Disagree and Commit

Chris Teague - 3 mins

Who’s it for: Anyone leading a team.

What’s it for: To improve team performance.

“I disagree and commit all the time. 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”. Jeff Bezos 2017 letter to shareholders:

Every activity in a group has two key considerations: Content - What is being discussed, what is the task at hand? Process - How will the group perform the task and how will decisions be made?

How a decision is made is very significant to the ongoing work and the development of the team. If a large majority of people feel their voice wasn’t heard and they've compromised their beliefs in order to avoid conflict then this can have an adverse impact on the process and the delivery of the project. It is important to dedicate sufficient time to discuss and debate; it’s also important to disagree and debate.

Harmonious view vs. Conflict view In any team there are those who adopt a harmonious view and believe conflicts are: negative, bad, abnormal, possible to avoid and should be eliminated or suppressed. And there are those who are willing to embrace conflict.

Teams who solely adopt the harmonious approach ultimately end in conflict. And those who are willing to embrace conflict ultimately end in harmony. Conflict is an important part of group dynamics; dealing with it ensures the majority of time and emotional labour can be invested in the task at hand and not derailed by having to spend time dealing with relationship issues that are getting in the way.

The key therefore is to be clear of the objective and the process for making a decision. Aim not for consensus but commitment; someone in charge has to make the final decision and even if others prefer a different decision a good outcome won’t be determined by a consensus vote but by the commitment to act/support it.