Levels of Agreement
When a group is asked to take a decision, the members try to find a common level of agreement by either democratic voting or consensus-based decision-making. In case of consensus-based decisioning seldom all people agree equally to the decision found. Instead, they commit themselves to a level of personal agreement.
“I believe this proposal would be majorly detrimental to our group, because either it goes against our fundamental principles or it would lead to a disastrous outcome.”
“I do not agree with the group's proposal. I feel the need to block its adoption and propose an alternative.”
||Abstain: “I feel we have no clear sense of agreement among the group. We need to talk more before considering a decision.”
||Stand Aside: “I have major concerns with the proposal, and agree to stand aside and let the group proceed with it.”
The choice to stand aside may be based on (but is not limited to) any of the following:
- Disagreement with the proposal, or the process used to reach the decision;
- Personal values or principles;
- Personal impact or need, e.g. “I can’t afford this” or “I’d have to leave the group.”
- “I may not be especially enthusiastic about it, but I can accept the group's proposal.”
|| Consent with Reservations: “I support the basics of this proposal, and have one or more minor unresolved concerns. I think this proposal is the best choice of the options available to us.”
||Full Agreement: “I am enthusiastic about the group's proposal and am confident it expresses the best wisdom of the group.”
High-Velocity Decision Making — “Disagree and commit.”
In his famous 2016 letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon made a remarkable management statement: when there's no consensus but a lot of conviction, “disagree and commit.”
In a world where you have to have to make fast, quality decisions with uncertain assumptions, and having not all-sufficient data at hand, traditional consensus-based decisioning takes too long. So, “disagree and commit.”
«This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes.»
Note, to disagree is not having the attitude, I'm right, you're wrong - go your way and see what will happen (i.e. that I'm right).
Rather, Bezos writes, "it's a genuine disagreement of opinion, a candid expression of my view, a chance for the team to weigh my view, and a quick, sincere commitment to go their way." [Italics mine.]
It is the way to show that (1) there are completely different opinions in the room, and (2) we respect them all, and (3) that we do not have either no clue who is "right" or "wrong" nor enough time to find it out, and (4) often the situation is such its very difficult till impossible to decide who is "right" or "wrong".
Other facilitation techniques I use