From Analysis Paralysis to Traction & Action

At a recent meeting, I listened as participants took turns providing updates on their work as it related to community capacity building. One government employee reported that a clear direction was being communicated at a number of different levels. The direction she and others were hearing? Action! Enough research and planning already!

Elected officials and senior staff were conveying that they wanted to see new or improved programs and initiatives delivering relevant and meaningful outcomes related to individual, social, economic and environmental well-being. Apparently, their current focus on research and conducting needs assessment was too often resulting in “analysis paralysis” and a lack of progress or any real change. While research and planning is an important part of the solution, the “wings” needed to be balanced with more “landing gear”.

There’s no doubt we live in challenging times as we move from a manufacturing to a knowledge economy. Unfortunately in too many cases, we’ve tried to apply old planning approaches to new times and new and complex problems. Today it seems people are more likely to be looking for a road map and, especially in times of change, one that provides clear direction, expectations, process, and action steps.

I’m not saying leaders should be telling us what to do. I think instead they need to design and support a process for action. Today the challenges are complex, and one person – regardless of how smart they might be - is never going to be able to solve them on their own. That means the leader’s job is not to dictate direction or solve problems but rather to ensure a process that engages a broad range of stakeholders in working together. Involving more stakeholders from the beginning of the process, will also ensure they are committed to implementing the identified direction and change as it evolves.

Our work has also taught us that this process for action is far more effective when an assets-approach is utilized. That simply means identifying strengths or successes in the community and then levering them. This is generally a far more effective approach then trying to fix challenges that might be overwhelming and therefore contributing to analysis paralysis.

In their recent book, “Switch”, authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath suggest these assets or “bright spots”, as they call them, provide the road map.  And as we’ve learned, they are also suggesting we need to switch from traditional problem solving to scaling successes and bright spot evangelizing.

In community settings this means identifying what’s working and then figuring out how to do more of it or to explore how it could be ramped up.  This approach can be applied to individuals, businesses or organizations as well as to an entire community.

To find their bright spots, communities need to look for unique or authentic restaurants, landmarks, festivals, retail outlets, businesses, talents, or historical landmarks.  Once they’ve found their unique bright spot, they need to do more to capitalize or scale the success. In that way, one bright spot can become a magnet and multiplier for growth as well as a brand for the community that ultimately leads to a tipping point for success.

Bottom line is that leading with, and scaling successes, is a sure-fire way of reducing analysis paralysis and increasing traction and action.

Posted on 06-20-10


Brenda!  I totally agree with this asset-based approach.  Why not concentrate on what you have opposed to lamenting about what you are missing?  Good approach to community building and to life in general….

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  06/22/10  at  08:55 AM

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