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Stand Back and Deliver: Accelerating Business Agility [Paperback]

by Pollyanna Pixton, Niel Nickolaisen, Todd Little, Kent McDonald
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 3, 2009 0321572882 978-0321572882 1

Enhance Fundamental Value and Establish Competitive Advantage with Leadership Agility


Whether you’re leading an organization, a team, or a project, Stand Back and Deliver gives you the agile leadership tools you’ll need to achieve breakthrough levels of performance. This book brings together immediately usable frameworks and step-by-step processes that help you focus all your efforts where they matter most: delivering business value and building competitive advantage.


You’ll first discover how to use the authors’ Purpose Alignment Model to make better up-front decisions about where to invest limited resources–and how to filter out activities that don’t drive market leadership. Next, you’ll learn how to collaborate in new ways that unleash your organization’s full talents for innovation. The authors offer the Context Leadership Model for understanding the unique challenges of any project, and they help you tailor your leadership approach to address them. You’ll find a full chapter on organizing information to promote more effective, value-driven decision-making. Finally, drawing on decades of experience working with great leaders, the authors focus on a critical issue you’ll face over and over again: knowing when to step up and lead, and when to stand back and let your team produce results.


Coverage includes

  • Effectively evaluating, planning, and implementing large system projects
  • Reducing resistance to process improvements
  • Bringing greater agility to the way you manage products, portfolios, and projects
  • Identifying the tasks that don’t create enough value to be worth your time
  • Developing the forms of collaboration that are crucial to sustaining innovation
  • Mitigating project risks more effectively–especially those associated with complexity and uncertainty
  • Refocusing all decision-making on delivering value to the organization and the marketplace
  • Making decisions at the right time to leverage the best information without stifling progress

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Stand Back and Deliver: Accelerating Business Agility + Thinking in Systems: A Primer
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Editorial Reviews


“In Stand Back and Deliver, the authors provide strong, practical guidance on how to leverage the strengths of your entire team to get the right job done. Their experience in the trenches shines through with clear examples of how their approach can be applied to make your projects successful, regardless of the domain.”

–Jim Brosseau, author of Software Teamwork: Taking Ownership for Success


“A book rich with content, practical tools that can be easily adopted, and great examples that relate to the common workplace!”

–Lisa Shoop, software director at Sabre Holdings


“For those new to project management, Stand Back and Deliver offers the voice of experience. Its message is clear: Understand the value you must deliver, understand and manage the project’s complexity, trust in your people, and above all, have the courage to do the right thing.”

–Patrick Bailey, Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, Calvin College


“With most business books I am happy if I learn one or two key things that I want to put to use. This book is full of such concepts and tools and provides enough detail and examples that I’m confident I’d not just want to use them but would be able to do so successfully.”

–Terri Pitcher, IT manager


“Today’s postmodern organizational environment requires a new approach, and this book will provide many insights to the reader. You will learn how to detach and stand back, and yet passionately engage and deliver.”

–Greg Githens, managing partner at Catalyst Management Consulting, LLC

About the Author

Pollyanna Pixton is an internationally recognized expert on collaborative leadership who has worked and consulted with companies and organizations for thirty-eight years. She is president of Evolutionary Systems and director of the Institute of Collaborative Leadership.


Niel Nickolaisen is CIO and director of strategic planning at Headwaters, Inc.


Todd Little has held a number of senior leadership positions including director of software and technology at Landmark Graphics, a subsidiary of Halliburton. For more than thirty years he has developed–and led teams developing–commercial software applications, primarily for oil and gas exploration and production.


Kent McDonald has nearly fifteen years of experience as a project and program manager in industries ranging from automotive to financial services.


Pixton, Nickolaisen, Little, and McDonald are all partners at Accelinnova.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (July 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321572882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321572882
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kent J. McDonald uncovers better ways of delivering value by doing it and helping others do it. His more than 15 years of experience include work in business analysis, strategic planning, project management, and product development in a variety of industries including financial services, health insurance, performance marketing, human services, nonprofit, and automotive. He is active in the business analysis and agile software development communities helping people share stories about what does and does not work. He shares those stories at,, and in addition to presenting at and helping organize several local and international conferences.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book with a fresh perspective. July 23, 2009
This recently released book on Leadership and Strategic Approach is, basically, excellent!

