The success of information systems development efforts hinges largely on eliciting accurate requirements from users and other stakeholders. Requirements determination is difficult due to the complexity of the systems to be built, analysts’ and users’ cognitive and motivational challenges, and the highly politicized nature of many development efforts. The present research addresses a problem that arises from users’ motivations during the requirements determination process. Most past studies have focused on explicit conflicts that arise between systems analysts, users, and other organizational stakeholders. The present research is concerned instead with the opposite problem—illusions of agreement between participants in the systems development environment. Our study investigates a type of illusion of agreement known as the Abilene Paradox in requirements determination. The Abilene Paradox refers to situations in which each member of a group believes (incorrectly) that the other group members want to pursue a particular course of action, which leads everyone to avoid conflict by agreeing to the action publicly while disagreeing privately. We first provide theory underlying the paradox and review past literature. We then build theory to motivate our investigation and generate hypotheses. We then report results of a laboratory experiment utilizing group requirements determination efforts. Results indicated behavior consistent with the presence of the paradox and an illusion of agreement. These results have important implications for research and practice in requirements determination specifically and systems development in general. Our results contribute to both the requirements determination literature and the literature on illusions of agreement and social conformity.
- Abilene Paradox
- Group conformity
- Illusion of agreement
- Information requirements determination
- Joint application development
- User participation