Disagree and Commit – Consent Finding a la Amazon

Why should you learn about Disagree and Commit and Consent Finding?

Just three words, but a significant lesson in consensus and leadership: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos used those three words in a letter to Amazon stakeholders, shaping a new approach to corporate success. According to him, this management principle saves a lot of time, because it is faster to get people to use or engage despite the lack of consent, instead of convincing them laboriously and protractedly. This speeds up decision-making processes many times over. So you should get to work with Amazon to make decisions that are of higher quality faster. The concept can be very useful both in professional and private life. Besides, it always makes sense to be inspired by Jeff Bezos.

What is the difference between consensus and consensus?

The aim of the consensus is to eliminate all doubts and contradictions and to bring a team together. This is not necessary in the case of the Consent, it is simply a question of taking decisions more efficiently and of a higher quality than would be the case consensus. Contradictions still exist in the Consent, but action can still be taken, while consensus-building would probably still have to be discussed. This does not mean, however, that all opinions are ignored and that a decision is made blindly. Serious objections are nevertheless clarified in advance, so that the decision is not perfect, but good and safe enough to continue with it.

What is The Disagree and Commit Konsent Finding?

Jeff Bezos helped the Disagree and Commit principle to flourish, but he didn’t invent it. The phrase was first coined around 1990 and Andrew Grove is also said to have used it at Intel. The principle has famous followers, in addition to Amazon and Intel, it also uses GitLab and Sun Microsystems, for example.

The decision-making in the Konsent originates from the sociocracy. It aims to work effectively and gently with resources. The Disagree and Commit principle at Amazon is based on consensus. Once a decision has been taken, it does not have to be the consensus of all, but it is intended to support the decision and to allow action to be taken. The difference in opinion is particularly appreciated and contradictions appreciated in this method. So it does not mean that other opinions are ignored, but that you are listened to and respected. However, this should not lead to paralysis until a consensus is reached. Instead, with the support of everyone, the risk is being taken of implementing an idea that is contradictory. This is the only way to innovate, because by consensus companies are moving too slowly and, unfortunately, often only implement lazy compromises. The view that conflicts make sense before a decision has been taken, but then have a negative impact, also comes into play in this management principle.

The Disagree and Commit method also relies on mutual trust. It presupposes that you can also stand behind decisions if you do not agree with them. This can be required of the employee, but also vice versa requires the manager to trust the employees to proceed with a decision with which he or she does not entirely agree. If the Disagree and Commit principle is used, it should not be a one-way street and should always be required only by the employees, but should necessarily be based on reciprocity. Of course, this can sometimes be difficult as a manager. In order to be successful, however, executives must also be required to commit themselves to an idea or decision despite the contradiction. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos emphasizes this in particular, saying that he constantly applies disagree and commit when someone makes a suggestion to him. However, the concept is contrary to what is used in most companies. Employees “waste”a lot of time and energy on convincing supervisors and colleagues of their idea, instead of using this time and energy for meaningful and useful things. Executives also spend hours discussing with each other, often without success, in order to find a solution that satisfies everyone. This solution is usually of poor quality, as risk and conflict are avoided. All this is to be avoided by the Disagree and Commit principle.

The Disagree and Commit method can be criticized in terms of motivation. If you are not really convinced of a decision, but still feel obliged to do so, this can lead to suboptimal results. The work performance can decrease due to the lack of motivation and the satisfaction and passion for the topic can decrease. Even in direct contact with customers, this can become a danger if customers feel that the company’s employees are not fully behind the matter. Moreover, the concept should not be used to avoid conflicts and to approve everything without questioning. This would achieve exactly the opposite of what Amazon wants to achieve by implementing this concept.

Das Disagree and Commit Prinzip sollte also mit Bedacht angewendet werden und die Vor- und Nachteile gründlich und situationsspezifisch abgewogen werden.

Application and implementation of The Disagree and Commit Konsent Finding

To find a consent in a meeting or similar, the process must be moderated. The size of the group should be limited to 6 people,so that the process does not drag on too much and all points of view on the subject can be heard.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s ‘Two Pizza rule’: At a meeting, just as many people are allowed to attend a meeting as 2 pizzas are fed up.

Ideally, you define a goal before the meeting so that everyone is on the same denominator and you can work together towards that goal. This also allows you to check whether the meeting was successful. If there are already solutions to the particular problem, it is worth collecting them beforehand in order to use the time in the meeting more efficiently.

The goal of the decision to be made in the meeting, as well as the solutions already available, should be communicated to all stakeholders at the beginning of the meeting. If your employees or colleagues are not yet familiar with the principle of consensus, you should also briefly explain the process and benefits of this method.

All team members are first heard, concerns may be expressed and accepted. Questions are also answered and clarified. If there are serious objections, the decision must be amended accordingly until such objections are no longer present. Then the decision is deemed to have been taken. All those present should now really stand behind the decision, even if they have contradictions. The decision made is not perfect in the eye of some, but worth the risk to try it.

It is best to support this method with notes on a flipchart. It is also important to keep the final decision visually. The atmosphere should really encourage everyone present to feel heard and taken seriously, and also to express their views openly and to express any serious objections that are not so extroverted.

Conclusion

The Disagree and Commit method is an excellent management toolto create fast, efficient and innovative companies. Not only Amazon, but also other large companies, apply this principle and are therefore very successful. So it’s worth trying out and experiencing the Amazon-like find-out for yourself. Advantages include the speed of decision-making, the fairness of the method and a great deal of scope for decision-making. In this way, higher-quality decisions can be taken and implemented more quickly. In this way, many more new offers etc. can be tested in practice, which have the chance of success.

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