I am an advocate of taking the ego out of management and believe that managers acting as facilitators and stepping in when necessary rather than taking an ever-present command and control attitude, gain far more productivity from their teams.

The authors of this book have provided me with additional tools in their arguments and instruction in 150 pages than most Project Management book three times the size. They keep things simple and are concise without the patronizing tone that can be felt when reading other books of this nature.

They explain 4 simple models that can be used today in many different industries and write in a way that motivates the reader to try these out as soon as they get back to the office. They focus on:

Purpose Alignment Model - which allows for a clearer vision of what categories projects fall into. I have seen more generic and complex 'Business Alignment Models' where many projects are incorrectly categorized as 'differentiating' but do not add this type of value to the organization. By focussing on the purpose and using their 'Billboard' technique, insight is given into which projects truly are differentiating to the organization.

Context Leadership Model - giving visibility into the complexity and uncertainty values of a project to help leaders manage projects, with the right people, more effectively.

A Four Step Collaboration Process - designed to assess the right people for the job, allowing transparency in environments and then trusting people to get on with what they do best to produce high quality work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars see the Context Leadership Model July 15, 2009
The Context Leadership Model seems the best part of this book. It suggests that projects be plotted in a two dimensional graph, where the axes are complexity and uncertainty. The graph is divided into 4 quadrants, and each is labelled by a fanciful descriptor. To be sure, there is no absolute scale on either axis. But the point is that if you have several projects, {A, B, C...}, then you should try to ascertain if complexity(A) > complexity(B) etc. Then this gives the ordering of the projects along the complexity axis. Ditto for uncertainty. So you can now plot these projects relative to each other.

The book spends much time talking about the different actions you should take, as a project leader, for each quadrant. Useful, as the authors suggest that there are qualitative differences between the quadrants in terms of project management as well as personnel best suited.

But there is a problem that is elided over. It has to do with the boundary between the quadrants. Yes, you can probably do a reasonable job assessing the relative ordering of projects and thus get a graph. But where do the quadrants overlay these points?

This may be unsolvable. Instead, suppose some projects have already been done, while at least one project is ahead of you. (If none, then there's little point to this book except purely as a retrospective analysis.) Perhaps from how you've handled the prior projects, you can try to see which of the quadrants they should have been in, after a careful study of the book. Then use this to fix the quadrant overlay and apply it to the new project.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leadership through delivering results May 10, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Highly recommended by Mike Vizdos, Master Agile SCRUM Consultant and Trainer extraordinaire. I walked away reading this title with a more refined sense of leadership, project management, and project success that contextualized my prior work experience. I started applying concepts and strategies in my daily professional life as soon as I started reading. I don't usually highlight and dog-ear a book but my copy looks like my old college textbooks. I bought the Kindle version and transferred the most important highlights into it so as so have a portable version with me at all times.
I highly recommend this title for individuals looking to strengthen their understanding of leadership, managing projects with high degrees of uncertainty/ complexity, and delivering success by building and trusting successful teams.
Thanks Mike! Off to read "ReWork" now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on strategy November 1, 2012
By Sondra
The authors offer some important and easy to grasp tools that can be utilized by anyone interested in moving their organization in a more strategic direction. They encourage leaders to enable and empower their organizations rather than defaulting to a command and control style. This book is long enough to fully explain the topics and provide useful examples, but short enough that it can easily be read by a busy professional. I highly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expert guide to project management tools and processes November 3, 2010
Managing projects and solving difficult situations within organizations can be devilishly difficult. Complexity and uncertainty can provoke inappropriate, even counterproductive, judgments and actions. In such circumstances, you need special tools and processes to help you sort out your strategy and make better choices. Co-authors Pollyanna Pixton, Niel Nickolaisen, Todd Little and Kent McDonald provide effective mechanisms for managing projects and solving problems. They approach business decision making with careful deliberation, analytical precision and sound reasoning. Their book provides the support systems you need to weigh your options and address your business dilemmas. getAbstract finds that leaders at all levels will benefit from knowing this book's hands-on tools.
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