I was recently listening to the Lex Fridman podcast, where he interviewed Jeff Bezos (his first podcast interview ever). They touched on a number of topics, such as Blue Origin, Amazon, and other interesting points. The one, however, that caught my attention the most was Bezos’ philosophy around rapid and structured decision-making and how they still apply these concepts at Amazon today, a company of 1.5 million employees, to increase the velocity of initiatives across the company without being bogged down by long, arduous decision making that only hinders company-wide progress. Let’s explore the impact of decision-making within the context of a startup.

In the ever-evolving world of startups, where technology, trends, and consumer behaviors shift at breakneck speed, the ability to make rapid yet informed decisions sets thriving businesses apart from the rest. Time is not just a precious commodity; it’s the currency of growth. As an experienced entrepreneur, founder, and Fractional CMO for a handful of startups (some successful and some not), I’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of swift decision-making and the pitfalls of indecision. 

Speed as a Strategic Asset

Throughout my career, I’ve seen that time is the most precious commodity in the startup ecosystem. Your ability to make swift decisions can often mean the difference between capitalizing on an opportunity and missing out. When you know the answer already, the difference is found in those who can make the choice to act and founders/teams who sit on their hands contemplating “what ifs” for months while missing deadlines and burning cash. Encourage a culture that values agility and quick reflexes but balances these with thoughtful analysis to avoid reckless mistakes.

The Pitfalls of Compromise

In the quest for consensus, compromise often seems like the safest route. However, I’ve observed that this can lead to diluted outcomes and downright failures. True innovation emerges from bold, well-informed decisions—not from half-hearted agreements. Encourage vigorous debate and critical thinking within your team, but once a decision is made, ensure everyone aligns with it with full commitment and takes action.

  • For Example: Imagine your startup is launching a new software product. The development team has been passionately divided over two different feature sets: one prioritizes user customization, while the other emphasizes ease of use with more automated features. Seeking a compromise, the team decides to implement a diluted version of both, thinking it will cater to a wider audience and end the debate.This compromise, however, ends up pleasing no one. The product becomes too complex for users looking for simplicity and too rigid for those wanting more customization. In this scenario, a compromise was an escape from making a hard, strategic choice about the company’s product identity and target audience.

    A commitment to one clear, strategic direction—backed by customer research and competitive analysis—would have likely led to a stronger, more competitive product.

Ego: The Silent Saboteur – Seek a tiebreaker to unclog the toxic dam.

In these high-stakes environments, when two equals disagree, it can lead to a dangerous game of stalemate and attrition. Instead of working towards a solution, they might enter into a silent battle, each waiting for the other to concede first. This standoff is not only unproductive but also toxic and leads to a significant slowdown in overall velocity and a decline in team morale (As it almost always becomes widely known and alignments created) as it shifts the focus from solving the actual issue to winning the argument. Such a scenario isn’t just about differing opinions; it’s a battle of egos, where the primary aim becomes about asserting dominance rather than finding the best path forward for the company. The result is, again, often a compromised decision that serves neither the company’s interests nor its strategic goals, merely reflecting who had the persistence or political savvy to outlast the other, without any true sense of who may actually be more correct in the situation.

Rather than allowing a prolonged battle of wills to dictate the outcome, it’s crucial to introduce a tie-breaking mechanism. This could involve bringing in an impartial third party, such as a mentor or an advisory board member, to weigh in on the matter. Alternatively, it could involve a data-driven approach, where additional information or market testing is used to determine the most viable option. The key is to shift the decision-making process from an ego-driven contest to an objective, goal-oriented exercise and outcome. By doing so, not only is the decision reached more likely to be in the best interest of the company, but it also preserves the team’s dynamics and ensures that internal conflicts don’t derail organizational progress. Adopting such mechanisms promotes a culture of humility and collaboration, essential for the long-term health and success of any startup.

Influential Voices Last

As a leader, your voice carries weight. When you speak first in meetings, you inadvertently set the tone for the discussion, often leading others to echo your sentiments rather than offer genuine, independent input. During the Lex Fridman Interview, Jeff Bezos himself explained why he always speaks last in meetings.  By speaking last, you give your team the freedom to express diverse perspectives, leading to richer, more robust discussions and, ultimately, better decisions. This approach doesn’t just encourage independence; it fosters a culture of respect and thoughtful deliberation.

