Prior to doing a presentation yesterday, I sat in on the program immediately prior to mine -- the "Abilene Paradox" -- A DVD program described as "Jump in the car and hit the road to Abilene. What you'll find is a road littered with anger, frustration, blame and failure. It's a journey during which deeply held, logical values fall victim to group dynamics, a road that takes you to group consensus where there is none." It teaches how to "avoid false consensus, overcome the fear of speaking out, encourage effective decision-making within a group."
In the film a family ends up in Abilene for dinner, a long, hot drive away, because no one said they didn't want to go - as they assumed everyone else wanted to go. Then discover when they get home that no one wanted to go.
Roundtables were asked to discuss dysfunctional group buy-in to decisions at their own associations and why it happened. And, no surprise, everyone had examples -- here's a few --
1. Committee afraid to hurt the feelings of the chairman who liked an idea so much, so they met for nearly two years to discuss the idea because they liked him (not the idea);
2. Group agreed with the loudest voice;
3. Immediately called staff "obstructionist" for suggesting negatives - so rallied around that;
4. One committee member talks incessantly so everyone voted yes so he'd stop talking and they could move on to something else;
5. The bigger the group the less likely people are to speak out;
6. Didn't want to make their friend mad, so complained about issue before and after the meeting/vote but said nothing during discussion part of vote;
7. Social events that no one enjoys or attends continue because "we can't be the ones who vote to kill it";
8. Want to be on a committee, but don't want to show up. Like having it for their resume or to get meeting materials - but not the actual participation part;
9. .... and many others.
And we wonder why we can't explain our jobs to anyone? Anyone on their way to Abilene?