Analysis paralysis, or the all too familiar act of overthinking, is not uncommon in life or business. After all, doing things because that’s the way they have always been done and being on autopilot is easy. As people, we like things to be neat, clean, and relaxed—especially during times of disruption. Analysis paralysis happens when decisions that should be made are delayed by overthinking (or other things), preventing the ability to progress with action. When this happens, choices are delayed, and critical time passes while trying to reach a consensus on a decision. Oftentimes analysis paralysis occurs because we are comfortable with processes that have always been there. But consider that perhaps staying “comfortable” in business might not be guiding your company or your workforce in a direction to get ahead of the ever-changing workplace landscape.
For many years human resources as a profession was seen as very tactical and not a part of the organization that focused on strategy, especially at smaller businesses with fewer people to cover the many tasks required of HR. But the reality is that those days are long gone, especially since the nuances of the pandemic have worked to elevate HR to heights never seen. There have been arguments that HR should move to mostly a strategic role to be valued. While this is important, the reality is that HR needs to be versatile. The art of being process champions and people scientists is a delicate balance that is part of the continuous rebirth of the profession. We need to focus on people operations and look at the who, why, what, and how behind the decisions we make, or fail to make, and how they affect the larger organization.
The choices HR leaders make (or fail to make) can hold organizations back from reaching their strategic business objectives and achieving a thriving workplace environment. What are the time vampires in your company? Are there manual processes that you KNOW you need to improve, or change? Are your processes aligned with the experience that you want to provide to your employees and customers?
To overcome this challenge, it is important to know the signs of analysis paralysis by recognizing when it is happening to us or those around us. Why does it happen, and how can we combat it?
A procrastination situation
Choose your favorite cliché: “I’ll get to it tomorrow.” “It’ll be there next week.” “I’ll just get started on Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday).” You get the idea. Do you ever find yourself saying these things? Are you putting off things that you know you should get to today, that you should prioritize, focus on, and implement to move the needle forward in your life … or, for the purposes of this blog … in business?
Procrastination is a sign of analysis paralysis, and can lead to overthinking, underacting, and thus a lack of progress. Consider some things that you have been putting off for a long time but are thinking about often. What is one step you can take today to achieve your goal? Oftentimes we procrastinate because things seem too large or daunting to complete, whereas if we simply take step one, we get things rolling in the right direction to affect positive change.
Fear can also be a factor. Sometimes we procrastinate because we are afraid of making the wrong decision. When the stakes are high, this is understandable. But it is crucial to be confident in your decision making and recognize that the things we implement are designed for the betterment of the company—and possibly ourselves.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Another way that analysis paralysis appears is in the form of delaying small decisions. How important is the decision to make? Will the impacts of it matter a week, month, or year from now? If the answer is no, it is likely a smaller decision. Thankfully, not all decisions in business are large ones. Small decisions are a great place to start as you work to overcome analysis paralysis. Are you overthinking small decisions, in addition to the big picture ones? If so, instead of contemplating for hours, days, or more, take the small action and see what happens. For example, have you been losing sleep over timekeeping for your employees? By choosing and implementing a simple yet comprehensive timekeeping solution that is easy to understand and use for both you and your employees, you can reduce stress for everyone. The key is to simply act and get a system in place! If needed, you can always pivot and make changes as you go along.
Oftentimes the small changes that we make may not seem impactful at first, but as time goes on, they become vital in terms of streamlining work processes for HR, and other stakeholders. By taking a one-step-after-another mentality, efficiency in business just might grow in unexpected ways.
Trust yourself … and your data
Trust is the foundation of everything in business, and without it, progress cannot be made. When it comes to analysis paralysis, HR practitioners and stakeholders should critically evaluate people processes using data and other metrics, and thus identify opportunities for improvement and advancement both within HR and for the broader organization. By doing this, it is easier to justify the decisions made to the larger organization because key points can be backed—and explained—by trusted data. They key here is to be sure that the data used to make decisions is accurate, secure, and complete.
Incorporating a modern HR system as a single source of truth can help to ensure that your data is useful and can be trusted to make decisions.
Take a tech-driven approach
So, you really want to improve your HR tech, but you just can’t face the daunting project? What happens if you stay where you are, though? Is your tech serving you—both HR tech and other forms of technology? Is your tech serving your employees? If not, now is a really good time to evaluate making a change, and then take action to make the change. When we know something is necessary, delaying decisions hinders progress. Afterall, tech in its many forms drives work. It drives innovation, and it is key to a positive employee experience, profitability, and productivity.
Have the important conversation(s)
Another form of analysis paralysis comes not in the form of decision making, but in the failure of having important conversations that are needed to move forward with decisions. A common form of this is delaying conversations with executives and other decision makers. If you are delaying making decisions due to not getting approval, and have no approval because of delaying important conversations, ask yourself what is holding you back from doing so.
Better yet, check out our guide to better executive communication to get all the practical tips you need to succeed.
The bottom line
Overanalyzing is a thief of productivity, although it’s not always apparent when you’re in the midst of overanalyzing or even just examining thoroughly. Delaying action while overanalyzing information clearly doesn’t help when it comes to getting things done. It is harder to make decisions when we are overwhelmed and, in a world where we are taking in incredible amounts of data in what seemingly seems like each second, it becomes even more complex. But as the HR profession has been elevated, we cannot be perceived as a department that is slow at making decisions.
We can be better prepared because we have learned through challenges as HR professionals, both recently and throughout our careers. For some things in business, routine just might be the enemy. The key is to be confident: move forward with conviction, knowing that what you are doing is what is best for you, and for the business, no matter if it isn’t always popular. Sometimes we must make hard decisions. Don’t be paralyzed by overthinking; stick to what you know is right and do it!