As humans, we love to analyze things. Analysis always begins with my 2 year old son's favorite word: Why? And its a damn good question to ask. But why do you ask? Why do you need to know? I suppose you could look at analysis as the process of discoving new knowledge…new to you at least. Many people are really good at analyzing things. What they do with the new information is what separates those who excel from those who do not. This article will give you an approach for turning the information discovered through analysis into results for your business or personal life.
Step 1: Get to the root of the issue. Many people scratch the surface of an issue, make a few assumptions, and then choose to live with the first few thoughts that come to their minds. Why not dig deeper? Get complete and holistic data. Then use a systematic way of processing the data into useful information. In some cases, going with your gut is absolutely necessary, but in most cases, its not. There are tools and resources abound that can help you become a more effective analyst such as spreadsheet templates, software, and a whole industry of professional analysts.
Step 2: Create a list of potential solutions that could help address the issue at hand. The more minds you can employ in creating ideas, the greater solutions will arise. You can use brainstorming, an idea drop box, or research to help you generate your list. I've found that smaller groups between 4 and 7 people are best for a really creative brainstorming session, especially when there are no "idea killers" in the group. A brainstorm session should begin with a rule that no idea is a bad idea, because every idea has a component of greatness. If you can extract those components and mold them into something workable, you may have the answer, even if its from the most unlikely source.
Step 3: Narrow down your list of potential solutions to 1 or a combination of solutions. There are several ways to do this. One way is to pull everyone into a room, give them a fixed number of votes, and go down the list and allow people to vote. Even better, conduct a blind vote so people can't influence each other.
Another way to narrow down your list is to use a spreadsheet that allows you to allocate a score for each idea based on thier impact to each individual value in the organization. For example: Your organization might value safety with a weight of 9, quality with a weight of 6, and cost with a wieght of 3; then you would give each idea a score of 1 – 10 in each of these areas and then calculate the total score for each idea. The ideas with the highest score gets the most consideration for implementation.
Yet another way to select an idea is to let the boss choose. Can't go wrong with this one, no matter how wrong it is!
Step 4: After you've selected your winning idea or combination of ideas, its time to put it into action. Here is where you need to gather the resources needed to execute the idea and get it done. Hopefully you would have considered the resources necessary in the idea weed-out process. Create an execution plan using an action items list. Determine who will do what, by when, and how. Get together regularly, perhaps weekly to talk through where everyone is on their part of the project. Don't allow people to slack off or cut corners. Here is the greatest test of your leadership. Things like procrastination and low motivation can ruin things for everyone so work the crowd to drive results. Getting the support of more influential people in the organization can help you in this area.
Step 5: Provide visible tracking systems so that everyone can see how the plan is progressing and the results of the new idea. People love to see a plan come together, especially one where they helped decide what would be done and worked to make it happen. This completes the circle; start with analysis of a problem, then finish with analysis of a solution; and trust me, the latter just feels better, especially when its working.
Don't allow yourself or the people around you to get analysis paralysis. Use these simple, yet effective steps to turn Analysis into Action! This approach also builds a culture of teamwork and working together to solve problems. All you have to do is facilitate the process and you'll be viewed as the leader…rightfully so!
CEO – Excelville, LLC
Spreadsheet Café – Spreadsheet Ideas