Are We Seeing “The Abilene Paradox” Being Played Out In McKinney

Introduction.

It was within my first year or two in municipal government that I heard The Abilene Paradox Story introduced by a consultant leading a manager training series at the City of Garland. It’s a story I will never forget. With the help of an abbreviated version found in Wikipedia, I’ll share this gem:

The term was introduced by another management expert Jerry B. Harvey in his 1974 article “The Abilene Paradox: The Management of Agreement.” The name of the phenomenon comes from an anecdote in the article which Harvey uses to elucidate the paradox:
On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.” The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.” The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”
The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.
One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.
The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.
Ronald Sims writes that the Abilene paradox is similar to groupthink, but differs in significant ways, including that in groupthink individuals are not acting contrary to their conscious wishes and generally feel good about the decisions the group has reached. According to Sims, in the Abilene paradox, the individuals acting contrary to their own wishes are more likely to have negative feelings about the outcome. In Sims’ view, groupthink is a psychological phenomenon affecting clarity of thought, where in the Abilene paradox thought is unaffected.
Like groupthink theories, the Abilene paradox theory is used to illustrate that groups not only have problems managing disagreements, but that agreements may also be a problem in a poorly functioning group.
I Think This Is Happening in McKinney.

Twice I have seen a bizarre setting, and I’ve blogged about both. See http://www.citybaseblog.com for my perspectives. The first was what appeared to be an out-of-the blue request by Councilmembers Branch and Rogers. The request was for the Council to entertain a proposal from an outside firm to privatize our most significant ball park to be used primarily for tournament leagues. It was not well thought-out nor was it feasible. But the bizarre aspect of the pitch is that the entire council went along with the drawn out discussion and even acted as if they might initiate a study to evaluate the proposal. 

As I listened, my first reaction was why are Councilmembers meeting with a single company on this topic when you’d have to be dumb as a stump to think the idea would fit McKinney and to possibly signal to a business they had an inside track? My bigger question, however, is why doesn’t a Councilmember make a motion to stop the asinine discussion and at least table it. By table the item, I mean take out a wooden stake, grab a mallet and drive said stake deep into the heart of a dumb, time-wasting idea?

The Gift That Keeps On Giving.

And now comes this suggestion of the need for a Restaurant Row in McKinney, the thing stopping major corporations from moving to McKinney, according to the brand-spanking new Mayor-Tem Randy Pogue. This vision came to him days after annointment. I listened to the August meeting today for the third time. There’s something strange about the meeting. First, Mr Pogue got this telepathic message from a number of businesses, it seems. Yet I can’t find where any of the other six Councilmembers got the same message. At least they aren’t trying to share the spotlight with Mr Pogue. Even the loyalists aren’t waving the Pom-Poms.

And just exactly how many businesses have been hounding Mr Pogue. More than 30? Under five? Mr Pogue, since you have set in motion almost single-handedly an initiative that is going to lead to a considerable amount of money just to study this item to death, would you please state the number of reasonably serious businesses that have told you they ain’t coming until they see a Restaurant Row? And provide those names to an independent party to vouch those are real companies without divulging any names?

Here again, it seems to me that we have an Abilene Paradox. Watch the video of the meeting closely. It’s malfunctioning agreement in action. To all of the remaining six Councilmembers, I’d like to ask that you individually state publicly that the time is right and this is a good idea to spend staff resources and eventually taxpayer money to study these issues presented at the August meeting. I dare you! I’ll provide the stakes and mallets. 

Conclusion.

The conclusion I have come to is simple. There is not a single Councilmember who fully understands the Council-Manager form of government, nor do they want to know, nor do they plan to allow that form of government work in McKinney. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the City Attorney has not explained this to them AND stepped up to enforce it. It is clear after having revolving door city managers that you, the Council, assure failure for our form of government you continue to ignore. 
I even challenge the Sheep-Citizens to be insistent and vocal to support the Council-Manager form of government. We have more of a The term was introduced by management expert Jerry B. Harvey in his 1974 article “The Abilene Paradox: The Management of Agreement.”[3] The name of the phenomenon comes from an anecdote in the article which Harvey uses to elucidate the paradox:
On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.” The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.” The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”
The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.
One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.
The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.
Ronald Sims writes that the Abilene paradox is similar to groupthink, but differs in significant ways, including that in groupthink individuals are not acting contrary to their conscious wishes and generally feel good about the decisions the group has reached.[4] According to Sims, in the Abilene paradox, the individuals acting contrary to their own wishes are more likely to have negative feelings about the outcome. In Sims’ view, groupthink is a psychological phenomenon affecting clarity of thought, where in the Abilene paradox thought is unaffected.[5]
Like groupthink theories, the Abilene paradox theory is used to illustrate that groups not only have problems managing disagreements, but that agreements may also be a problem in a poorly functioning group.[6]Commision form of government. Either change the Charter or abide by the Charter. I believe 95% of McKinney’s problems are tied to this violation of our form of government. LFM

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