Martin Summerhayes (martinsummerhay) wrote,
Martin Summerhayes

Management of Change - Paralysis of Analysis & potential causes

“To think or not to think? That is the new question.” Nadina Boun, The Thinking Man, Paralysis by Analysis

The Paralysis of Analysis is defined by Wikipedia as:

" anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or "perfect" solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution."

I have come across this so many times in both my business life as well as my personal life, that it is a amazes me that so little time has been dedicated to understanding the root causes, primary reasons for inaction and how to manage these.

All too often, when people are faced with a change or a choice of direction, they are trying to make a decision based on some facts, often opinions, perhaps rumours, historical situations of a similar nature and ultimately; gut feelings or emotions. Depending on how risky the endeavour is - and you have to understand that what person thinks of risky, another thinks of fun, or not risky at all.

Any task or activity, can have either be fearful or fearless, depending on who you are.

Is the Primary Cause Fear of Failure?
Whether it is making a presentation to colleagues at work [the fear of ridicule from your associates]; making a speak to a conference [the fear of public speaking]; driving a car; taking a flight [if you don't like heights]; cats [Ailurophobia], dogs [Cynophobia], spaces [agoraphobia]; fear is a one of the fundamental driving forces.

Is the Primary Cause Fear of Commitment?
Any task or activity, requires a decision to be made and a personal commitment by the person concerned. It is the nature of asking someone to make a personal commitment that can trigger the "paralysis of Analysis" as an decision prevention tactic.

Business View:
I was speaking to a colleague at work and he was moaning about one of senior managers failing to make a business decision. Instead, they were continually asking clarifying questions; Asking for further details; Further defining "Go / No Go" decision criteria; even, requesting more people to join the discussion. To an outsider looking in; the fact that the decision process was being further extended and the need to make a decision; delayed, had meant that the business opportunity that had been presented [to make new sales in a particular market] had been delayed by over 8 months. In effect, the opportunity to win was going to be lost. I would suggest that this was a fear response. Fear of failure and seeking to mitigate the risk of the failure.

Personal View:
I smoked for 19 years. I smoked up to 40 cigarettes per day. Every day. I could fly to the USA West Coast and San Francisco, spending up to 16 hours traveling and not being able to smoke. As soon as I exited the airport at either end, what was the first thing I would do? Yep, light a fag. I knew the risks. I got regular coughs. I smelt of tobacco smoke. My teeth were yellow. Despite all of this - the costs, health risk and social stigma involved - I did not give up. Many times I thought about giving up, and even tried once. But, I did not make the decision to change. It was only as a result of a major work place change [I decided to take redundancy after 19 years], that I made the conscious decision to change. I stopped. Completely. Without even the help of gum, false cigarettes, patches, hypnosis, etc. I would suggest that this was a commitment response. Of making a personal commitment and then failing?

So be aware of the "Paralysis of Analysis" and the effect it can have. If you want to check out a study on the top 13 fears in the UK, go to:

One of my favorite quotes is: "Failing to Decide, is Deciding to Fail".

Tags: analysis, management of change, work

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