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35,000. That’s how many decisions the average adult makes in one day. Some of them will be trivial: choosing to change the channel from the evening news to Jeopardy. Some of them will be critical: choosing to swerve left to avoid the 12-point buck in the middle of the road. At some point, however, we all are met with a decision that leaves us stumped. Rather than the confident decision-maker, we become that deer in headlights.

Much of the time, what causes this paralysis is simply and overabundance of choices. With too many options to analyze and consider, we end up not making a choice at all. For example – think of the mom-and-pop soft serve ice cream stand. There, you have 3 options: chocolate, vanilla, and twist. How long does it take you to make up your mind? Not long.

Now, consider going to Ben and Jerry’s. Think about the long winding line, and all the people peering into the glass cases trying to make up their minds. Should you pick chocolate fudge brownie? Banana split? Cherry Garcia? Mint chocolate cookie? Peanut butter cup? Peanut butter world? Peanut butter fudge? The peanut butter options alone are overwhelming! Maybe you need a sample – those tiny spoons are there so obviously you are supposed to. The man behind the counter in a tie-dye shirt is staring at you, waiting for some direction.

Are you getting flustered thinking about it? Are you feeling stuck? How long will that decision take? A bit longer than the mom and pop stand.

We used that analogy recently working with one of our long-term clients. Their Client Listening Program had recently changed internal owners; the responsibility went from Marketing to the Vice President of Continuous Improvement (a topic we will touch on in a later blog). The new owner of the program had a challenge. His Project Managers (PMs) were not asking for feedback from their clients often enough. After reviewing the platform and speaking with his PMs, he had come to his conclusion: the program wasn’t working.

Listening to his concerns, we reached a different conclusion. The problem wasn’t the program in its entirety – the problem was that over the history of their work with us, the tool architecture, specifically the template library, had become too large and unwieldy. The PMs he’d spoken with shared that they are always extremely busy. Their time was valuable and preferably billable. Having 35 different templates to pick from every time was intimidating and time consuming. In other words, the PMs were experiencing what we call User Pause.

It got even worse. Pause turned into paralysis, which led to PMs throwing their hands up in frustration and not requesting feedback from clients at all. They would Pause, Paralyze and Punt. They left Ben & Jerry’s empty handed.

On a corporate level this snowballed into a number of issues:

  • Lack of understanding of their clients. Project Managers and division leaders had no information surrounding how they were meeting expectations and consequentially no notion of which clients were potentially at risk.
  • Marketing wasn’t getting those delightful stories and examples that are the difference in an A+ proposal and an also-ran.
  • Business Development was struggling to identify their clients with strongest loyalty, who might provide the best references, or even better a referral. They were forced to guess.

To sum up: Continuous Improvement was stuck.

Our team walked our client through the ice cream stand analogy and saw him perk up almost immediately. The problem was a lot more manageable than he thought. It turned out, he did have the right program in place. He just needed to make some adjustments. He simply needed to put a stop to User Pause, to end the Analysis Paralysis.

Today we’re working with the VP of Continuous Improvement to slice and dice his list of feedback templates from 35 options to around seven. He’s going to work with his PMs to understand what questions they feel are important to ask at various project stages and explain to his team why this process is so crucial not just for them, but for their colleagues in marketing, business development, and for the firm overall. Most importantly, he’s removing a major roadblock with a seemingly small change to empower the results his firm is trying to achieve.

What’s causing your team to pause? Get your team together and do a quick Empathy Map to find out where the obstacle is. Click here to download a step-by-step guide.