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THE ABILENE PARADOX. Managing Agreement. History of Abilene Paradox. Was observed by management expert Jerry B. Harvey in his 1988 book “The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management”

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the abilene paradox


Managing Agreement

history of abilene paradox
History of Abilene Paradox
  • Was observed by management expert Jerry B. Harvey in his 1988 book “The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management”
  • Organizations frequently take actions in contradiction to what they really want to do and therefore defeat the very purposes they are trying to achieve
  • The name of the phenomen comes from an anecdote in the book J. B. Harvey uses to explain the paradox
  • Movie:
what is abilene paradox
What is Abilene Paradox
  • Paradox in which the limits of a particular situation force a group of people to act in a way that is directly the opposite of their actual preferences. It is a phenomen that occurs when groups continue with misguided activities which no group member desires because no group member is willing to raise objections
  • Symptoms
  • Case-Studies
  • Causes
  • Solutions
the symptoms
The Symptoms
  • The inability to manage agreement - the essential symptom, which has 4 specific subsymptoms:
    • Agreeing as to the steps that are required to cope with the situation/problem
    • Failure in expressing own desires and/or beliefs
    • Taking actions contrary to own desires and beliefs
    • Expressing anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction
case studies
Case- Studies
  • Case 1 – The Boardroom Ozyx Corp.
    • In private members say - project looks great but will fail because of unavailable technology. Continued support will create cash flow problems jeopardizing the existence of the organization.
    • All try to maintain optimistic facade so others won’t worry. The research director writes ambiguous progress reports so the president and the vice-president can “interpret them to suit themselves.”
    • End result – declined prestige of the company.
case studies cont
Case-Studies cont.
  • Case 2 – The Watergate - high public officials bugging the Democratic National Committee headquaters
    • During hearings by Congress on the scandal, person after person on the White House staff said they privately thought the Nixon White House dirty tricks plan was a bad one, but voiced support for it because they believed everyone else on the staff supported it. The collective perception was that everyone favored it, yet few, if any, privately thought it was a good idea.
  • Action Anxiety
  • Negative Fantasies
  • Real Risk
  • Separation Anxiety
  • PHASE 1: Diagnose the Paradox
    • Organization Diagnostic Survey

-how well the team is structured, supported, and led.

  • PHASE 2: Proposal on how to Solve the Problem

1) Corporate culture/philosophy:

    • Build a process of openness and trust be safely built into corporate

2) Implement Motivation Strategies

solutions cont
Solutions cont.


  • Develop Communication Strategies
  • Avoid false consensus
  • Overcome the fear of speaking out
  • Encourage effective decision-making within a group

4) Devil’s Advocate

5) Anonymous feedback via:

  • Suggestion box
  • Online chat
solutions cont1
Solutions cont.
  • PHASE 3:Implement the Plan
  • PHASE 4: Feedback and Control/ Revise the plan or not
thank you for your attention



Abdullah Tajari