An objection is an argument – relating to a proposal, agreement, activity or the existing state of affairs – that reveals consequences or risks you’d rather avoid, or demonstrates worthwhile ways to improve.

You can think of objections as a simple tool for harvesting distributed intelligence and improving decision making.

Be aware that withholding objections can harm the ability of individuals, teams or the whole organization to achieve their objectives.

It’s the responsibility of each individual in an organization to raise potential objections to proposals, decisions, existing agreements or activities.

Those accountable for an activity or (proposed) agreement in question, are responsible for considering arguments and addressing objections that are raised, when doing so will help to meet the organization’s objectives.

When seeking out potential objections, consider:

  • why the intended outcome would not be (fully) achieved: effectiveness
  • why it would be wasteful to proceed as proposed (or previously agreed): efficiency
  • the negative consequences something would have elsewhere (in the same domain, in the wider organization, or beyond): side-effects

The information revealed by objections can be used to improve:

  • current and planned activity
  • how people execute on decisions
  • existing agreements
  • proposals
  • shared understanding of drivers

Create a culture where people feel comfortable to raise potential objections at any time, so that they can relax into making decisions that are good enough for now and safe enough to try. This encourages developing a preference for trying things out, instead of attempting to anticipate and account for all possibilities in advance.

Harness a diversity of perspectives and be open to challenge your own, to discover when and what to change, and enjoy iterating more rapidly, running experiments and learning from the outcomes as you proceed.

Concerns

Not all arguments raised are objections, but they might reveal concerns:.

A concern is an assumption that cannot (for now at least) be backed up by reasoning or enough evidence to prove its relevance or validity to those who are considering it.

Concerns can still inform people of ways to further evolve agreements, including making changes to an agreement that alleviates the concern, adding certain evaluation criteria, or adjusting the frequency of the evaluation. Bring up concerns if you think it’s valuable to consider them.

Determining whether an argument is an objection or concern is sometimes dependent on context.

If in doubt about whether you have an objection or a concern, be proactive and check with others to see what they think too. (see Test Arguments Qualify as Objections).