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The Primes: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem
Chris McGoff


9781118173275
Retail Price: $29.95
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Format: Paperback, 272pp.
ISBN: 9781118173275
Publisher: Wiley
Pub. Date: April 3, 2012

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

Discover fundamental principles of high-stakes change and organizational transformation

The "primes" are universal and unavoidable patterns of group behavior that emerge whenever people attempt to transform systems or collaborate to solve complex problems. Every change agent has felt their effect, but few can recognize, anticipate, and manage them. Unacknowledged, the primes can put any leadership agenda at risk. Once mastered, the primes become a force that drives intended outcomes. The Primes is a field manual for anyone ready to step up to serious challenges, predict and manage inevitable problems, create a brighter future, and produce extraordinary results.

An essential guide for 21st century problem solvers and change agents, The Primes unveils 46 universal secrets of how to:
  • Tackle complex problems successfully and deliver extraordinary results on time
  • Forge lasting consensus among competing interests and keep teams focused and productive
  • Recognize and eliminate the most destructive forces in an organization
  • Establish cultures of integrityz
The Primes gives leaders the edge they need to succeed. Once the primes are revealed, you'll see them everywhere!



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Reviews

"How many books have we read that talk about the need for change? There are dozens, and they always fall short of giving us the keys to lead and drive successful transformation efforts. Chris McGoff's The PRIMES fills that gap. I started working with Chris in my former position as the Administrator for E-Government and IT at the US Office of Management and Budget, at which time, the US was ranked 36th in the world for providing web-based government services to its citizens. Using many of the PRIMES, we became a powerful, high-performance team, building a team of over 2,000 leaders in the public sector using e-government initiatives. The outcome: the US became first in the world in its delivery of federal services to taxpayers, businesses, and other nations."
—Mark Forman, first US Administrator for E-Government and Information Technology Office of Management and Budget


"If you are interested in marginal incremental improvement and hearing feedback on what you already know, hire a consultant. If you want to truly transform your business and personal life, read and live The PRIMES."
—Nick DeLuliis, Chief Operating Officer, CONSOL Energy Inc.


 
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About the Author

Chris McGoff is the founder of The Clearing, Inc., a Washington, DC–based management consulting firm dedicated to supporting change agents as they tackle the most daunting and complex problems facing organizations. For 30 years, Chris McGoff has been helping leaders in the private and public sector reach difficult consensus and solve problems of consequence—those involving the highest levels of stakeholder and technological complexity. Mr. McGoff's client list includes most of the agencies of the US federal government as well as a wide range of organizations such as IBM, AARP, Consol Energy, DuPont, the United Nations, and Boeing. He is also a sought-after public speaker, senior advisor, and professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.



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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION xxv

PART 1: UNIVERSAL PATTERNS OF LEADING IN UNCERTAIN TIMES 1

How do some people, organizations, and coalitions thrive in uncertain times? What enables them to appear so certain and take decisive action amid ambiguity about the future?

CHAPTER 1 – BEING CLEAR ON WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT 3

How did you decide how you spent your time yesterday? What criteria are you using to allocate your time tomorrow?

LEADING 5

Does being called a ‘‘leader’’ mean you are ‘‘leading’’? What does ‘‘leading’’ mean?

IN–ON 9

Are you seduced by working ‘‘in’’ the business at the expense of ‘‘on’’ it?

CHANGE VERSUS TRANSFORMATION   13

Are you fixing or creating?

CHAPTER 2 – BEING INTENTIONAL AND GOING FIRST  18

What are you committed to making happen and by when? What does ‘‘committed’’ mean? What does your commitment mean to others?

INTEGRITY 21

Does your ‘‘yes’’ really mean ‘‘yes’’?

TRUST THE UNIVERSE   25

Is your vision limited to what you’ve already seen?

DECLARATION 29

Are you willing to live unreasonably?

CHAPTER 3 – ENROLLING OTHERS 32

Can you call people, from disenfranchisement and mere compliance, to their highest level of commitment?

DYNAMIC INCOMPLETENESS   35

Can you create a vision that is compelling because of what it says and at the same time inviting—for what it leaves yet to be said?

ENNOBLEMENT   39

Does your vision elevate people in degree and excellence and respect and inspire them to act boldly?

POWER 45

Do you know how to turn strangers, competitors, cautious allies, and suspicious stakeholders into powerful, outcome-driven coalitions?

PART 2: UNIVERSAL PATTERNS OF POWERFUL ALLIANCES  47

How do you generate unprecedented power within the group? Is this question all that important to you?

CHAPTER 4 – GAINING SHARED PERSPECTIVE 49

Everyone claims to value diversity. Can maintaining diverse perspectives ever be a bad thing?

BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT   51

How do you help people to see the ‘‘whole thing’’?

LEVELS OF PERSPECTIVE   55

How do you help people to see the same ‘‘whole thing’’?

S-CURVES   59

How do you lead people to a shared sense of now?

CHAPTER 5 – ESTABLISHING SHARED INTENT  62

How do you lead the group to be intentional?

CORE PRIME 65

How do you help the group to focus on the right things and feel urgent about acting?

PARITY   73

What is the right ratio of analyzing versus imagining?

STAKE   77

How do you get the group ‘‘all in’’?