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Mastering ‘Agree but Commit’

The ‘agree but commit’ philosophy has been instrumental in my leadership approach. When a decision is made, everyone, regardless of their initial stance, commits to its success. This means supporting the decision wholeheartedly and doing everything possible to implement it effectively. It transforms potential dissent into a unified, purpose-driven action.

  • Example – Choosing a New Market for Expansion: Imagine your startup is looking to expand into a new market. After much research and discussion, the team is torn between two options: Market A, which is closer and seemingly has a lower entry barrier, and Market B, which is more competitive but promises higher growth potential. After vigorous debate and analysis, the decision is made to go for Market B, based on its long-term growth prospects, even though a significant portion of the team favored Market A for its perceived lower risk.In an ‘agree but commit’ culture, those who favored Market A now throw their full support behind the decision to enter Market B. They actively contribute their skills and resources to ensure the market entry is as successful as possible. They attend strategy meetings with enthusiasm, provide creative solutions for anticipated challenges, and publicly back the decision when discussing with stakeholders or team members.

    The Importance of No Swiping: Now, let’s say the expansion into Market B faces unexpected challenges and doesn’t immediately yield the desired results. In a team without an ‘agree but commit’ philosophy, this might lead to blame-shifting and “I told you so” moments, which can be detrimental to team morale and future decision-making.

    However, in a team that has truly embraced ‘agree but commit,’ the focus remains on learning and moving forward together. Team members refrain from swiping at each other or dwelling on the initial disagreement. Instead, they analyze the situation collectively, learn from the setbacks, and make adjustments to the strategy as needed. They understand that criticizing past decisions or pointing fingers is unproductive and that every decision, regardless of the outcome, is an opportunity to learn and grow as a team.

    Why It Matters: The ‘agree but commit’ approach is powerful because it ensures that all team members are invested in the success of decisions, fostering a sense of ownership and collective responsibility. It minimizes the wasted energy of internal conflicts and redirects focus towards problem-solving and innovation. Moreover, it builds a culture of trust and respect, where people feel their opinions are heard and valued, even if the final decision doesn’t go their way.

    In the fast-paced world of startups, where risks and uncertainties are the norms, the ability to move forward together, undeterred by the fear of failure or internal conflict, is invaluable. ‘Agree but commit’ isn’t just a decision-making strategy; it’s a commitment to collective success and resilience, essential qualities for any ambitious team aiming to make its mark.

Applying These Principles

  • Embrace a Fast-Paced Culture: Foster an environment where rapid experimentation and learning from failures are seen as pathways to innovation.
  • Promote Rigorous Debate: Encourage diverse perspectives and constructive conflicts to arrive at the best solutions, but avoid letting discussions turn into stalemates.
  • Clarify Decision Ownership: Clearly define who is responsible for which decisions to streamline the process and enhance accountability.
  • Implement ‘Agree but Commit’: Cultivate a team spirit where, once a decision is made, the whole team moves forward together, regardless of initial disagreements.
  • Regularly Review and Adapt: Continuously analyze the outcomes of your decisions and be ready to pivot strategies as new information and market dynamics emerge.


As a serial entrepreneur, multi-time founder, and digital marketing professional, I understand the high-stakes environment of startups and the constant pressure to outperform and innovate. By accelerating your decision-making processes, eschewing unproductive compromises, minimizing ego clashes, and embracing a culture of commitment, you can drive your business toward unprecedented growth. It’s about moving swiftly but also smartly—using every challenge as a stepping stone and every success as a new benchmark. Here’s to making each decision a strategic one and each moment an opportunity for growth!

About the Author: Jeremy Mays

Is the Founder and CEO of Transmyt Marketing. He's an accomplished, award winning marketer, responsible for guiding companies though the complex challenges of navigating and succeeding in today's digital economy. To get in touch, you can email him at jeremy@transmyt.com

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