A way to get agreement more quickly is to get people to agree on the structure or goals of a solution, without making them agree on the content.

For example, let’s say you’re creating a style guide for graphic design. One of the most important pages in the style guide is the “brand personality” (along with its related pages such as the “brand promise” or even the company values). Why? Because this page is a structure. It says that our brand values are things like:

  • Friendliness

  • Openness

  • Quality C

  • Quality D

  • Quality E

So when you look at the other pages in the style guide - and when you look at actual brand graphics that are then created - the conversation isn’t about the content of the image, the specific colors, etc. It’s about whether the content fits with friendliness, with openness, and with qualities C, D and E. This has the function of:

  • Making the problem no longer about personal preferences and concerns, which are hard to predict and almost impossible to reason about

  • Depersonalizing the problem so if your solution “loses”, it’s less about you - which means people can step away from the problem and discuss it more rationally

  • Putting a general solution in place so you don’t end up discussing the same issues over and over again

The other nice thing about agreeing on the structure is that it’s a lot easier to get people to trust your judgment because all you have to do in order to be trusted with solving the problem, is demonstrate that you understand the structure. You don’t have to demonstrate that you understand the other stakeholders (and all the other people who have to weigh in) personally.

Conversely, a great way to get things done very slowly is not to agree on the structure or goals of the solution so that you spend lots of time debating at cross-purposes, or debating the solution to each individual implementation problem or detail.