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  • Michael Kerman

Disagree and Commit as a Strategic Asset

Updated: Jan 25, 2019

Much is being said and written about Jeff Bezos' recent letter to Amazon shareholders and his focus on "Day 1" companies.  He makes a number of great points and is clearly a visionary and inspirational leader.  However, the part that really stuck out for me was the section on "high-velocity decision making".

In particular, the phrase "disagree and commit".  I love that phrase.

Early in my career, I was blessed to work with wonderful people at Symantec Corporation. One of the essential elements of the Symantec culture was the concept of "disagree and commit".  It was fine (in fact, expected) that you would challenge the ideas, directions and

options that were being discussed and decided upon.  Sometimes, these discussions became quite heated - this happens when you get a bunch of intelligent, driven professionals in a room who care deeply and passionately about the business.

However, when the dust settled and a decision was reached, everybody was expected to commit to it... to embrace it and drive that through every member of their team.  It wasn't easy, but that is part of what it meant to be a team, to trust each other and to "put all the wood behind one arrow".

Since then, I've worked in different organizations as well as worked intimately with many, many Fortune 500 organizations.  Sadly, I rarely see "disagree and commit".  In fact, all too often I see:

  • Disagree and pretend to commit.  This is the common "passive-aggressive" behavior. The folks who sit in a meeting, shake their head yes, agree on the direction and then walk away and mumble "It'll never work" and tell their teams "Don't worry about that... it won't last so just keep marching forward as-is"

  • Disagree.. and disagree.. and disagree...  These are the folks who simply feel if they just keep disagreeing, they'll get their way.

  • Disagree, Commit and then "Hold On". These are the folks who reserve the right to "re-open" the decision long after it's been made and everyone has moved on and embraced it.  To them, the decision is never "final" until they're comfortable.

Business moves so quickly now. Consider that every minute in 2017:

  • 342,000 apps are downloaded

  • 4.1 Million YouTube videos are viewed

  • 156 Million emails are sent

  • $751,000 is spent online

I believe that organizations which embrace a "disagree and commit" style of decision-making are at a strategic advantage.  They combine the best of collaboration and leveraging the collective IQ of their organization with a focus on action, accountability and alignment.

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