BJ asks:

How do you handle disagreements? What happens when David and Jamis disagree on the best way to implement something? What happens when Ryan and Jason disagree on the best way to interact with a new feature? How do you avoid arguing for hours about the (seemingly) tiny details?

Luckily, we don’t run into extended disagreements all that often. Disagreements can certainly be a good thing from time to time, but extended ones often have a negative impact on morale. We try to treat morale as the most important limited resource we have.

But when we’re deadlocked, eventually (usually 10-15 minutes into a discussion) someone is going to propose a solution. The solution usually involves the stronger advocate taking full responsibility for the decision.

For example, if Jamis feels a lot stronger about something than David does, Jamis will “win” but he’ll also be responsible for any bugs or support related issues due to this decision. This forces the winner to think about if they really believe in their position strongly enough to deal with the possible demands on their time post launch. If they still do, they usually accept the deal. If not, the “loser” gets his way without the support strings attached.

That’s just one example. It doesn’t always work this way, but that’s been a successful model we’ve used in the past.

One thing to keep in mind is this: Make sure you’re disagreeing on point. It’s really easy for arguments and disagreements to flare up quick. Flare-ups often lead to two people talking right past each other. They stop arguing with each other and instead argue at each other. At that point the discussion is lost and someone has to rein it back in.

Got a question for us?

We’ve received over 100 “Ask 37signals” questions so far. If you have a question about design, programming, entrepreneurship, marketing, or anything related, drop us an email at svn at 37signals dot com and include “design decisions” in the subject line. Thanks.