavior, but also identify you as a person as well impact others.
What, then, do you do in today’s world where there is so much information to navigate? After all, trying to stay up to date with the latest viewpoints and updates is akin to the human version of an information hamster wheel: you can run along it all day but never actually arrive anywhere. Rather, it’s up to you to decide when to stop.
To help avoid the pitfalls of analysis paralysis, here are five considerations to keep in mind when inundated with so many bright, shiny balls of information:
Set a “drop dead” date. In today’s interconnected world, nobody makes decisions in a vacuum. In other words, the decisions made by one leader have vertical and horizontal effects both internal and external to the organization, and if people or departments are waiting on you then progress is at a stalemate. Determine the last possible timeframe by which a decision must either be made or removed from the decision-making table.
Get a sanity check. Including others in the decision making process serves multiple purposes. First, it shares your thought process as a leader and thus serves as a coaching tool for up-and-comers. After all, what leader doesn’t want to improve his/her people? (Well, the toxic ones, that’s who). Second, you build diversity of thought that affords you greater context that only adds to your decision-making repertoire for next time. Now, I’m not advocating a democratic leadership style by any means–nor condoning one either, as leadership is situational. Obviously you can’t enlist alternative viewpoints all the time (i.e. when time is of the essence) but when you can, it only serves the effectiveness of the outcome.
Curb your curiosity. One of the culprits contributing to analysis paralysis are details; specifically, the desire to excavate deeper and deeper every new detail that arrives on scene. To satiate the intellectual curiosity that yearns for more information (and therefore stalls progress), set yourself parameters for what you need to know (now) and what you’d like to know (in the future). If the information you have now answers the call, it’s time to move forward.
Recognize that the moons will never align. No matter how much information you have, there will always be more. Decisions will ever be optimal for this very reason—ever. There are, however, optimal moments during which decisions can be made. Remember, just because you arrive at one conclusion doesn’t mean you can never adapt to a new one.
Stair step your decisions. Rather than looking at the decision to be made as a one-time, main event, consider smaller yet actionable decisions that can be made now or that lead up to the main one. Even just the tiniest shift of momentum can have a positive snowball effect that wriggles you out of the paralysis associated with making the “perfect” decision.
In the military, it doesn’t matter in which direction you choose to move when under a mortar attack, just so long as you move. Decisions are never final for the simple fact that change is never absolute. Rather, change is ongoing. To stay competitive and progress at the rate of change requires adaptive decisions that can be iterated and improved upon on the fly.
Jeff is an executive coach, speaker at the HarryWalker Agency, and a board member of the SEAL Future Fund. Follow his daily blog at www.adaptabilitycoach.com