Disagree and Commit

This is one of Amazon’s Leadership Principles.

It’s also one of the leadership principles that I didn’t connect with when I was at Amazon.

I think it had to do with my desire to bring about consensus. To bring about a compromise that would make multiple parties happy. But “Disagree and Commit” is definitely alive and well in many meetings at Amazon. What it means is that there can be dissenting, and sometimes opposing views to an issue, question, problem, project, or challenge. But after all the voices have been heard, when it’s time to take action, once a decision is made, everyone commits to that path. The goal is have people express their views early in the decision making process, when those thoughts and insights can help shape the decision and paint a full picture of context to make a decision. But in order to avoid analysis paralysis and the lack of action that can happen when there is no consensus, whatever decision is made, you switch to team mode and move forward with that decision.

I struggled with this principle because I often wanted to sway people to my way of thinking. I didn’t want to be on opposite sides of the table from others, I wanted consensus or at least a favorable compromise that everyone felt good about. I didn’t enjoy the disagreement part of the equation. In often it came down to feeling that I had to justify my stance and/or trying to convince others why they shouldn’t believe what they believed. And those are difficult moments. They were difficult then, they are difficult now. So lets take the difficult part out of the equation. Let’s accept that it will always exist. What’s left is, everyone has the right to their opinions. I didn’t really understand that at the time. I don’t have to agree to those opinions and they don’t have to agree with mine, but just like I have the right to my opinions, so do they.

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