We often hear the term “analysis paralysis” where apparently nothing ever gets achieved because people become overly concerned with the discussion rather than the decision. On the other hand, good strategic choices only come from appropriate analysis of the situation and the interpretation of the data in informing a potential strategy that will hurt the competition.
Analysis paralysis is certainly not aided by the fact that there is so much data available for us to analyze. The potentially good news about the amount of data though is that we should have more information on which to base our strategy.
The first step in any effective strategic planning process is to ensure that we have a broad and deep situational understanding – that we have sufficient knowledge of the underlying internal and external environments, the world drivers, industry drivers and the linkages to each other together with the strengths and weaknesses of our own business and those of our competitors. This data is becoming more readily available and by implication then our strategic analysis should improve.
Conversely, because there is so much data the process of developing a strategy is becoming a longer process as the data is gathered, aggregated, assimilated and then analyzed. Those companies on the other hand having a ‘one day strategic retreat’ to determine their strategy are kind of missing the point and trying to short circuit the strategy process. But don’t kid yourself, there are no short cuts to good strategy.
The challenge for businesses therefore becomes one of how best to deal with the data available in order to exploit the resultant opportunities successfully and to mitigate potential threats.
As leaders it is incumbent on us to become experts at discerning what information is valuable and what is noise. We need to separate the wheat from the chaff and be brutal in our discipline about getting the right data. Too much data availability slows down the decision making processes and so one shouldn’t fall into the trap of asking for more data just because it is available.
In addition, how will your business be able to cope with the vast amounts of unfiltered data available? How can you leverage all the data to give yourself a strategic competitive advantage?
The key is knowing what questions you need the answer to. Don’t start with what data is available – decide what questions you need to answer and get the data. If it comes from multiple sources, ensure that the sources are talking to each other and that there is a data aggregator (human or machine) that is tasked with grabbing, cataloguing and making the data available.
Be informed, be agile, make good choices…….