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10/1/2004
06:05 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
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Editor's Note: Speak Your Mind And Skirt Abilene

I had the pleasure last week of having lunch with Jerry Harvey, a retired professor of management science from The George Washington University, who now spends his time consulting with companies on organizational and management issues.

I had the pleasure last week of having lunch with Jerry Harvey, a retired professor of management science from The George Washington University, who now spends his time consulting with companies on organizational and management issues. Harvey is best known for his book The Abilene Paradox And Other Meditations On Management, a witty account of the destructive nature of groupthink. As he explains it, the Abilene Paradox occurs when groups or companies take certain actions, but, individually, no one in the group thinks he or she is making the right decision. The result: an organizational mess, low morale, wasted money, and worse. (The story is rooted in a family that travels many miles to have dinner in Abilene, Texas, when no one really wants to go). If individuals have the confidence to speak their minds, these kinds of situations wouldn't occur.

Jerry can rattle off tons of examples--many of which were published in the book in 1988--but a steady stream continues to surface: research projects that will never see the light of day, companies that pour money and resources into standards efforts that never amount to anything, or organizations that mandate "mechanical" employee performance evaluations.

I was reminded of the Abilene Paradox recently when a business-technology manager commented that his company doesn't really have a need for RFID tags, but it has to figure out some way to jump in because "everyone else is doing it." Maybe the company will find a brilliant use, and it's great for anyone to be thinking about ways to apply emerging technologies, but surely there's got to be some identifiable value!

Fortunately, many companies have found great value, and the number of case studies and best practices are growing. Want to learn more about RFID before making any decisions? Check out rfidinsights.com.

Stephanie Stahl
Editor-in-chief
sstahl@cmp.com


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