Leaders are paid to make decisions, but many leaders avoid decisions through Analysis Paralysis. The leader says, “we don’t have enough information” or “we need to study it more.” Often the leader doesn’t like the choices available and waits until a better option presents itself. Sometimes this isn’t a big deal, but often indecision slows progress.

We all want perfect information when we make a decision, but sometimes that’s just not possible. When I was in the Air Force we often wanted to predict an adversary’s reaction if the United States took a specific action. We never knew for 100% certain what the reaction would be, but we still had to take action. Sometimes it made sense to wait, but often if we didn’t make a decision, we would miss an important opportunity.

This same thing occurs in the civilian world, although the impacts of the lack of decision are usually less severe. None of us want to make a bad decision. It’s a very real fear that many of us have at times, but we can’t overcome that fear by avoiding a decision. We face that fear by making the educated decisions through managing risk because we can never expect to be perfect. Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to see if we’re really being prudent in holding off on making a decision, or if we may be a victim of analysis paralysis:

Questions to Help Avoid Analysis Paralysis

  • Is there a time-critical aspect to this decision?
  • Will we miss an important opportunity or face a penalty for not making a decision?
  • Do we have all of the AVAILABLE information?
  • While more info might be nice, is it really possible for us to know the answers we’d like to have?
  • Has the analysis been completed thoroughly and in a logical manner?
  • Are the assumptions, methods, data and conclusions of the study solid?
  • Is there really more analysis that should be done, or do we just not like the answers we have found?

Answering these questions honestly can help us get past the fear of making a bad decision. We can prove to ourself that we’ve done our due diligence in this matter. It’s okay if we decide to wait because we’ve forced ourselves to consider if we really need more information or analysis, or if we’re just paralyzed.

We should always make decisions deliberately and with the appropriate information. Sometimes we reach a point where we’ve done all of the analysis we can do and it is time to make a decision. That decision may be difficult or unpleasant, but as leaders, we are expected to make decisions and use good judgment. We can miss key opportunities to accomplish our mission when we kick the can down the road.

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