Saturday, February 25, 2006

Oh to Disagree and yet Commit!

All of us have been involved in the decision making process, but have we fully supported the decision once it has been made? Did you agree or not with the decision? Vocally we can openly disagree (or can we?), and freely state that we disagree, but do we then support the decision through our actions, or do we seek to come to a resolution, not agreement? Do we say yes when we mean no? Does this resolution seeking inhibit progression? Do all cultures react to the same situation on disagreeing and agreeing? The answer is no. What can we do in a world that has become very small with complex business decisions crossing over many borders?

Challenges to this disagree and commit proposal include Edward T. Hall’s monochronic and polychromic relationships to time and the differences of individualistic (low-context) and collectivistic (high-context) cultures. How is time perceived? How are decisions made? For example, if the individuals involved operate under monochronic time (time is money), and is from an individualistic culture the decision may occur in less time; however, if the decision is between an individual from both time perceptions and both decision models, you should build more time into the scenario for coming to an agreement. This includes time to disagree and yet commit.

After serving an eight year stint at Intel Corporation and having the pleasure of practicing this principle in Lithography for two years, Purchasing for two years, and Global Staffing for four years, I am very confident that it works in the United States and it works very well. Although saying this, Intel is a global company and all cultures do not have solid disagree and commit customs. Intel does a great job of building a business culture within a global culture that allows for openly disagreeing. Challenge the status quo. We don’t want to assume that any of us know the all from the end all. Disagreeing and committing reminds us of the fact that we may be wrong, but that we may in fact be right.

A personal example of when I had to practice the disagree and commit model was implementing a Change Management Process for Global Staffing at Intel. I had been conducting Change Management research and benchmark studies for a number of months. My team and I developed a change management system which we presented to senior management. A few senior managers decided we did not have enough seniority in their mind to sway them to adopt the new model we proposed. With my nose a little out of joint, I decided to disagree and commit to the direction the senior managers in opposition to our change. I tried to influence wherever possible as the change model proposal went up the chain for approvals. When the Director reviewed the team’s agreed upon proposal she pushed back on the proposal and made her direction clear. I had disagreed and committed to the team vision earlier and now the Director was saying to the team to go back and implement the model our team had initially proposed. Noteworthy is the response I received from the most senior representative on the team. The senior representative called me immediately to inform me of the decision that had been changed. He apologized for not listening initially and told me that I was right. I was excited that the proposal was now getting the commitment I felt it deserved. The leadership exhibited by the senior representative on the team, to admit he was wrong, and join forces to implement the plan they initially rejected is an excellent example of their commitment to disagree and commit.

It is obvious that there will be some differences of opinions on how best to accomplish issues needing a decision. A reality check is that individuals may see or view things differently than others, and some ideas may be in direct opposition to another’s opinion. In this case, there needs to be a resolution to where individuals can disagree and commit.

Have you ever been in a meeting where people just couldn’t agree? Have you ever been privy to seeing individuals block projects or decisions with obstacles that didn’t go their way? How do we move forward when stuck in a stalemate?

I recommend a tactic that individuals disagree with the decision, but commit to the outcome of the project. The business culture accepts disagreement, but it should also accept committing to the decision and moving forward. This type of forward thinking and buy-in is critical to effective decision making. To keep your business successful, you must be able to move forward and not stagnate and/or deadlock progress.

We all should be informed risk takers. Of course, this informed risk taking should be adjusted as acceptable levels of risk are based upon business needs and the environment. We should be making decisions with the end in mind, and these decisions should be backed up by data. An organization should seek to drive authority to the lowest possible competent level.

Decisions should be supported once they have been made, even if there is a lone wolf on the decision and no one hears the howling. Projects need to keep moving forward. Energies do not need to be used toward sabotaging the agreement that went against the grain. Move on. As a global society, enough data is collected, and from this information an informed decision can be determined. Do not use the lack of data as an excuse for indecisiveness or as a delay tactic; just realize that as an individual, you disagree with the decision. But also, you have committed and reached a resolution to support this decision. Failure is a learning tool. Fail early, fail frequently, forget that quote about, failure is not an option. If you are not failing sometimes then I question your ability to perform. What are you doing? No one ever does everything right! You may be suffering from complacency. Shake-it-up!

Remember, you may have chosen to disagree with the decision; however, ask yourself to commit to the goal.

A management book worth reading is “Change-ABLE Organization: Key Management Practices for Speed and Flexibility by William R. Daniels & John G. Mathers. (ISBN Number: 0-87584-949-0)

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