9 Strategies to Avoid Analysis Paralysis

Making effective decisions is a key skill for any non-profit leader. The average adult makes an astonishing 35,000 decisions. According to a Harvard Business Review study, people who were described as decisive were 12 times more likely to be high-performing CEOs. For an association leader, in addition to making decisions, your job is to help a group of people make decisions as well.

The problem is we are too smart to make quick, effective decisions. The same Harvard Business Review study determined that participants with the highest-IQ had the hardest time making decisions. Letting intellectual complexity take over our decision-making process causes us to bottleneck the process. So how can we side-step our genius to be more decisive?

Here are a few strategies to frame your decisions:

  1. Best-case, worst-case. Yes, there are probably a hundred scenarios in between, but imagining the best and worst outcomes and weighing them against each other can help speed up the decision process. If the benefits for the best case scenario far exceeds the damage of the worst-case, you can move forward.
  2. Step into the future. Look back on the decision you are making and ask yourself how you will view it in 20 years. Will you regret not doing something? Will it even matter?
  3. Have a risk strategy. Especially for decisions made by a board, having conversations about your risk tolerance will help you make better decisions later.
  4. What is the cost of not doing something? Will you lose revenue? Miss a huge opportunity? Nothing? Knowing the cost of inaction will empower you to move forward or move on.
  5. Decide on the critical questions. When a scenario is presented, there are so many questions to be asked and infinite information you can collect. Decide on 2-3 critical questions you need to answer, then commit to making the decision after you answer those questions.
  6. Does it relate to your mission and strategy? Make sure the path you go down is aligned with your mission and strategy. Going back to mission and strategy can be a great way to guide decision-making.
  7. Acknowledge fear. Acknowledge the fear and other negative emotions so you can set them aside. Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if left unchecked it could lead to irrational conclusions.
  8. Beta test. Predetermine what success looks like and determine an amount of time to get results. Don’t be afraid to pull back.
  9. Have a postmortem. Get your team or board together after you implement the decision and talk about what went well and what didn’t. This is not about blame or a could-a, should-a session. Talking it out will help you ask better questions and make better decisions in the future.

Finally, don’t forget your intuition. Our gut instincts are not a magical superstitious thing. As we make more decisions and more complex decisions, we start to add to our “gut.” As our experience builds, our intuition makes the next decision easier. Remember to listen to your intuition as well as your head.