Chapter 8. Overcoming Unhealthy Agreement

Imagine working on a team for which you have high regard and respect for every member. In an attempt to be an agreeable and easy colleague to work with, you respond positively to the first suggestion that is made by another team member. Everyone else in the team follows the same pattern—everyone tries to be agreeable and positive. Problem solving happens quickly because everyone goes along with the first solutions that are offered. However, while the team initially may avoid conflict by following such a pattern, decisions are made that haven’t been carefully scrutinized or don’t really have the full support of the group.

This condition, which we call “unhealthy agreement,” is one of the more vexing problems facing teams and can lead to poor decision making and poor team performance. Teams achieve extraordinary performance by exploiting the complementary skills and knowledge of team members. However, this cannot happen unless team members are willing to listen, challenge, and debate each other as they jointly pursue optimal solutions to the problems they face. In this chapter we explore this problem and discuss those team-building activities that have been used successfully to prevent unhealthy agreement.

Unhealthy Agreement

Jerry Harvey popularized the concept of what he called the “Abilene Paradox,” the now famous analysis of groups of people who make public decisions that seem to reflect total agreement, although few, if any, of the team ...

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