The 13 Principles of Disagreement
Agreement hinders effective decision-making.
The bobble-heads that surround leaders may soothe the leader’s ego, but they harm organizations. They protect their salaries.
Agreement before dissent is a pathetic waste of talent.
“The first rule in decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.” Peter Drucker
13 principles of disagreement:
- Dissatisfaction drives decisions. If you aren’t dissatisfied, what are you talking about?
- Real decisions require alternatives.
- End decision-making meetings when they begin with agreement. They’re a waste of time.
- Commission everyone to come to meetings with an option for consideration.
- Decisions aren’t decisions until there are at least two viable options on the table.
- Spend more time developing options than wading through information. Studying the problem is helpful; options are essential. Chances are you don’t need another study.
- Options give meaning to decisions. The better the options, the more effective the decision.
- Successful leaders explore real options. Weak leaders need agreement.
- Disagree without being disagreeable.
- Invite the entire team to argue for and against each option, regardless of their preferred position.
- Argue for the option, not against a person.
- Grab an oar and row, regardless of the final decision. Own it.
- Evaluate decisions, frequently. Adapt as you go.
Options, compromise, and values:
When good options are present, decisions are compromises.
Any good option will work. If it won’t work, it’s not an option. It takes courage to compromise – to give up the good that might be lost when choosing one direction over another.
The true value of values is revealed in compromise.
Make compromises based on values, not just the bottom line. In a world of options, pursue the best, but never attain it.
How might teams develop options?
What rules for disagreement might you add?
I totally disagree with everything in this post. Happy to help.
Thanks James. You earned your salary. Now if we can just get some options from you. 😉
James, your page reminds me of the bank robbery scene in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”
“Well, which is it, young feller: Leadership, or Tech, or Space?”
Dan, as usual, great advice on how to have more effective meeting discussions. I think that “disagree without being disagreeable” deserves a blog topic in and of itself. Many times the person who raises different opinions may be so locked into the difference that it does leave a “disagreeable” feeling to the meeting. It can and does sometimes seem personal.
This process you suggests reminds me of the value of DeBono’s “Six Thinking Hats” as a way to ensure that the most important aspects of a decision are covered.
Thanks Gerri. Your insight brings to mind the importance of letting go as decisions are made. One reason we become disagreeable is we hang on too tightly to our point of view.
Thanks for bringing up DeBono. He’s a classic.
An excellent out-of-box thinking with practical insight!
I fully endorse your views and the post contents. Leaders need to encourage others to disagree and explore the possible options. However, every option has to have a good rationale with supportive facts and the relevant information.
I feel, all key meetings need to have an agenda which is circulated in advance [preferably with 2 days notice] and every participant needs to attend with the prior good preparation to contribute well. All participants need to openly discuss the possible options and allow the leader to choose the best option keeping the organization interest and future goals.
One cautionary remark! No one should dominate and form the smaller group to influence his views. At times, finance head is vocal and critical while others remain silent. It’s the leader who needs to be extra careful of not getting carried away.
Thanks Dr. Asher. Your last paragraph is so important. A leaders passion might cause some team members to be silent or just nod in agreement. In addition, it’s easy to fall into the trap of liking people who agree and disliking those who offer alternatives.
Every day I feel like I’m bashing my head against the wall and then the next day I come in, read the Leadership Freak e-mail and feel less crazy. I’m often wrong but a lot of times, this blog validates my frustration. Today was no exception. What really struck a chord with me was your use of the term “bobble-head” – I have, on many occassions, mentioned that the managers in a meeting with our director look like a room full of bobble-heads. It is insane! I think our director feels frustrated with this as well because he does ask leading questions but everyone is already thinking about their next meeting so they just agree to end the conversation. It is a disaster. I’m going to post today’s message in the coffee room and see if anyone notices. 🙂 Thank you Dan!
Thanks Margie. It feels good when we feel like we aren’t alone!
Frankly, I hadn’t even thought about the motivation of agreeing just to get the meeting over. Good call.
You plan to post this message in the coffee shop made me chuckle. I wonder if anyone will notice. 🙂
Admittedly, the business world is not always a have-it-your-way-Burger King Whopper, . Some times a decision making participant must take a stand, sometimes, must make a compromise. Wisdom is knowing the difference between the two times. And then–having the fortitude to tread the path.
Thanks PW. The “have it your way” illustration really helps. It’s tough when budgets and staff size are attached to decisions, but in the end, grab an oar and row or move on. If we don’t, we become saboteurs.
Great list! loved the post, and I really got a kick out of James response! I love to encourage dissent in my team. I like to rotate the appointment of a “devil’s advocate” in decision making meetings. Whoever serves in this role has the responsibility to dissent and challenge decisions. It helps the team come up with other alternatives, and quite frankly can be a lot of fun, as long as we keep in mind what you said: we argue for options, not against people.
Thanks Joel. You have to watch out for James!
The genius of your approach is it makes dissent part of a system. It’s not personal. Thanks for sharing your experience. Frankly, if an options can’t withstand challenge, it’s not a good option.
#12 has always been a challenge for my new team members. But once they realize the ship has left the dock they get onboard and it has always opened their eyes to what can be! Great points! All 13!
Thanks Gary. It’s pretty easy to get attached to an option. Frankly, I get attached to my own interpretation of an event or idea when I’m coaching. I have to constantly monitor the tendency to move from open exploration to defending an idea.
When there z agreement before a decision making ever starts. They are simply telling you ”get on, get on…” next topic. I had to critique this post first before making a decision to agree with it. So ever true… very comprehensive
Thanks Dan, great post! At times I have felt stiffled in meetings when I want to present a different point of view or option. Now I realize when I have had those feelings it was a weak leader at the helm. When facilitating learning for others I have always described conflict as a positive, creative way to look at options and always focusing on having something to decide makes this so common sense.
New (or reworded) rule: “Agree to disagree.”
Observation: “A team without disagreement is like a sailboat with no wind…it’s going nowhere.”
Great digest of reasons for and the value of disagreement. I call it, in my classes, “poking the tiger.” Complacency breeds content breeds obsolescence.
Points 9 thru 12 would break all the gridlock in Congress! Unfortunately, the art of dialogue and compromise is waning.
Very good article. I would say that compromise sounds like win-win, which while endearing to society, it isn’t always the smartest mindset.
What’s more effective is creating those great choices/solutions, then making “good trades” where we negotiate for our highest priorities and trade what is less (but not unimportant) to us.
We can do this by digging deep into research and conversation to find what really matters to us (our position) and why it matters so much, what need it serves (interests).
From there we can find different ways to help the parties get interests met. Compromise is often uninspiring, dissatisfying and leaves value on the table that we all could have had. Creativity in solving discovered interests can be much more satisfying to us all.
Dan, are you from this planet? 🙂
Nice post, thank you.
Last time I checked my address was planet Earth. 🙂