One of the more obvious differences between our old waterfall, hierarchical, boss driven cultures and an Agile Culture is how we manage differences. In the old cultures saying ‘No’ was not an option – in fact is was career limiting and dangerous. We knew that we were expected to be team players and agree with the boss. We knew not to have a different opinion.

In an Agile Culture differences are a strength! They allow a team to bring in multiple perspectives and so create a stronger, more robust deliverable. They also change what it feels like to be at work because know what you know is valued and appreciated. This is how  strong, autonomous teams are created.

So how do you start to make it safe to disagree ? Honouring No is one way to do this. It is a new ‘rule’ that the team adopts that creates an agreed new way of dealing with disagreement (the ‘No’).

When we Honour No we understand that people who are not agreeing are not doing it because they are having fun. We come from a different assumption, that people disagree because there is something important there and we also understand that often people aren’t able to easily express what that is.

So we agree that when someone is in disagreement we will stop and take time to explore what THE GAP IS BETWEEN WHERE THEY ARE AND WHERE WE ARE! 

WE DON’T… ask them to explain themselves of justify their thinking or position because we want to understand the difference. When we change the conversation from a justification of positions we shift out of a ‘win don’t loose’ mindset into collaboration.

What is missing for you that would allow you to commit at least 80% to ‘this’ ? Not that we are also not asking for 100% commitment – we don’t need everyone to agree! We don’t need consensus – this is collaboration, we need everyone to be at a minimum of 80% commitment – so you don’t have to like it, but can you commit to it ?


Start to create a space for disagreement. When people aren’t in agreement, slow down and take time to ask them what is missing for them to be IN COMMITMENT!

Do this for 2 weeks and then reflect back on what has changed in your team ? We expect that when Honouring No is being used well more people are speaking up, people are committed to results so more is getting delivered, there is more collaboration and more trust. What was your experience ?