Analysis Paralysis

This first sentence took me 20 minutes to write, no seriously.  Does this ever happen to you?  How about the term paper (project) that you spend 8 hours doing, but actual typing time is less than a hour?  Why does this happen and what can we do to avoid ANALYSIS PARALYSIS.

For the sake of this blog post, we are looking at analysis paralysis through the lens of a project.  It can be any kind of project including a term paper, a home remodel, or something at work.  The initial parts of all these projects are the ones that give most people the most issues.  So how do we avoid them?

1.  Set the timer

Have a pre-defined amont of time  you will spend on gathering the data you need to do your project.  Once that time is up, it is time to start doing.  No matter how much of an expert you become, there will always be details that you will not be able to know, it is just time to accept that.  This will also help your organize what is really important, and what is not.

2.  Grab a template 

Have a template that you have had past success with and continue to use it.  I do a lot of ad-hoc projects covering many different topics.  I have found that if I use the same format/template for my memos, I can more quickly organize my thoughts.  For example, my typical writing will be organized in this order: top 3 takeaways, background, analysis, conclusion.  Sure there will be differences between different work, but having a template allows you to focus in on the important areas.

3. Stick to the basics and trust your gut 

As I have written in a lot of my comments for these blogs, I am a firm believer that simpler is almost always better.  When people try to make things overly complicated or difficult, it takes them out of their comfort zones, and ultimately could lead to failure.  Gut feelings are typically right, no really.  Famed scientist Gerd Gigerenzer has written “intuition, it seems, is not some sort of mystical chemical reaction but a neurologically based behavior that evolved to ensure that we humans respond quickly when faced with a dilemma.”

4. Let your team help

We have talked about this in class over and over, but it is important to mention again.  When working in a team, utilize all members.  This could significantly reduce analysis paralysis.

5. Take the leap

Just go for it, every project is going to have issues.  Accepting this fact, and understanding contingency plans ahead of time will make taking the leap much easier.


These different steps will help limit the time it takes to get a projects rolling and avoid the trap of analysis paralysis.




Obamacare: The Biggest Mishap in PM of 2013?

Projects rarely make news, but when they do, it is almost always because of their failures.  Obamacare was the biggest failure in Project Management during 2013.  It dominated the headlines and made many powerful people really sweat.  The question is really why Obamacare rollout was a complete disaster?  I am using this article from the Huffington Post to dive into the failings of Obamacare.


1. Obamacare’s rollout was unsuccessful because the timeline was developed by senior management that didn’t truly understand the scope of the work.

How many times has this happened to one of you?  You are given a project that you have deep understanding of, but you have little say in what the timeline will be.    Had a better timeline been developed, the rollout of Obamacare may be looked at completely different now.


2. #1 directly leads to the 2nd point.  Contracts were to contractors that gave the best price and timeline, whether or not it was realistic.

Obamacare was a classic example of over promising and under delivering.  Contractors were busy whispering sweet nothings into the Obamacare administrators’ ears, knowing that what they were selling was not possible.  They were doing what was necessary to win the contract.  How can we prevent this in our own careers?


3. The scope was ever-changing making it impossible to predict when a successful rollout could happen.

Scope creep is a problem that always seems to show up in projects and Obamacare was no different.  When the scope changed, the administrators had a choice whether or not to have a contract bidding war between contractors or to give the current contractors the work and simply agree to a scope change.  It was cheaper and faster (remember we are on a timeline here!) to agree to a scope change with the current contractors.


At rollout Obamacare was a complete failure.  The President even admitted this.  It offers many examples of what NOT to do when running a massive project.  I think the two main takeaways that I see are:

1. Communication between all layers of the organization is vital.  Senior management must communicate with those in the field to develop the project.  Senior managers do not know everything.

2. Having contractors that are trustworthy and won’t just tell you what you want to hear can lead to more successful project launches (even if they are a bit more expensive).

What do you think could have been done better?