Knowledge and data are important in systematic improvement but those alone will not produce success. We have to be able to take that information and turn it into actionable steps that we can then take.
The action element that occurs after the evaluation is incredibly important. I have met many people throughout my career that got stuck in analysis paralysis. They just kept analyzing and researching but never really moved to action to test out their idea.
But the information is important. We don’t want to get into the habit of making hasty, half-baked decisions and then jumping right into action without fully thinking through the idea.
So how do we strike this balance? How can we make sure we are doing our due diligence but still making progress?
I used to work at a non-profit that supported the local business community. One of my roles was to counsel startup businesses and provide them insight to help them realize their dream.
This gave me an up-close look at this balance. Some entrepreneurs would come to me with a bunch of great ideas. As we talked through what they wanted to do, it occurred to me that they haven’t actually done any research.
They wanted to invest a bunch of money into an idea without even doing a quick Google search to see what else was out there.
Then there were those entrepreneurs who spent significant time researching but never actually took the first action step. These tended to be former “A” students who just couldn’t accept that they may fail. So they did everything possible to make sure they don’t fail – specifically they would never actually start.
Neither approach was very good in the long run. Starting and running a successful business requires some information up front, but it also requires a ton of action. We have to move forward and test our concepts. The quicker we can test and adjust, the more likely we will ultimately find success.
One of the methods I use to make sure I stay in this sweet spot is to always ask questions in the beginning. I ask myself a ton of questions in order to fully understand what I am getting myself into.
If I can’t answer the basic questions, then I know I am jumping in prematurely and should spend a bit more time understanding what it is that I am proposing.
But it doesn’t end there. As soon as I start to take action, I am constantly monitoring and collecting all sorts of information. Then I use that insight to make changes.
I know that if I spend 4 days developing a strategic plan I still may start and realize I was way off. By remaining flexible I can quickly adjust, reformat the plan, and utilize the insight from measuring and monitoring the steps. This allows me to make sure I have enough thought put into the concept before I start, but still jump right in and use experience to help shape the direction I take.
It takes years to fine-tune this approach and feels more like a pendulum swinging at times than honing a new method. I would jump from too much analysis and rigidity, to a loose idea that I should have spent more time researching before I set out to test my hypothesis. But each time I made adjustments and slowly find myself more often in the sweet spot. This allows me to be confident that I have done enough research to start but also to realize that flexibility is the key once I actually start.