Disagree and Commit
It was Girish who once said in an internal meeting, “I disagree and commit.” I was taken aback by the choice of words. What exactly did this mean? Weren’t we all supposed to agree on the way forward? Wasn’t that what meetings were for?
It was then that Girish explained the phrase. It came from his time at Intel. One did not have to agree with the decisions made in the meeting. One could voice the dissent. But at the end, everyone present would commit to the decisions made. “Disagree and Commit.” After that, there would be no public disagreement or grumbling – everyone would work together to make a success of what had been decided.
I found the choice of words fascinating. “Disagree and Commit.” In India, many times we keep our feelings to ourselves even if we don’t agree. We then tend to keep an inner grudge that the outcome did not go our way. Because of this hidden dissatisfaction, we could even end up undermining the success of the initiative. “Disagree and Commit” does away with this. Voice with all candour, but once the group has decided, there is no grumbling and murmuring. Everyone is united as one to implement what the group has decided.
Inc.com writes about what Jeff Bezos wrote in one his letters to shareholder about the phrase:
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.
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.
How many of us have seen great ideas killed by attrition?
A lot of business leaders claim to support bias for action, but they don’t practice what they preach. Either they refuse to green-light any project that strays outside their comfort zone, or they indirectly sabotage the project by not providing the resources or support it would need to succeed.
Yes, effective leaders know when to trust their gut. But they also know when to trust their teams’ gut. They’re willing to take calculated risks. In doing so, they help their people gain confidence, and give them room to experiment and grow.
…It may be time to disagree and commit.
Because when you go all in with people you trust, good things tend to happen.
“Disagree and Commit” is a phrase I too have used many times. I do not ask for the others to convince me. I do not impose my view on the group. I make my view public and yet promise to work as part of the united team for the outcome.
Make this phrase part of your entrepreneurial vocabulary. You will be all the better for it.
Will be continued soon.