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“Let’s redouble our efforts!” even if the cause is not worth it (escalation of commitment)

“Escalation of commitment is a widespread phenomenon and one that is hard to avoid or overcome,” states Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (Harvard Bus. School Press 2006) at 175. This escalation might afflict law departments if, for example, there were expanded use of a firm selected after an arduous competitive process, but whose performance has deteriorated. Or once a decision has been made to use task based billing, to push more firms to conform despite indications that the data makes no difference. Commitment pressures can block change (See my post of Dec.19, 2005 about “active inertia.”).

The urge to double down is even worse than the tendency to carry on because of past investments (See my posts of Aug. 5, 2005 that instances the sunk-cost fallacy in terms of facilities charges; and March 23, 2006 on the sunk cost fallacy generally.).

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