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Analytical Thinking

Analytical Thinking is approaching a problem by using a logical, systematic, sequential approach.
An employee demonstrating this competency:
  • Makes a systematic comparison of two or more alternatives
  • Notices discrepancies and inconsistencies in available information
  • Identifies a set of features, parameters or considerations to take into account, in analyzing a situation or making a decision
  • Approaches a complex task or problem by breaking it down into its component parts and considering each part in detail
  • Weighs the costs, benefits, risks, and chances for success, when making a decision
  • Identifies many possible causes for a problem
  • Carefully weighs the priority of things to be done
Importance of this Competency
Analytical Thinking provides the basis for most methods and approaches used in problem solving, decision making, project management, time management, and priority setting.
General Considerations in Developing this Competency
This competency is best used by studying and using some analytical method, tool, or process, such as a project management or a database software program. You can also learn analytical thinking by working closely with someone who uses an analytical approach to his/her work. This competency is related to Diagnostic Information Gathering.
Practicing this Competency
  • Read some of the references for this competency and select a problem solving or decision making method that you can apply in your own work. Then try it out. Afterwards, ask the group what worked well, what worked less effectively, and what you might do to improve the use of this method.
  • Take a course in project management and apply what you learn to plan and manage a project.
  • Use project management software (e.g., MS Project, Fast Track) to plan and manage a project.
  • Use one of the resources on time management to analyze how you spend your time.
  • Use a personal organizer system to manage your calendar, to-do list and personal information. Consider either a paper-based system (e.g., Day Timers) or a software system (e.g., Franklin-Covey).
  • When faced with a decision requiring a choice among several alternatives (e.g., which fax machine to buy, which candidate to hire) use a systematic approach, such as:
    1. Identify the criteria to consider in making the decision.
    2. Establish weights for the criteria.
    3. Consider and rate each alternative on each of the criteria.
    4. Develop an overall score for each alternative.
  • Use a spreadsheet or database program to develop a way to handle some task or problem.
Obtaining Feedback
When you use an analytical approach as the basis for a recommended course of action, ask for feedback from others about how effectively you used this process.
Learning from Experts
Interview someone who has developed a solid analytical process or tool. Ask what the person did to develop the process or tool. Try to get the whole sequence of the person’s thoughts and actions. Identify approaches you can apply in your own use of Analytical Thinking.
Coaching Suggestions for Managers
If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop the compentency, you can:
  • Explain any analytical tools and processes you use in your work.
  • Provide work assignments that require developing or using an analytical approach.
Sample Development Goals
By September 20, I will discuss project management software with our MIS group, select a program, study the manual and tutorial materials for it, and apply it to planning and managing the Film Lining Project.

By June 28, I will read Effective Group Problem Solving, by Fox, and apply the group problem approach described in that book to a problem in my unit.

By July 25, I will interview Bill Meamore about how he uses ECCO Pro software and get a demonstration of this approach.

By August 20, I will develop a detailed project plan for the Eastern Exposition.


Complexity Based Thinking and Management, by R. Macintosh. New York, NY: Routledge, 2006.

Plan to Win: Analytical and Operational Tools-Gaining Competitive Advantage, by John H. Nugent. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Primis Custom Publishing, 2003.

The Art of Problem Solving: Accompanied by Ackoff's Fables, by Russell Ackoff. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2001.

The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, by Keith J. Holyoak & Robert G. Morrison. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

The Executive Decision-making Process: Identifying Problems and Assessing Outcomes, by Ralph Sanders. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 2000.

Thinking and Problem Solving (Handbook of Perception and Cognition), by Robert J. Sternberg. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2006.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011


Successful Project Management. American Management Association. Tel. 800 250-5308.http://www.amaselfstudy.org/course.cfm?isbn=9780761214885  

Taking Control with Time Management. American Management Association. Tel. 800 250-5308. www.amanet.org/selfstudy/b14380.htm



Analytical Trouble Shooting. Three days. Kepner-Tregoe. Tel. 800-537-6378. http://www.kepner-tregoe.com/workshops/workshops.cfm?workshop=ats

Critical Thinking. Two days. American Management Association. Tel. 877 566-9441. www.amanet.org/seminars/seminar.cfm?basesemno=2533

Drive Results with HR Metrics and Workforce Analytics. Two Days. Society for Human Resource Management. Tel 703 548-3440. http://www.shrm.org/Education/seminar/Pages/humancapital.aspx

Improve Your Analytical Skills: Making Information Work for You. Two days. American Management Association. Tel. 877 566-9441. http://www.amanet.org/training/seminars/Improve-Your-Analytical-Skills-Making-Information-Work-for-You.aspx


See Appendix