Sounds contradictory, I admit, but it’s an interesting concept and raises an interesting question: Do we always have to agree before taking action?
The general rule for reaching consensus is that discussion continues until everyone agrees that they have reached a place where the group can move forward on whatever action was under consideration. They also agree that it may not be exactly the path they wanted, but it’s OK enough not to stop the process.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, had another idea, Disagree and Commit, and it is aimed especially at leaders who do not agree with the advice they’re getting from their staff members. As Bezos explained:
We recently greenlit a particular Amazon Studios original. I told the team my view: debatable whether it would be interesting enough, complicated to produce, the business terms aren't that good, and we have lots of other opportunities. They had a completely different opinion and wanted to go ahead. I wrote back right away with "I disagree and commit and hope it becomes the most watched thing we've ever made." Consider how much slower this decision cycle would have been if the team had actually had to convince me rather than simply get my commitment. ( From Inc.com)
This statement seems to me to be something like, “OK, if you say so, but . . .” but without the “but.” Half-hearted agreement usually means half-hearted effort, and he was indicating that, although he didn’t agree, he would not only support the idea but commit to its success.
There are several positive implications of this approach:
- Staff members stop dreading making a report or asking for resources because they know they won’t have to re-argue their case. Instead, they are eager to provide updates that show their progress, and they know they can count on your good advice and enthusiasm (and on never hearing “I told you so.”).
- Trust among group members is strengthened by this demonstration of trust from the team leader, and trust is the basis of team success. (See Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.)
- Productivity goes up. People who are trusted are more engaged and productive than people who are not (just consider your own performance when you felt your boss didn’t entirely trust you).
- You have more time to engage in some other project where you might be more engaged and enthusiastic.
- You won’t be bogged down monitoring the details of a project you committed to completely; others will handle them.
- Leadership qualities in staff members are developed.
- You will be pleasantly surprised!
I have had this experience but didn’t really know I was “disagreeing and committing,” and it works. Two colleagues wanted to try something new. I didn’t think we were ready for the project, but they were enthusiastic, and I got distracted, working on something else that was more clearly my responsibility. (It helped immensely that they said they'd do all the work.) The project was so wonderfully managed that I never even really asked how it was going, -- me, the control freak – until just before the deadline, and then I was delighted to see how many tiny details were all done and taken care of, how many processes had been put into place for managing completion of the project, and how elegantly it would be presented to the public. Since this project was so successful, I have committed to it fully and to several others that were suggested but maybe not convincing. They were all successes.
And I am learning not to be such a control freak. It’s easier to let others take the lead and be fully supportive during the process even when I don’t entirely agree with the approach than to demand that others convince me of their perspective. (“Convince me” is beginning to sound a bit patronizing, now that I write it out.)
Disagreeing or demanding to be convinced squashes a lot of good ideas and enthusiasm, and reduces trust. So, it’s OK to DIS-agree, as long as you commit rather than be half-hearted. Or be firm as to why the project won’t work and cancel it. “Do or don’t do,” as some famous little fellow once said, but don’t be half-hearted.
Have an absolutely wonderful and peaceful week.