[Transcript]E004: How to Go from Analysis Paralysis to Definitive Action
Nina Radetich: Great to have you here for this episode of Catapult Business Growth. My name is Nina Radetich. Here with me is the CEO of Catapult Groups, Brad Mishlove. In this podcast, we talk about issues many CEOs face on a regular basis, and in today’s episode, our focus is on swift decision making. How to stop debating, or worrying really, and take action.
Brad, thanks for being here. I think this is a topic that’s going to resonate with a lot of people.
Brad Mishlove: Oh, thanks, Nina. It’s great to be here, and I think this is a great topic to talk about today.
Nina Radetich: How many companies would you say have just a bad case of analysis paralysis?
Brad Mishlove: Well, let me think about that for a moment. No, just kidding.
Nina Radetich: I just threw you a softball, didn’t I?
Brad Mishlove: I have no idea. Many. Many do.
Nina Radetich: Can we analyze that for a bit?
Brad Mishlove: We probably can, but I don’t know the answer.
Nina Radetich: Where does this happen? In what types of situations does analysis paralysis usually come up?
Brad Mishlove: I see many instances where there’s a lot of boardroom discussion, a lot of meetings and very little action. Great ideas, but a great idea unimplemented basically is a dream.
Nina Radetich: Is the analysis paralysis as a result of just sort of today’s fast pace of business? Does it come from a CEO who’s just overly analytical? Where does it usually stem from?
Brad Mishlove: Well, I think a number of places. One, people are really busy. There’s not a lot of extra bandwidth in organizations today. We’re doing more with less. I think the last decade of economic uncertainty created a work environment where we’re not overstaffed, and perhaps we’re understaffed now. I think people are still gun shy. There’s a lack of capital sometimes in small business that prevents action and investment, although capital is readily available today, but I think people are still a little bit afraid.
In that, there’s a lot of talk, and not a lot of implementation at times. Some firms are terrific at taking ideas and turning them into tactical implementation, and others never get out of strategy. Today’s conversation is really partly an encouragement to move from strategy into action, because it’s action that’s going to create value in the firm. Now, it needs to be sound strategy. It needs to be effective strategy, and the strategy’s gotta work for the company in the marketplace. Yet if it stays in the meeting room, it goes nowhere and does not have any economic impact other than a time waste.
Nina Radetich: There’s something about just moving forward and taking action, right or wrong, that seems to create good outcomes in a company, isn’t there?
Brad Mishlove: I believe so. I think when you have an idea that you feel is 85% good, it’s probably time to start moving. Waiting to get it to 100%, you may never get to 100%. I think you have to have enough flexibility to move, and then adjust.
Nina Radetich: Mm-hmm (affirmative). But you think people just spend a lot of time worrying about if they’re making the right move? Is that what is holding people back?
Brad Mishlove: Well, yes. I think that is part of it, and the other part is, I don’t believe that their teams are prepared to implement. It’s great to have the boardroom strategy, to have your executive team agree on something. It is a whole different story to get that level of tactical execution into the people who are actually going to do the work. There is a huge disconnect in that small business.
Nina Radetich: We talked about some of the solutions around that in one of the first episodes of Catapult Business Growth, didn’t we?
Brad Mishlove: We did.
Nina Radetich: What advice would you have for CEOs who seem to get stuck in this cycle?
Brad Mishlove: I think they need to invest more in their people, more training, more leadership training, more bandwidth. If somebody is doing all they can do to just keep their head above water and then you’ve got another new initiative for them to do, I just don’t know how likely that is. To me, running a business with zero excess capacity makes no sense, especially when we’re relying on- excuse the term- human capital, right? We’re relying on people, right? If there’s really no capacity in your firm, how do you grow?
If you’re at 100%, you’re working overtime. Then you want to say you’re going to grow 15%. “We’re going to do this new initiative.” No bandwidth. Where do we go with that? How do we do that?
I understand running a tight ship. I also think that you have to have sufficient profitability, and perhaps that’s the most key element to growing and to actually implementing. Having enough profitability that you can have bandwidth in your firm.
Nina Radetich: To allow the leaders to start thinking outside of the box, and to get creative with different strategies moving forward. Is that what you’re saying?
Brad Mishlove: Right. To have that. To have enough time to implement new initiatives. To have enough people to implement new initiatives. If it’s always so close to the wire, just to get your current workload done, I don’t know how you do it.
Brad Mishlove: But if you don’t have sufficient profitability, you have to run that way. Margin is an interesting connection to the ability to take and implement strategy.
Nina Radetich: Where do you see it most, where people never seem to get going? Is it in companies that are struggling from a profitability standpoint? Is it in companies who don’t have enough margin? Where are people struggling the most to implement new ideas and get going? Maybe there is no cookie cutter answer to that.
Brad Mishlove: I’m not sure there is a cookie cutter answer. It is difficult to translate strategy into execution. It’s one of the harder things in business.
We see a lot of good ideas never make it out, right? They don’t get out of the gate. I don’t know that there’s an exact way to go, because I think it varies, but by spending more time on the preparation, on, “How are we actually going to execute on this strategy?” “It’s great that we’re going to enter in a new market. We’re operating in Phoenix now. We want to operate in Salt Lake City.” “Wonderful. How are we going to do that? Who’s going to do that? What’s going to be required?”
