The Abilene Effect
The Abilene paradox was introduced by Jerry B. Harvey and is used to describe a situation where a group of people decides on a course of action even though none of the individuals prefers it (Kahn, 2014). Usually, each member of the group mistakenly thinks that their preferences are contrary to the other individuals involved in the course of action. Notably, the paradox is different from groupthink in that in groupthink, individual opinions are suppressed, and members tend to think as a whole. In light of this, we identify a group decision process that I participated in that was affected by Abilene Effect. We then analyze the impact of the bias on the quality of the final group decisions and examine whether anybody noticed what was going on and tried to prevent it from affecting the decision. Finally, we identify ways to prevent the Abilene Effect in the future if faced by a similar event.
Group decisions process
Sometimes back, we were assigned a project that required traveling to the specific location. To cut down on expenditure, the management decided to use the facility of the client for accommodation instead of getting a hotel booking for the team. Although we were not happy with the decision, we did not challenge the decision of the management. We had to adjust to the schedule of the client and work according to his time. Employees were de-motivated and felt controlled which led to the delay of the assignment. Eventually, the management was forced to get the extra workforce to complete the assignment. Cost-Benefit analysis also revealed that the costs involved surpassed what the organization would have spent if they had secured private accommodation for the team. As blame-game began, it was clear that we should have opposed this decision. The situation was a loss for everyone as employees’ were inconvenienced, and the management had to incur extra costs.
Impact of the Abilene Bias on the Final Group Decision
As described, the outcome of everyone’s silence led to the delay of the assignment and increased costs on the side of the management. The client also had his work delayed, and we ended up staying longer at the location than was intended. Eventually, we all wished we had spoken up earlier enough because we could have avoided the inconveniences that faced us as a team as well as the management.
Did anyone notice and try to prevent it from affecting the decision?
Unfortunately, although some people later pointed out their displeasure when the blame-game started, no one tried to prevent it from happening. Each of us assumed that everyone else was comfortable with the arrangement and chose not to speak up. In fact, the majority of the people supported the decision by the management loudly only to admit later to have been opposed to it.
Preventing the Abilene Effect in the Future
The inference made from this Abilene paradox is that to avoid falling for such situations in the future, people should learn the art of saying no and sticking to their decision. Working as a team does not include failure to express one’s opinions because others are supporting a decision. For leaders, they should encourage participation from team members and promote open communication where employees are encouraged to express their opinions without fear of intimidation.
Kahn, W. A. (2014). The student’s guide to successful project teams. London: Routledge.
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