Disagree and Commit

I recently discovered the concept of “Disagree and Commit” mentioned in an audiobook. When I realized how powerful it was, I played the section over and over until it sank deep into my brain.

“Disagree and Commit” is a principle which obligates each participant in a meeting to say what they are thinking, even if it means a heated discussion. Your duty is to agree or disagree, but to speak your mind openly.


At the end of the meeting, however, everyone decides on the solution and commits to follow through on it. Regardless of whether they agree or disagree with it!

Then it hit me — this is so much more than just an effective leadership technique.

Any guesses where I am going with this?

Patrick Lencioni discusses the “Disagree and Commit” strategy of leadership in his book The Advantage. His target is leadership and management groups in organizations. His team works with these groups to dramatically improve their organizational health. As you can guess, this strategy is particularly effective at unifying the group on a given topic.

Intel and Amazon practice “Disagree and Commit.” Here is the statement from Amazon’s web page on Leadership Principles:

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

I can believe this concept works great for management teams.

But “Disagree and Commit” is also one of the keys to a thriving marriage.

Imagine this — a husband and wife disagree on how to spend money. The disagreement turns into a fight and one person “wins” while the other “loses.” (Actually, both lose!) Then the spouse who “lost” drags his feet, undermines the decision, and sabotages it with comments like, “I wanted something better, but she just had to have it her way.”

Do you see how divisive comments like this are?

There is nothing wrong with disagreements. Let me say it again — you can and should disagree with your spouse as needed.

But at some point you both need to come to a decision. And you both need to commit to the decision.

This is your decision — together — as a unified team.

After that, it doesn’t matter who wanted what or who disagreed. Right or wrong, great or awful, you are both committed to making the decision work.

You know what?

I thoroughly believe it is better for a couple to be fully committed to a good decision than to commit half-heartedly to an excellent decision.

How do you feel about committing to a decision you disagree with?

  • Pingback: Silent Sabotage | Leadership Vacuum()

  • anon88

    I could not disagree more profoundly. Amazon leadership is notoriously *adversarial*, which works in their particular circumstance. But, it is a terrible marriage model.

    Disagree and Commit is important in a marriage, in the sense that the follower silently disagrees, but commits to following the leader. A ship cannot have two captains. Leadership disputes (voiced disagreements) at the highest level of leadership only undermines team cohesion, instead of strengthening it.

    Is your marriage a democracy? Everyone gets equal say all the time? Thats not leadership, its a recipe for running in circles.

    • Voiced disagreements *before* the decision are vital. If they come after, they are sabotage.

      Disagree and Commit is NOT a democracy. Each team has a leader who makes the final decision after getting input from each team member.

      But at some point a decision must be made and it is no longer *your* decision, but the team’s.

      • SDE

        After working for Amazon for nearly 5 years in a management role, I routinely look back to this leadership principle with fond memories. While Amazon is known for being a fast-paced and blunt organization, this was one of the most innovative ideas they embraced.

        The logic to this idea is that the success of the company should not be deterred by employees’ unwillingness to identify flaws with ideas that have been proposed. By soliciting honest feedback from all leadership, the organization is able to test ideas under rapid-fire testing, producing a better-thought-out idea that is more apt to weather the storm.

        Having moved on from Amazon, I’ve found that many organizations would benefit from adopting this idea. Just remember, with Amazon, it’s not personal, it’s just business.

        • Thanks for sharing! It’s quite helpful to have the opinion of someone who’s been through it personally.