Analysis paralysis


I recently read a great quote that really resonated with me, and the way in which I have seen people and businesses work in the past.

“The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan”

Carl von Clausewitz, c19th Prussian Military Theorist

It’s the classic planning dilemma: when is your plan or strategy “good enough” to put into action? What if you’re wrong, or not quite right enough? What about the other options?

It’s fair to say that Clausewitz’s words are even more appropriate in today’s world than in his. The pace of change, evolution and revolution in technologies and market places mean that there will never be a perfect plan. Whatever you’re thinking of, something is probably happening elsewhere out of your control that will affect it.

There’s no simple answer to this, but here are some guiding principles that will help you, whether you’re looking at your personal planning or a larger scale plan for a team or business.

  1. Get the “why” right. Everything that you do should be aligned to your individual or business values. If you find yourself doing something that adds profit but doesn’t fit in with your values then sooner or later it’s going to become a problem.

  2. Give yourself some flexibility in the “how”. Provided you’ve got the “why” then the “how” should start to take care of itself. This is particularly important when you’re selling the plan to other people. Give them the end point and the rules of engagement (the values) and let them work out the best way to operate within those rules. Giving them the flexibility not only makes your planning easier, it also means that the execution is more likely to work as everyone can adapt to the changing circumstances.

  3. Remember that life’s not fair. Stuff goes wrong. It doesn’t mean you had a bad plan, and often there is no plan that can cope with all of the issues that we might face. If it goes wrong, work out if you could have planned better and apply the lessons next time. Then move on.

These aren’t guarantees of success, but they will help combat the dangers of analysis paralysis.

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