In college, I worked in a wholesale wallpaper warehouse that shipped orders to paint stores, home interior retailers, etc. There were approximately 300 SKUs. Each was allocated an equal amount of rack space.
Some designs were extremely popular and had to be turned over constantly; others gathered dust and might not be re-ordered from the factory for weeks or months.
At one point we ran out of room. Or at least we thought we did.
The operations manager from the factor took a quick tour of the warehouse and said, "You have plenty of room. At least half of the racks have open space."
"Well, yeah," our boss said, "but depending on demand cycles, we run out of space in the racks for popular designs."
The ops manager decided we should re-arrange everything and adjust the rack space depending on the popularity of each design: High-volume SKUs would get more space, low-volume much less. Any spillover would be temporarily stored in racks designated as a staging area.
My co-worker Donnie and I hated the idea because we would be the ones who had to move over 8,000 boxes.
Our boss hated the idea because he had originally designed the warehouse layout. So he argued. And lost.
"Look," the ops manager finally said. "That's what I want you to do. End of discussion."
Our boss shook his head and went off to his office to pout.
"I really don't want to do this," I said to Donnie.
"I don't either," he said, staring down seemingly endless rows of racks. "But it might be kind of fun."
Hold that thought.
We all know people who hurry to hold the meeting after the meeting. During the original meeting issues are raised. Concerns are shared. Decisions are made. Everyone in attendance claims to support those decisions.
Then, later, someone holds the "meeting after the meeting." Now they raise issues they didn't share earlier with the group. Now they disagree with the decisions made. (Sometimes they even tell their teams, "This is a terrible idea but we don't have a choice. So I guess we should at least pretend to try.")
And whatever was supposed to happen often doesn't.
A meeting after the meeting is especially likely to occur when a decision needs to be made quickly, without all the information every person might need to feel comfortable with that decision.
How does Jeff Bezos deal with situations like that? Simple: "Disagree and commit."
According to Bezos:
Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process. Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70 percent of the information you wish you had.
[So] 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?"
[If I disagree], it's not me thinking to myself, 'Well, these guys are wrong and missing the point, but this isn't worth me chasing." It's a genuine disagreement of opinion, a candid expression of my view, a chance for the team to weigh my view, and a quick, sincere commitment to go their way.
My co-worker Donnie disagreed--and he committed.
Not but he committed. And he committed. There's a huge difference: "But" signals hesitation and skepticism, while "and" sparks movement and action.
Donnie and I quickly turned the project into a game: Deciding how much space each SKU actually required. Deciding to change the layout from numerical order to one that created optimal workflow. Developing a simple system (this was before personal computers--yes, I'm old) to track where spillover product was stored.
Because we took ownership--because we disagreed and committed--what could have been a slog actually did turn out to be kind of fun.
And because we eventually freed up over a third of the overall space, the plant was able to move some of their supplies and parts to our facility and avoid adding storage space to their building.
We didn't know that we had disagreed and committed.
But we had.
So can you and your teams.
The next time you need to make a quick decision, listen to input. Weigh options. Assess pros and cons. If you can't reach consensus, that's OK: Make a decision and ask your team to disagree and commit.
The next time a decision is made for you--especially one you disagree with--actively choose to disagree and commit.
Hopefully your concerns will be proved wrong.
But even if they're not, the outcome will be much better than if you hold the meeting after the meeting--or privately decide not to give it your best.
Because your best will often overcome mediocre decisions.
And, sometimes, even poor ones.