1. Playbook
  2. Getting In Sync

Getting in Sync

Getting in sync(h) is a term that comes from Dalio's Principles. It is both a principle and a pattern.

As a pattern it is the process of aligning on "what is true and what to do about it".

As a principle it is the commitment to getting and staying in sync – and doing the work to do so.

In life, we often avoid getting in sync, especially when we think there may be a disagreement on something important – when, in fact, it is most important.

Dalio “raw”

… 21) Constantly get in synch about what is true and what to do about it. Getting in synch helps you achieve better answers through considering alternative viewpoints. It can take the forms of asking, debating, discussing, and teaching how things should be done. Sometimes it is to make our views on our strengths, weaknesses, and values transparent in order to reach the understanding that helps us move forward. Sometimes it is to be clear about who will do what and the game plan for handling responsibilities. So this process can be both a means of finding the best answers and pushing them ahead. Quality conversations about what is true and what should be done will produce better outcomes and many fewer misunderstandings in the future.

Dalio “polished” Chapter 4 "Get and Stay in Sync"

Remember that for an organization to be effective, the people who make it up must be aligned on many levels—from what their shared mission is, to how they will treat each other, to a more practical picture of who will do what when to achieve their goals. Yet alignment can never be taken for granted because people are wired so differently. We all see ourselves and the world in our own unique ways, so deciding what’s true and what to do about it takes constant work.

4.1 Recognize that conflicts are essential for great relationships …

. . because they are how people determine whether their principles are aligned and resolve their differences. Everyone has his or her own principles and values, so all relationships entail a certain amount of negotiation or debate over how people should be with each other. What you learn about each other will either draw you together or drive you apart. If your principles are aligned and you can work out your differences via a process of give-and-take, you will draw closer together. If not, you will move apart. Open discussion of differences ensures that there are no misunderstandings. If that doesn’t happen on an ongoing basis, gaps in perspective will widen until inevitably there is a major clash.

a. Spend lavishly on the time and energy you devote to getting in sync, because it’s the best investment you can make. In the long run, it saves time by increasing efficiency, but it’s important that you do it well. You will need to prioritize what you are going to get in sync about and who you are going to get in sync with because of time constraints. Your highest priority should be the most important issues with the most believable and most relevant parties.

4.2 Know how to get in sync and disagree well.

It is harder to run an idea meritocracy in which disagreements are encouraged than a top-down autocracy in which they are suppressed. But when believable parties to disagreements are willing to learn from each other, their evolution is faster and their decision making is far better.

The key is in knowing how to move from disagreement to decision making. It is important that the paths for doing this are clear so that who is responsible for doing what is known. (This is the reason I created a tool called the Dispute Resolver, which lays out the paths and makes clear to everyone if they are holding on to a different point of view rather than moving it along to resolution. You can read about it in the tools appendix.)

It is essential to know where the ultimate decision-making authority lies—i.e., how far the power of the argument will carry relative to the power of the assigned authority. While arguing and especially after a decision is rendered, everyone in the idea meritocracy must remain calm and respectful of the process. It is never acceptable to get upset if the idea meritocracy doesn’t produce the decision that you personally wanted.

a. Surface areas of possible out-of-syncness. If you and others don’t raise your perspectives, there’s no way you will resolve your disputes. You can surface the areas of disagreement informally or put them on a list to go over. I personally like to do both, though I encourage people to list their disagreements in order of priority so I/we can more easily direct them to the right party at the right time.

The nubbiest questions (the ones that there is the greatest disagreement about) are the most important ones to thrash out, as they often concern differences in people’s values or their approaches to important decisions. It’s especially important to bring these issues to the surface and examine their premises thoroughly and unemotionally. If you don’t, they will fester and cause rot. [emph added]

4.4 If it is your meeting to run, manage the conversation.

k. Achieve completion in conversations. The main purpose of discussion is to achieve completion and get in sync, which leads to decisions and/or actions. Conversations that fail to reach completion are a waste of time. When there is an exchange of ideas, it is important to end it by stating the conclusions. If there is agreement, say it; if not, say that. Where further action has been decided, get those tasks on a to-do list, assign people to do them, and specify due dates. Write down your conclusions, working theories, and to-do’s in places that will lead to their being used as foundations for continued progress. To make sure this happens, assign someone to make sure notes are taken and follow-through occurs.
There is no reason to get angry because you still disagree. People can have a wonderful relationship and disagree about some things; you don’t have to agree on everything.

4.7 If you find you can’t reconcile major differences—especially in values—consider whether the relationship is worth preserving.

There are all kinds of different people in the world, many of whom value different kinds of things. If you find you can’t get in sync with someone on shared values, you should consider whether that person is worth keeping in your life. A lack of common values will lead to a lot of pain and other harmful consequences and may ultimately drive you apart. It might be better to head all that off as soon as you see it coming.