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Letter from the President: Analysis Paralysis, Innovation & Half-Baked Decisions

July 17, 2023, Jim Tedford

Wise words from The Association’s President & CEO

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

Sometimes I suffer from analysis paralysis.  There, I said it.  That phenomenon that occurs when an overthinking of the situation and every possible scenario attached to it gets in the way of making a decision or trying something new.

But, at the same time I LOVE innovation. Somehow, as a profession, we manage to square those two things.

The pace of progress in our field is pretty remarkable, in spite of some large, complex challenges.   We have made major strides since the founding of the movement.  And, when you think about the amount of proof we often need that something is going to work before we take those leaps of faith, that’s a minor miracle.

I think much of our innate skepticism comes from our reluctance to squander resources.  It’s hard to raise money for any cause and letting go of it is difficult, especially when there is no guarantee of success.  So, we think things through.  And, then we think them through again.  And, then we think them through backwards and we think them through with our colleagues.  Then we ponder them and sleep on them before finally deciding to just go for it.

Some of that skepticism stems from the fact that some (many) of the decisions we make are made when the stakes are super high.  We may hold the key to keeping families whole and together.  Sometimes there are lives on the line.  And, to some degree we have been conditioned to believe we are protecting animals from people.  In some cases, from ALL people. Undoing that attitude takes intention, a commitment to change, and old-fashioned hard work.

There was a time when shelter management software was scary.  There were organizations and leaders who were early adopters.  Those pioneers brought lots of more reluctant organizations into the modern era and our partners in technology have done so much to make our work easier and more efficient.

I remember when the first web-based search engine for adoptable animals was released.  Many of us, yours truly included, were very skeptical about maintaining the quality and integrity of the adoption process if we were advertising animals worldwide. 

Nowadays we are fortunate in that we have excellent sources of data to inform our decisions.  Shelter Animals Count collects and analyzes data on shelter/rescue intakes and outcome as well as community services.  The Association conducts a biennial Compensation & Benefits Study to help our profession keep pace in terms of taking care of its people.  The ASPCA, in partnership with The Association, hosts an annual Research Forum sharing information on the latest and greatest science around animal welfare.  The American Veterinary Medical Association regularly shares findings from a national pet owner survey.  The list goes on.

There is a downside to all this great information AND to the literal flood of information available online and being continuously funneled into our in-boxes.  A flood of information AND misinformation can make it that much more difficult to draw conclusions, make decisions and move forward.

My best advice is to gather information from reliable sources, consider all sides of an issue and then make a decision.  Analysis paralysis is real, and sometimes even half-baked decisions yield better results than indecision.  Some of the greatest innovations in history have been the result of lots of failed attempts.  Failing means we tried. 

And if we try enough, we have a very good chance of getting it right.

Want to join me in a conversation about the latest data that might inform your next decision? Register for Industry Update: What 2023 Data Is Telling Us on August 15.

About Jim Tedford
Jim Tedford, CAWA, is President and CEO of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

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