Nina Radetich: And what usually happens is people sit around the table and just sort of discuss it.
Brad Mishlove: A lot of discussion, yeah. A lot of discussion for sure, and then the key, though, is, “Who’s going to lead the charge? Who’s going to be responsible? What are the expectations? What are the measurement points? How much capital? What’s it going to take?” My experience is, it always takes twice as much money and twice as long as you think it’s going to. If you’re only allocating half as much capital and half as much time, it’s difficult. It’s difficult to move it forward.
Nina Radetich: How can leaders develop a proclivity for action?
Brad Mishlove: Well, I think they need to get small results first. They need some successes. When those successes happen, people see it can be done in their teams. I think they need to build the leadership below the CEO level. I think they have to have great trust in their people. They have to have focus, tremendous amount of focus, and then in that, they have to have clear expectations. People need to know what is expected.
I like, and you’ll hear me time and time again saying, “Begin with the end in mind.” If the end in mind is to open an operation in another city, the endgame is, is you’re going to have- I don’t know- $10 million of revenue in there inside of three years. The question is, work backwards, right? “What do I need to do to achieve that?” And then it’s really about those actions, because actions often times will ground the right strategy, but get results, right? With no action, no results.
Nina Radetich: You know, I would imagine from a psychological standpoint, for the culture of your company, being part of a company that does take consistent action has got to just feel better from an employee standpoint, right?
Brad Mishlove: It does. Having goals and meeting them or exceeding them is nice. It is absolutely counterproductive to set a bunch of goals and often not make them, right? It doesn’t feel good. Then you get used to not making your goal. I’d like to have some goals in a firm that can actually be achieved.
Nina Radetich: And then are communicated to the entire team.
Brad Mishlove: Absolutely.
Brad Mishlove: Yeah. Set a goal, but set a realistic goal, but you have to work backwards. What’s required to achieve it? Now we know what the endgame looks like. What do we have to do to achieve that level of success?
Nina Radetich: Is there a time that debate and consideration and talking about a plan is appropriate?
Brad Mishlove: The debate needs to go on until such time that the strategy seems sound, and I hope that CEOs would encourage dissenting views. If somebody doesn’t think it’s going to work, I want to hear about it. What I don’t want to do is I don’t want to invest $5, or $10, or $20 million into initiative, and hear, “Well, I didn’t think it was going to work.” My question would have been, “Why didn’t you tell me back on day one, when you knew that?” I don’t want to hear that. I want to hear it early, not after we’re down the road. I want to have a lot of vigorous debate.
But then when we’re in the throes of the activity to make it work, we’re making the investment, I want to know what we’re doing to make it happen. What measurement metrics? What do we need to change? Is there anything significant that would indicate a change of course would be required, or do we just keep moving? Oftentimes I see where executives, CEOs, they get to … I use football vernacular. They get down to the 15 or the five-yard line, and they stop. And yet hanging in there another day, or another week, or month, or quarter, or year would achieve that touchdown. I think sometimes you just gotta have fortitude.
Nina Radetich: How do you encourage them to push past that? To know that what’s in the end zone is worth it?
Brad Mishlove: Well, if their strategy was sound to begin with, I would just say take a deep breath, live another day. It all works out.
Nina Radetich: How do you coach CEOs to take action?
Brad Mishlove: With a little bit of tough love. Sometimes-
Nina Radetich: How is that received?
Brad Mishlove: Well, I think it’s mostly well-received. Occasionally, probably not, but I think people like a straight shooter. The numbers are what the numbers are. The results for counting them accurately are how they are, and I want to know where you want to go, and what that delta is. What’s that gap between where you are and where you’d like to be? And then, what’s the best direction we can take to fill that gap? Let’s fill it quickly.
Nina Radetich: How does a peer advisory board help people get past their analysis paralysis?
Brad Mishlove: Well, I think a number of ways. One is just that it uncovers blind spots. Two, speed is important. Speed is very important in business. As a matter of fact, I was having a discussion with a gentleman this morning here in this office regarding speed of execution, that the longer we take to do things, the more variables that can get introduced. I think a peer advisory board helps move things faster, because you’re getting the experiences of other CEOs, and those experiences, based on their successes and failures, help accelerate the learning curve. You’re getting an outside exposure, and then they’re seeing perhaps what you don’t see. You might see the pitfalls. They may say, “Hey, look. We’ve tried this here. It didn’t work, but I think if you made this particular adjustment,” whatever it happened to be, “you’d see a positive result.”
Nina Radetich: An outside perspective, for sure.
Brad Mishlove: Outside perspective, plus I know for the CEO groups that I work with, we don’t like procrastination all that much. We also don’t want to hear about the same problem over and over again. At some point, I’m going to say, or one of the other members is going to say, “When is this going to stop being a problem?” Or, “How long is this going to be a problem for you?”
Nina Radetich: What advice do you have for somebody who is at the CEO level, who is struggling to take action?
Brad Mishlove: I think being bold is a good strategy.
Nina Radetich: Well, here’s to all the action takers out there, huh?
Brad Mishlove: Yeah. For sure.
Nina Radetich: Thanks, Brad. We’ll see you next time.