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Jul 04

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Analysis paralysis — you have to keep moving

Hockey is a fast mov­ing sport. It is a game where you have to make split-second deci­sions. It’s not a game where you can sit back and ana­lyze what’s going on around you.

I’ve sat in many are­nas over the years, watch­ing my son’s teams play. One thing I’ve noticed is the defense, when the play is in the offen­sive end, usu­ally sit along the boards near the blue line. This is designed to max­i­mize their abil­ity to keep the puck in the end. Of course,  if the other team gains pos­ses­sion of the puck and starts to skate out of the end, these same defence­men often become a lia­bil­ity, because they are caught stand­ing still.

Many busi­nesses I’ve worked with over the years have also been caught stand­ing still. Peo­ple want to “lead by con­sen­sus”, “get buy in”, or just plain suf­fer from “analy­sis paral­y­sis”. Suc­cess­ful busi­nesses usu­ally can’t oper­ate like that, they have strong lead­er­ship. Good or bad, they make a deci­sion and keep moving.

In hockey, the defense­man can either attack or retreat, if he’s stand­ing still, the game will skate right past him. If he attacks, and misses, he’s mov­ing and can change course. If he retreats, the play is still in front of him. Either way he’s still in the game.

In life, let alone busi­ness, the odds of gain­ing a con­sen­sus decrease expo­nen­tially with the num­ber of peo­ple involved. Basi­cally, two peo­ple may agree, but ask a few more and you’re going to get argu­ments. The more you argue, analyse, have meet­ings, etc. the less you are actu­ally work­ing on your business…you are stand­ing still, and the game is going to pass you by.

You can’t be affraid to make a deci­sion if you are the leader. If you make the wrong one, admit it and change course. Microsoft was able to pull this off in the 90’s under Bill Gates when he real­ized they were miss­ing the Inter­net boat. At the time, Microsoft was firmly on course in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion, but was able to change direc­tion almost overnight and then went on to dom­i­nate the com­pe­ti­tion from com­pa­nies like Netscape who had a huge lead. Under the weaker lead­er­ship of Steve Balmer, Microsoft has been caught sleep­ing, and the com­puter world, led by the likes of Apple, have been leav­ing them behind.

I’ve seen many com­pa­nies where the only thing pro­duced is meet­ings. Gov­ern­ment is famous for these. I once spent an entire day with 30 other peo­ple, only to change the name of a com­mit­tee by one word. A fine exam­ple of your tax dol­lar at work, as it prob­a­bly cost at least $10,000 in salaries. Other groups I’ve worked with spend hours deter­min­ing the color of a t-shirt to be used at a com­pany event, every­one had a favorite color…but in real­ity, it didn’t mat­ter and a lot of time was just wasted.

There are times when meet­ings are required, and proper analy­sis and/or input required. Know­ing the dif­fer­ence is impor­tant in a leader. Minor details shouldn’t bog you down. You have to keep mov­ing. Each meet­ing you have slows you down. There is a rea­son there are only two time outs in hockey, and it the same rea­son they aren’t always used…

For those of you wor­ried about mak­ing the wrong choice, there is always that pos­si­bil­ity. In fact, there is a good chance you may make the wrong choice once in a while, that’s part of life. If you make the wrong choice too often, you’ll be replaced, espe­cially if you don’t react to fix the prob­lem early or keep mak­ing the same mis­take, but it’s bet­ter than los­ing the whole company.

Les­son: lead­er­ship requires you to lead, so make a deci­sion and keep the com­pany moving.

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