I was at dinner with a colleague the other night, and he was wondering why he was struggling to get his team onboard with disagree and commit.
I told him that, in my experience, getting a team to truly be able to disagree and commit is harder than it seems. What often winds up happening is that team members try to commit, but if they feel they haven't truly been heard, they fall back into a non-committed state.
Disagree and commit is a management principle created in the 1980s, and popularized by companies like Intel and Amazon. The concept is that while a decision is in the process of being made, team members are allowed, and encouraged, to disagree, debate, and poke holes in the discussion. Every team member is heard, and when the team ratifies the decision, every team member must commit to that decision, even if you disagree with it.
This is easier said then done. Getting everyone to agree can be a long, and sometimes tedious process.
To speed up the process, know how each team member makes decisions--before the meeting.
The key to truly enabling a team to have the discipline to disagree and commit is to ensure every team member has the time they need to process the issues that are being decided.
For example, let's say you have an hour long meeting. In that meeting, your team is trying to prioritize your quarterly initiatives. It's a mistake to assume that everyone is able to process this complex issue live, on the fly, in one hour.
We are all familiar with tests like Myers-Briggs, which highlight the benefits of having a team of diverse individuals. It's valuable to have some team members who make decisions quickly, some who are deeply analytical, and some who are more sensitive to feelings than others. We must take this into account when implementing disagree and commit.
So, instead of forcing the entire team to disagree and commit by the end of a meeting, speak with each of your team members ahead of time. Ask them to tell you how they best process information. Do they like to read lots of data? Do they like to talk with others to get input on facts and/or feelings? Do they prefer to sleep on things before deciding?
Turn each individual's preference for decision making into their disagree and commit commitment.
The next time you have a meeting, set your disagree and commit timeline to one that incorporates each team member's decision style. If you have a team member that makes their best decisions twenty-four hours after discussing an issue, let the entire team know that everyone has a day to think on the decision, and you expect them to let you know within that window if they have anything that prevents them from committing to the decision the team arrived at.
The result will be that likely you'll have to wait a day or a few days to give everyone time to process. And, in doing do, then and only then will you truly get full buy-in for disagree and commit.