Avoiding the Paralysis of Analysis

Have you ever had a project that ground to a halt during the analysis stage? Have you ever hit a brick wall that simply shouldn’t be there?  We see many companies suffer what we call the “paralysis of analysis”, something that can be avoided with the right tools.

Many project teams hit a brick wall when the challenge in hand blinds them from the route ahead.  This can happen in our everyday lives. One of my good friends spent more money on computer magazines in the 2 years it took him to decide which computer to buy, than on the actual computer.  Only for it to be outdated a year later.

Analysis is a good thing and greatly reduces risk, but sometimes it’s just a project killer.

Here are 5 good tips to keep those projects rolling:


1. Set Incremental Goals

Don’t let far-off, challenging goals stop you in your tracks, set realistic waypoints and logical goals through your individual or group analysis, break those difficult tasks into small ones with feel-good milestones within sight of each other. By giving yourself or your team small easy steps, difficult terrain can be covered quickly where otherwise you would get lost. This can be reflected in real life by climber Joe Simpsons near death experience on Siula Grand in the Andies in 1985. Simpson fell several meters down the side of a snow covered mountain top with an already broken leg, he landed very badly injured in a crevasse. Left for dead by his frost bitten companion, he had only himself – he was now victim and rescuer. Simpson realized the peril he was in, it would take days to crawl back to camp.  His saving grace, and what prevented him from being paralysed by the impossible task ahead was his decision to split his impossible crawl into small bits.  From dark crevasse to light open terrain, from ice to snow, from rock to stone, from stone to puddle, he survived to tell his tale.


2. Don’t Aim too High

Your ambition level must match your own or your team’s skills and, in particular, your budget. As an American journalist once said, “every solution creates a new problem”. Going after the perfect solution can seem like the right thing to do, but trying to eliminate all risk will lead to impossible targets. Mitigation of the risks, planning how to live with the risks you create, is a key point to progress. From simply doing a pros and cons table to a more advanced DFMEA, it’s important to know the negative implications of your actions. A small difference in colour might not cause issues, but using that newly developed material should not harm the health of your customers, and that elusive 10% cost reduction should not cause your equipment to fail. Set your ambitions correctly and be willing to compromise.


3. Learn from your Mistakes, and Allow for More

A creative team should be allowed to experiment and some experiments are bound to fail. Using hours of analysis to reduce the risk of an experiment failing may be more costly and less productive than doing the experiment and learning from the result. Talk with your colleagues about the reasons things didn’t work out, perhaps one of them has that golden nugget of information you need to get over the hurdle. It’s often harder for project teams to get the motivation needed to change their surroundings and commit to new physical tests than it is to sit comfortably and continue with 6 more months of computer based analysis. Think practical and make those tests…

Reach out to a friend

4. Talk to the People Around You

Find those masterminds, reach out and ping pong with your expert friends and colleagues.  Being too close to a problem can make you blind. Make sure your team is not stuck in front of their desks doing the same thing day in day out. Inspirational trips, knowledge sharing meetings, team brain storms, external input from expert consultants are all things that can help find that last piece of the puzzle.
One obvious tip – If you feel you are stuck, sleep on it, the mind has the ability to structure and organize information better as you stress down and enter unconscious thought. Sleep also helps organize our memories and solve the problems of the day. Take 5 minutes as you lay on your pillow to think laterally – it sometimes gives you that key idea for the following day.


5. Embrace The Beauty of Parallel Lines

One last tip is to run your design phase parallel to the analysis phase. These two phases should not be seen as independent. Using the very first design to make a preliminary FEA analysis, for example, could avoid you or your team going too far down a blind alley. On the other hand, the early analysis might show that a difficult route was actually more feasible than first thought, taking some of the risk away. Allow the team to venture into the design stage with only a half-ready analysis to support them. Discover, learn, go back. Push ahead and fail. Take your new findings and incorporate them into a new, improved, proven analysis with more flesh on the bones. Working in parallel saves time and gives better results.

To hear more about getting your analysis back on track, give us call, or visit us at Attention. We look forward to hearing from you!


  1. I do believe all of the ideas you’ve presented for your post.
    They are really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless,
    the posts are too brief for starters. May just you please
    lengthen them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you
    for the post.

  2. I think that everything said was very reasonable.
    However, what about this? suppose you were
    to create a killer headline? I mean, I don’t wish to tell
    you how to run your blog, however suppose you added something to
    maybe get folk’s attention? I mean Avoiding the Paralysis of Analysis | Attention News is a little
    plain. You might look at Yahoo’s home page and see how
    they create article titles to get viewers interested.

    You might add a video or a picture or two to
    grab readers interested about what you’ve got to say.
    In my opinion, it might make your posts a little livelier.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s