There’s something about managers and business people (especially in the UK) that prizes immediate action ahead of careful, prior analysis and planning. I suppose it’s a macho thing but I find it just plain stupid. ‘Just do it’may have been the successful campaign slogan of Nike (and the favourite phrase of a very frustrating business owner whose business I had the ‘pleasure’ of chairing some years back) but it makes a very poor management style. I’ve noticed that, just like being studious at school will lead a kid to be labelled a ‘swot’ and be ridiculed, being even in the slightest degree cerebral in your approach to business problems can lead to a manager being labelled as not being a ‘doer’. What is it with people who can’t even imagine the value of looking before they leap? Is analysis something that should only be undertaken in private and between consenting adults?
Reading the seemingly endless analyses of the situation the Eurozone leaders have got themselves into over Greece and the rest of the PIIGS, paralysis certainly does seem to have set in. It really is one the most intractable problems around and, I admit, not one I’d like the responsibility for. But, as they say in that other wonderfully intuitive Eurozone country, ‘If I were you I wouldn’t start from here’. Clearly, this is a situation that would have been better avoided in the first place. Rigorous analysis of the causes of a problem and the best potential solutions and their outcomes is not only sensible but essential. Better yet is the practice of teasing out all of the potential implications (intended and unintended) of a considered course of action prior to taking it. Otherwise, it’s like jumping into a freezing, fast flowing river to escape the snarling, rabid dog at your heels; the cure turns out worse than the disease.
One of the things that greatly impressed me working with Japanese managers was their approach to problem solving. Before any attempt was made to address a problem a meticulous collection of all relevant facts was undertaken followed by a thorough analysis of the causes. Only then did they start the process of seeking and testing potential solutions. It’s much better to have taken the time to establish and solve the root cause of a problem than having to fire-fight the same recurrent symptoms over and over. But the pathological fire-fighters still survive (and even thrive) in too many organisations.
Of my most satisfying successes, one came only after many weeks of painstaking research and analysis. In the depths of a previous recession, and working in an industry I had just joined, I started work on a forecasting model in an attempt to predict market trends. The result (whichever way I ran the figures or changed key assumptions) was that of a strong upturn in 6 months time. We bet the firm on stock building and when the upturn came (exactly as projected) we doubled market share at sharply increased prices. Competition simply couldn’t react in time to the increased demand, having previously mothballed production lines.
So, unless some unconnected physical infirmity strikes or you are one of those unfortunates that are pathologically incapable of making decisions, an appropriate amount of analysis is only sensible before major business (or political) decisions.