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Disagree and Commit

A consensus is not the only way to successfully build products. A compromise is even worse. Sometimes, you need to "disagree and commit."

The origin

Amazon popularized the "disagree and commit" concept. Here's how Jeff Bezos describes it in his letter to Amazon shareholders:

Third, use the phrase “disagree and commit.” This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes.

This isn’t one way. If you’re the boss, you should do this too. 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.

The benefits

Why should you use "disagree and commit"?
  • Faster decision making. No endless discussions. Even if you disagree you take a decision and move forward.
  • Clear accountability. You know exactly who is responsible so it helps with moving forward and keeping track. 
  • Team spirit. Despite the disagreement that always could happen a team works together and committed to reach their goal. 

The preconditions

What do you need to use "disagree and commit"?
  • Trust. You need to trust your peers or subordinates to do their job even if you disagree. 
  • Accept failure. It will happen. You can't only make the right decisions. Most important is what you learn from a failure and how it helps you to move forward. 

The alternative

What if you don't "disagree and commit"?
  • Death by thousand meetings
  • Lowest common denominator
  • In-house fight club

Disagree and Commit

You might disagree with this approach but what stops you from committing to it, even if briefly, to test and tell if it works for you?

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