When I was involved in making a decision at Intel, I was expected to ‘disagree and commit’. If our suggestion wasn’t accepted or we disagreed, we were expected to support the decision. Intel uses a consultative decision making process. The decision maker is expected to listen to all inputs and then make the decision. In this process, it is normal to have conflicting suggestions. Not everyone will be in alignment with the decision.
‘I found Disagree and Commit very hard’
Over the years, I will confess I found this expectation very hard. I was usually very passionate about my recommendation. When it wasn’t adopted, I was skeptical about the decision that had been made. This was probably because of a bruised ego, but also because I didn’t believe the decision was to support the best solution. If I didn’t think it was going to succeed, why should I support a losing proposition?
While I was skeptical about ‘Disagree and Commit’, I felt I was in a growing majority. If we assume my observation is accurate (and I am curious if others felt the same way), why was skepticism growing? In the early years of Intel, it was a smaller company and I assume trust was generally much higher. When trust is high, I may disagree but I am willing to trust my peer’s decision. For example, I would trust they would let me know if the path chosen wasn’t working out and seek my help. In other words, I trusted they had our collective best interests at heart.
I recently wrote about ‘When Decision Making Goes Awry‘. My central point was when trust is low consensus based decision making becomes the norm. This can be debilitating because everyone has a say slowing down the process. It enables individuals to hold the decision hostage by withholding or withdrawing support. I recommended focusing on building trust and shifting to a consultative based decision process.
Trust is essential to disagree and commit
Even with a consultative based process, trust is as important as ever. Disagree and commit is critical and it won’t happen if trust is lacking. Decisions will not get implemented. Breakdowns will occur when everyone is not committed to achieve the outcome . Reflecting on my experience, when I disagreed with a decision, I don’t remember becoming an active supporter. I didn’t trust the decision maker had my best interests at heart.