“Action always starts with calculation”

These days we are constantly harangued with the need to take action, not to just sit around wishing for good things to come to our business, LoA-style.  But what about the need to plan, to analyse the opportunity, to truly understand how to get the most out of our best opportunities?

I’m just reviewing a free e-Book from business advisor Jonathan Farrington on his approach to Key Account Management.  In it he quotes Chinese general Liu-Ji, writing over 600 years ago: “Action always starts with calculation.  Before fighting, first assess the relative wisdom of the leadership, the relative strength of the enemy, the size of the armies, the lie of the land, and the adequacy of provisions.  If you send troops out only after making these calculations, you will never fail to win”.

The trouble with analysis is that it often becomes a barrier to action, as different stakeholder groups call for research and analysis on a bewildering array of concerns.  In small businesses, it can even become an excuse to avoid taking the risk of acting at all – “I’ll make my move just as soon as I’ve analysed ‘abc’ … ah, and I’d better make sure about ‘xyz’ too … oooh, come to think about it, ‘def’ might be a problem too, best wait until we’ve checked that out … and …”  These are both aspects of the phenomenon known as “paralysis by analysis”.  As I was copying out Liu-Ji’s list, I was thinking, “Blimey, this is going on a bit” and wondering if all these aspects really have to be analysed up-front.  And yet, as Liu-Ji says, by analysing we can dramatically increase the chances of a “win”.  So it seems the trick is to make sure you analyse the critical success factors, and get your understanding about the rest by ‘learning-by-doing’ – getting started and adjusting the plan as new information arrives.

The way I do opportunity analysis is to spend some time with a client really understanding what makes a good opportunity for them, then helping them to check all the opportunities being considered against those criteria, to identify the best ones, for them.  I call it “Inquisitive Analysis” – because I look at the human side of things as well as just the numbers.  One very important outcome of the process is an understanding of the vulnerabilities that will need to be fixed (either in the plan, or the individual!) – and whether they’re show-stoppers that need to be resolved before even starting out, or can we get going and deal with them ‘on the march’.

The right level of analysis might take a few hours of hard work, but it can save days and weeks of wasted effort later; and just as importantly, it can provide the reassurance and confidence to take that all-important first action.

About Andrew Horder

Founder of the blog at TheBusyFool.com, Andrew has been working with business owners for many years, helping them find and maintain their unique Focus - those activities and opportunities that they love, and will produce their success, what Andrew calls your Joyful Genius! Andrew's first book, The Busy Fool's a to Z of Loving Work is available from Amazon http://andrewhorder.com/amazon-azlw
About The Author

Andrew Horder

Founder of the blog at TheBusyFool.com, Andrew has been working with business owners for many years, helping them find and maintain their unique Focus - those activities and opportunities that they love, and will produce their success, what Andrew calls your Joyful Genius! Andrew's first book, The Busy Fool's a to Z of Loving Work is available from Amazon http://andrewhorder.com/amazon-azlw