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Free your people to act: limit goals

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You’ve heard that too many choices cause paralysis, but how many choices are too many?

In one study, doctors examined the case of a 67-year-old with chronic hip pain. His meds weren’t working, so the next option was hip replacement. When the pharmacy revealed a medication that hadn’t been tried, 47% of the docs went for it.

Given the same set of facts but two meds that hadn’t been tried, a second group of doctors should have been pleased with a choice, but only 28% chose either drug.

Why? Even good options, and only two of them, caused paralysis.

Your organization faces choices every day. So how do you keep your employees from freezing up?

First, don’t set something like 11 core values or goals. Nobody can remember that many. Having 11 goals is the same as having none.

Instead, set one overarching mission and celebrate your employees who pursue it relentlessly, whether it’s passing along bargains to customers or keeping your promise on a delivery date. Telling and retelling stories about your employees’ valor in achieving that mission will help the idea stick and help them to act.

—Adapted from “Analysis of Paralysis,” Dan Heath and Chip Heath, Fast Company.

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