Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking but also a way of doing. But what do I mean when I talk about thinking and doing? By "thinking" I mean the human ability to recognize and assess.1 It is about perceiving relevant issues, observing them, consciously thinking about them, reflecting on them, drawing conclusions and making decisions. It is also about the perception of emotions, their interpretation and effect. By "doing" on the other hand, I mean take a concrete action, such as developing a prototype or landing page or conducting customer interviews.
A structured way of doing and thinking can be very helpful in entrepreneurial ventures. I would like to help founders with this publication to make better decisions for themselves and their company. Therefore I would like to transfer the categories "thinking" and "doing" into a four-part decision process, which I call Quad-A-Loop, designed to help with entrepreneurial thinking and doing. The Quad-A-Loop consists of four process steps that founders continuously go through when making decisions: Aim - Analyze - Assess - Act.
Aim: What is to be achieved?
Definition Aim: "A result that your plans or actions are intended to achieve"2
Compared to other decision-making processes, such as the OODA loop, the Quad-A-Loop starts with a clarification of the direction to be taken, in the words of Seneca: "If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable." For early-stage founders, it is not necessarily about defining specific goals or describing in detail where to go, as this is often not yet possible. But the founders should know what they are doing the entrepreneurial venture for, have at least a rough direction. And their coaches, supporters, etc. should also know about this direction. When coaching the first founders, I always assumed, as if it were self-evident, that they wanted to scale their startups quickly and grow globally, perhaps aiming for an exit at some point. My advice has been along those lines. However, I quickly realized that many founders in my coaching were not aiming for fast growth or an exit. They were interested in many other things such as impact in the region, sustainable organic growth, gaining learning experiences, self-determination or self-actualization. That was an eye-opener for me. Because if an entrepreneurial project has the goal of enabling a very self-determined and independent life, then the classic startup way with several rounds of financing and investors should be viewed critically. Founders should therefore reflect for themselves at the beginning of an entrepreneurial activity what they actually want to achieve in their lives and with their entrepreneurial project.
Analyze: What is the initial situation?
Definition Analyze: "To study something in a systematic and careful way"
The analysis phase is about taking a good look at the initial situation of the entrepreneurial endeavor and developing an understanding of it. In doing so, various facets are to be examined. On the one hand, this can be an analysis of the competitive situation or customer needs, on the other hand, the definition of financial (e.g. cash; affordable loss) and non-financial resources (e.g. time, skills) also plays a role here.So we look at what is already there, work our way into topics as needed, and create an understanding of the status quo.
Assess: Which decision is most fitting?
Definition Assess: „To make a decision about a situation after considering all the information“
This step is about assessing the results gathered in the analysis and making a coherent decision. In entrepreneurial ventures, it is often not clear which is the best decision, so I refer to it as the most fitting decision. The most fitting decision strongly depends on the above mentioned direction (see Aim), which founders want to take with their entrepreneurial venture and on the available resources and the market situation (see Analyze). This weighing, the finding of the right way, is therefore subjective and context-dependent.
Act: What are the next best steps?
Definition Act: „To do something for a particular purpose or to solve a problem“
The last step in the process is to translate the decision into concrete action steps. The founders should ask themselves what is the next, best step to achieve the set goals. Since startups often have long to-do lists to work through, a strong prioritization is made here, in which important and urgent tasks are worked through first (see Eisenhower Matrix). Then, implementation takes place and the results of the doing are reflected upon, if necessary, the course is corrected or readjusted and a new loop is started.
More detailed descriptions and thoughts on each phase of the Quad-A-Loop will follow in future seasons.
At what level (strategic vs. operational) is the Quad-A-Loop used?
The Quad-A-Loop can be used for strategic, basic decision processes, but also for operational decisions. Within a large decision-making process (e.g., which way do I take with my company), numerous smaller Quad-A-Loops, which I call Loops-within, can take place (e.g. the founders want to build up a deeper understanding of the customer by means of customer interviews in the analysis phase before they make a decision at the strategic level, and consequently start a loop-within in the analysis phase, with the aim of finding out more about the customers.)
The definitions of Aim, Analyze, Assess and Act are from the Cambridge Dictionary (2021).