Politics aside, Oliver Stone's W. is a good flick for those looking for management, senior team dynamics, leadership development, executive coaching, corporate sustainability, global sustainability case material. It struck me about half way through this otherwise flatfooted film that the best parts were the cabinet meeting re-creations and that we have been here before - on the road to Abilene, now gone global!
Jerry Harvey's Abilene Paradox:the management of agreement, first published in 1974 and one of the most reprinted management articles, continues to trap leadership groups, possibly entire countries. In essence it is the agreement of a group to move forward on an action that is counter to any of the individual's desires in the group. In the case of top leadership groups it is often the suggestion of the leader or a group member with significant power or influence that sets the ball rolling toward Abilene - the undesired destination.
Corporate examples abound. Some have called this behavior pluralistic ignorance but I prefer pluralistic denial. Ignorance implies no understanding, denial - well somewhere in the gray matter lurks the thought, this is not going to pan out well. Think Enron schemes, credit default swaps, sub-prime loans, something for nothing, 1 to 40+ leverage, and "financial WMD". It just gets better.
We seem to be living in a world of pluralistic denial. We have a great opportunity to ask each time a plan sounds out of touch are we on the road to Abilene? See W. and let me know.
~ Victoria G. Axelrod