As featured on MaltaCeos.mt here

Too much planning and no execution can cause your business to miss out on potential opportunities and create disengagement among your staff.

In today’s fast-tracked world, companies are expected to move with slick agility whilst undergoing thorough planning and testing, to not only keep up with customers’ expectations but surpass them, or better still, create them. The task list involved in project planning has grown ever longer, causing many to postpone execution.

Much is at stake for CEOs and leaders. There are so many variables tied to executing the right plan. With changing legislation and information heading our way from multiple directions, it’s no wonder that some find themselves overwhelmed, mulling through endless sources of information and opinions, analysing to the point of paralysis. In fact, a 2010 LexisNexis survey showed that, on average, a person at work spends more than half their workday receiving and managing information rather than using it to do their jobs.

This leads to the modern day phenomenon of ‘Analysis Paralysis’ (or paralysis by analysis) which describes a scenario where over analysis or overthinking a situation can cause a project to ‘stall’ or become ‘paralysed’, meaning that no solution or course of action is decided upon. A situation may be deemed too complicated, actions are not executed, due to the fear that a potentially larger problem may arise. 

Why does paralysis through analysis take place?

A longer planning process with more to consider

Changing legislations and a more diplomatic mode of leadership calls for including multi-disciplinary teams on project teams. Although this seeks to draw in different facets of an aspect, it also welcomes an overload of opinions and flow of information, making concrete execution difficult to fulfil.

Fear of making the wrong ‘move’ due to shifting market scenarios

Whether you are a newly recruited CEO or a seasoned leader, the world is constantly changing, and the COVID-19 pandemic has added its share of unchartered challenges. Being a conscientious leader causes you to move with caution, sometimes to the point of having your company miss new business opportunities, which consequently may lead company culture and its workers to grow lethargic.

Many leaders steering in different directions

With today’s collaborative mindset, we continuously seek to reach out to partners to fulfil projects, yet when two groups or organisations come together, the channels of command seem to blur and are often unclear, causing many leaders with different ideas and ways of working to conflict to the detriment of stagnation. As the English saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth, and it is therefore important to identify how decisions will be taken early on in a project’s onset. How is a plan going to move from planning to execution, and who is accountable at each step of the way?

How to overcome analysis paralysis

Reaching a balance between planning and execution is key. Here are some ways you and your team can overcome paralysis through analysis.

1. Identifying between short vs long term plans

As a CEO or leader, it is good to offer your team and the board of directors a road map towards long-term strategies, yet identifying quick wins and reaching for the low hanging fruit can invigorate teams and set the motion for change. Once you start implementing change, one change tends to ripple onto another and this creates a positive momentum for change, keeping yourself and your teams excited and employees on their toes. Execution is not linear, and it’s good to create an environment which accepts changes along the way. This is an important sign that you are keeping vigilant to changing variables in the surrounding environment.

2. Prioritise, prioritise

Treating all projects as if they had the same impact on your work can fragment your teams’ decision-making capabilities, splitting their energy and causing them to procrastinate on certain tasks of importance. We have recently learnt that no matter how able team members feel to juggle multiple tasks, multi-tasking does not work, and only serves to divide your energy rather than multiply the benefits of doing more than one thing at the same time. This goes for women too – as we’ve historically humoured men for being unable to multi-task.

3. Determine the goal for making each decision, create a plan to execute… and forget perfection

As we embark on a project, it is easy to lose sight of the goal ahead. Breaking down a goal into practical steps sets the pace and creates clear guidelines for your team, who may feel overwhelmed with new tasks heading their way. Also, as George Fisher famously put it, “when you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target” and this is precisely why the journey may allow you to stumble upon mishaps that could alter your direction and present you with something different to what you initially had in mind, yet the outcome is better than expected. Flexibility is key.

4. Frequent meetings keep everyone accountable

To understand what all departments are working on and avoid silos between teams, frequent meetings are vital. Like that, each member of the executive team can understand how the different strands are working in tandem towards a common goal, and stumbling blocks can be solved collaboratively. Such meetings need not be longer than 30 minutes, and are particularly important as employees work remotely or in different locations. Every meeting should start and conclude with a list of action points and clear accountability lines as to who is to handle each one. Deadlines or KPIs should also be set.

These meetings do not only serve to let you know the progress of each work stream, but also increase cross-collaboration and problem solving. 

5. Put (healthy) pressure on yourself and your team

Keep your team accountable and on their toes with clear timelines and deadlines. Along the way towards reaching that goal, serve as a positive mentor to your team and coach them towards always keeping the greater picture and the result in mind.