Analytical Thinking

  • Breaks down raw information and undefined problems into specific, workable components that in-turn clearly identifies the issues at hand.
  • Makes logical conclusions, anticipates obstacles, and considers different approaches to the decision-making process.

Proficiency Levels – What it looks like

Being Developed



Gathers and links data

Collates and reports information

Coordinates the information gathering and reporting process

Determines criteria for assessing issues and opportunities

Establishes strategic goals and enterprise-wide priorities

Reviews for non-conformity and gathers further information in response to routine problems

Identifies trends and exceptions. Investigates to define problems more accurately

Reviews trends and compares to expectations

Establishes clear goals and priorities needed to assess performance

Uses techniques of advanced business and organizational analysis to identify and assess problem definitions and potential solutions, and compares and contrasts them against predetermined criteria

Identifies direct cause and effect relationships

Sorts information in order of importance

Conducts research to define problems and prepares responses to anticipated questions

Identifies relationships and linkages between different information sources

Creates framework for reviewing large volumes of unorganized data

Breaks down tasks and problems into manageable components

Identifies relationships and linkages between components

Prioritizes multiple issues and opportunities

Anticipates issues that are not readily apparent on the surface

Probes for, and points to, subtle and unclear relationships in highly complex matters and evaluates the merit of problem definitions and potential solutions

Solicits guidance as needed to assess importance and urgency

Identifies variable potential causes and effects

Identifies relationships and linkages within several information sources

Identifies root causes and effects

Anticipates the possible outcome of potential solutions

Escalates issues of a non-routine nature as needed

Solicits guidance to define criteria and assign values of importance and urgency

Anticipates issues that are not readily apparent on the surface

Establishes clear goals and priorities

Systemically identifies and resolves complex enterprise-wide issues, while educating senior leaders as to their solution

Escalates issues of an exceptional nature

Identifies root causes and effects

Anticipates potential problems and develops solutions needed to resolve them

Defines priorities within performance objectives

Systemically analyzes relationships between apparently independent problems and issues

Reports and identifies areas that need guidance in order to resolve complex issues

Reviews and cross-reviews reports. Identifies trends as well as isolated events

Anticipates the possible outcome of potential solutions

Translates analytical reports into management presentations, and provides guidance to resolve issues

Anticipates the possible outcome of potential solutions

Identifies areas of significant concern or opportunity

Probes and initiates research to identify critical problems

What it doesn’t look like

  • Using a haphazard approach to analyzing complex problems
  • Considering information from limited sources or relying on information that may be based in assumptions and opinions vs. verifiable data and facts
  • Skipping the step of analyzing root cause, (compromising the impact of corrective or preventative actions)
  • Getting stuck in analysis – analysis paralysis – cannot move to conclusion
  • Having difficulty sifting through multi-faceted information to identify what is important as distinct from what is urgent
  • Neglecting to consider consequences in the context of the bigger picture or longer term

Questions to Consider

  • What relevant source of information may I be overlooking?
  • How could my approach to analysis be more effective and efficient?
  • Who else may be impacted by this situation/decision? What might other consequences be?
  • How does this situation fit into the context of the bigger picture/ organization’s strategic direction?
  • How do I know our hypothesis is correct?
  • Who has encountered a similar situation in the past that I could speak with?
  • What could go wrong?

Learning and Development Activities

Choose one or two activities that support your preferred
learning style

Select activities by learning style
Doing Listening Observing Training Reading

Suggestions for activities you can do on the job


  • Think of a recurring problem you are aware of. Find data from viable sources to support and describe the situation as well as its potential impact.
  • Next time you have a challenge to solve or obstacle to overcome, use a systematic approach to analyzing all the components of the situation. Once you feel you have a clear understanding of the situation, discuss your findings with someone else. How clearly are you able to communicate your ideas so they understand?
  • Use Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) to look at all the things that could possibly go wrong at the design stage. Rank each possibility based on:
    • Severity – how critical is the failure?
    • Occurrence – how likely is the failure to happen?
    • Detection – how easy will it be to detect the failure?

    Based in the ranks, identify the most serious threats, and then alter the design to eliminate or minimize the likelihood of the failure you identified.

With Peers

  • Structure meetings in a logical manner using a clear agenda and process
  • Engage in a group situational analysis to determine root cause of a condition and identify possible preventative and corrective actions
  • Meet with a peer to discuss and map out a situation that requires improvement. Build off each others observations/knowledge as you draw the map. Present the information in a logical manner, identifying connections and including question marks for unknowns that can be researched after. To validate the information, you may want to ask, “How do we know this to be true?”

With your Manager/Team Lead

  • Examine a recurring problem, together gather and analyze data regarding the situation to determine causes and consequences, and explore solutions.
  • Discuss patterns or trends you are observing that if left unchecked could be a larger risk. Support your case with a thorough data analysis.
Listening and Observing

Here are some ideas that can be pursued on the job, with
some coordination. Use these reflective questions to gain more from your
learning experience:

    • What are three key things I have learned from this experience?
    • What will I do differently in my work as a result of this experience?
  • Audio Cassette – Teach Yourself to Think, (1996) Edward deBono; Group West Inc. Offers a structure that broadens
    our ability to respond and cope with a vast range of situations.
  • Participate as an observer in a meeting where analytical thinking is being used; notice what techniques are used, and how the process is structured.
  • Shadow someone who is effective at situational analysis, observe their approach. Discuss your observations and ask if there are other techniques they use as well.
Training Programs

UBC Training Programs offered through Organization Development and Learning

  • Introduction to Process Streamlining
  • Introduction to Process Improvement

For UBCO course offerings, please visit the Events page.

Consider working with a coach following training, to aid in
anchoring your learning:


Choose to read one or two
of the books listed below. Consider the reflective questions to enhance your

  • What are key points the author is making?
  • What are three key things I have learned from this reading?
  • What will I do differently in my work as a result of gaining
    this knowledge?

Staff, Managers/Team Leads

  • The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential, (1994), Buzan & B. Buzan; Penguine Group. This book focuses on the creation of mind maps which are fun, easy-to-use, useful ways to organize and retain information and generate ideas.
  • Teach Yourself to Think, (1996), E. deBono; Group West Inc. Offers a structure that broadens our ability to respond and cope with a vast range of situations.
  • Thinker’s Guide to Analytic Thinking: How to Take Thinking Apart and What to Look for When You Do; (2007), L. Elder; Foundation for Critical Thinking. Moves from foundational steps in analysis to looking deeper at analyzing and assessing, shows how analysis can be used to figure out logic.

Additional Questions

Please contact your Human Resources Representative
with any additional questions.

Summary of Links