CHAPTER 6 – TAKING COORDINATED ACTION 80

How do you get the group to do everything persistently about a few critical things versus doing a few things about everything?

COHESION   83

Cohesion is an unnatural state for a group. How good are you at establishing and sustaining it?

REDPOINT   85

A good question to ask is, ‘‘What is important to do?’’ A better question is, ‘‘Of all the important things we could do, what are the fewest, most important?’’

MUDA   93

Can you distinguish ‘‘non-value-added activity’’? How much of your group’s resources is it consuming?

PART 3: UNIVERSAL PATTERNS OF OUTSTANDING GROUP PERFORMANCE 96

What do high-performance groups know and do that low-performance groups do not?

CHAPTER 7 – MAKING DECISIONS   98

What does the word ‘‘decision’’ actually mean? How are decisions made?

LEADERSHIP SPECTRUM   101

Are you the kind of leader who likes to facilitate consensus? The right answer is, ‘‘That depends.’’

CONSENSUS   105

Are you still using the traditional definition of consensus? Are you aware of how destructive the traditional definition is?

OPEN–CLOSE–DECIDE   109

How do groups actually make decisions?

CHAPTER 8 – BUILDING AN INTENTIONAL CULTURE  113

Quick—what does ‘‘culture’’ mean? There are consequences to using more than seven words to define culture.

CULTURE 115

Culture happens. You shape it or it shapes you. How good are you at shaping a culture?

CONGRUENCE   119

What is the dark side of a stated culture?

FEEDBACK AS CARING   123

How good are you at giving it? How good are you at getting it? Why does it matter?

CHAPTER 9 – SOCIAL CONTRACTING AND ACCOUNTABILITY WITHIN THE GROUP   126

How do peers give each other commands?

REQUEST   129

Why saying ‘‘no’’ protects your saying ‘‘yes.’’

TRUST   133

We all say how important trust is. What is trust? How do you generate it and how do you destroy it?

BREACH   137

What do you do when your ‘‘yes’’ turns out to be a ‘‘no’’?

CHAPTER 10 – SAYING AND NOT SAYING; LISTENING AND NOT LISTENING   140

How do high-performance groups sound?

PERIMETER 143

How small a fence have you built around what can and cannot be said?

FACTS, STORIES, AND BELIEFS   147

Can you distinguish facts from stories from beliefs? Do you use facts the way a drunk uses a lamp post—for support versus illumination?

GOSSIP 151

What is it? What makes it so destructive? How do you stop it?

PART 4: UNIVERSAL PATTERNS OF GROUP FAILURE 153

How good are you at anticipating, avoiding, and slaying the dragons that inevitably show up and threaten your group and the outcomes your group is standing for?

CHAPTER 11 – OVERCOMING RESISTANCE   155

Are you okay with favoring some people and ignoring others?

LAGGARDS 157

Do you know how to starve ‘‘possibility killers’’?

FRAGMENTATION   161

How skilled are you at overcoming resistance from the powerful middle?

SAME–DIFFERENT   165

Everybody’s special. Really?

CHAPTER 12 – MANAGING INTRACTABLE DILEMMAS   168

How do you end a never-ending argument?

BIG HAT–LITTLE HAT 171

What do you do when the needs of the many conflict with the needs of the few?

RIGHT VERSUS RIGHT   175

Resolving conflicts about right and wrong is child’s play. How skilled are you at resolving matters of right versus right?

RESOLUTION PRINCIPLES   179

Right versus right arguments have been going on forever. What can we  learn from our ancestors?

CHAPTER 13 – AVOIDING TRIPPING HAZARDS 181

Tripping hazards are easier to avoid when you know where they are. When it comes to working in groups, can you see them coming?

CHASE–LOSE   183

Chase teamwork, leadership, morale, and culture and you will surely lose them all.

PROCESS–CONTENT   189

You can run the process. You can contribute to content. Pick one.

SHAPE SHIFTING 191

How to destroy your power in groups.

CHAPTER 14 – REFUSING TO HIDE OUT 194

We all live our lives trying to avoid embarrassment. Can you recognize when you and your group are hiding out and playing safe?

VICTIM–LEADER   197

What does ‘‘going victim’’ sound like?

COURT–LOCKER ROOM   199

Do you find planning to be a near-death experience?

CONFUSION   203

Why is confusion such a wonderful way of being?

PART 5: UNIVERSAL PATTERNS OF THRIVING IN AMBIGUITY  205

How do you stay healthy when the world is sick?

CHAPTER 15 – AVOIDING BRIGHT AND SHINY OBJECTS AND SQUIRRELS 206

How do you manage distractions?

A CLEARING 209

How skilled are you at creating nothing?

ISSUES FORWARD   213

Looking behind and looking ahead are both important. What is the right ratio?

CHAPTER 16 – TAKING GREAT CARE OF YOURSELF   216

Can you give up coming from ‘‘something is wrong’’?

COMMITMENT VERSUS ATTACHMENT   219

Why saying ‘‘This project makes me so frustrated’’ is irrational.

BE   223

How good are you at cutting grass when you are cutting grass?

CONCLUSION: NOWWHAT? 226

NOTES  228

INDEX OF THE PRIMES  237

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 239



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