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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Practical and Insightful Must-Have for all Decision-Makers
Facing a major decision in your life? Pick up a copy of "The Go Point"! Michael Useem explores the process of how leaders make decisions, that is, to go or not go. The way he does it is masterful. "The Go Point" operates on three levels: one, it's a terrific narrative; two, it is an exploration of the decision-making process from a leadership perspective; and three, it's...
Published on October 26, 2006 by John Baldoni

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay
I liked some of the stories.. But there was too much of a firefighter stories .its more of a academic read
Published 8 months ago by AJ


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Practical and Insightful Must-Have for all Decision-Makers, October 26, 2006
Facing a major decision in your life? Pick up a copy of "The Go Point"! Michael Useem explores the process of how leaders make decisions, that is, to go or not go. The way he does it is masterful. "The Go Point" operates on three levels: one, it's a terrific narrative; two, it is an exploration of the decision-making process from a leadership perspective; and three, it's a self-paced course in decision-making. The leaders Useem profiles are taken from the front and the back pages of history, business and current events. All the leadership stories works to illuminate the factors that go into decisions. An added plus is that each chapter ends with a summary of points that identify key aspects to decision-making that readers are encouraged to discover from the narrative and then compare to the printed results. "The Go Point" is a book that every decision-maker at every level will want to read, study, and put into practice. It is a treasure.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories plus Structure = Excellent Book, January 30, 2007
The GO Point by Michael Useem is a book you should read.

Thousands of business books are published every year. A few hundred offer important insights. Another few hundred are easy and fun to read. This is the first business book I've read in a long time that meets all my criteria for a great business book

*It is about an important business topic: decision making.

*It is based on solid research.

*It covers a broad range of applications.

*It uses stories and examples to make it easy to read and learn.

*It uses structured writing to group key points and makes them usable.

At the outset, Useem tells us that he'll do two things in the book.

First, he'll take us inside the heads of decision makers. Some of those are living people that Useem has interviewed. Others are historical figures like Robert E. Lee.

Useem takes us inside those head by means of stories, the way that humans have always shared experience with each other. This book is filled with great and useful stories because Useem has developed a vast fund of stories and because he is one of the best storytellers among current management writers.

In addition to the stories, Useem has created "templates" for handling different decision challenges. He groups the key learning points together, using a technique called structured writing to make the points easy to select and use.

Each template is devoted to a specific kind of decision challenge. The bulk of the book lays out the challenges, beginning with urgent decisions.

Urgent decisions are decisions that must be made right away. Useem covers those in the chapter called "In the Heat of the Moment."

The chapter called "Getting into the Decision Game" addresses a common problem: how do you know when it's time to act? You'll pick up tips on when to quit gathering information and plunge ahead with a decision and when to hold off making a decision until you understand the situation better.

"Using the Net" doesn't have anything to do with computers. Instead it's about using advisors to gather both information and perspective. There's some especially insightful material on using an "outer network" of advisors to avoid groupthink.

The chapter on "Seeing Ahead" addresses issues of prediction. Useem uses decisions made at the battle of Gettysburg to show how each decision affects the possible range and importance of future decisions.

The chapter called "Making Decisions" offers an opportunity for you to try your hand at applying the lessons presented in earlier chapters. Useem stresses the importance of making a decision and moving ahead when the time is right. This chapter is one of the things that make this book both valuable and useful.

The final chapters in the book cover special situations. There's a chapter on ethics called "Transcending Personal Profit" and an excellent chapter on the dumb things that smart decision makers often do. That one's called "Avoiding Unforced Errors."

Michael Useem has created a book that you should read if making decisions is part of what your do and you'd like to make better decisions. But he's also created a book that will give you insight into how people think about decisions and then act on that thought.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get to Go, November 21, 2006
By 
Craig L. Howe (Darien, CT United States) - See all my reviews
The art of being decisive is one of the most daunting skills an individual can acquire.

Some decisions require split-second reactions; others are made with the "luxury" of consideration. Both types often carry awesome implications for careers, organizations or families.

Michael Useem, a management professor at the Wharton School, dissects this moment of truth, the moment when you have to say "yes" or "no" in his book The Go Point. Using vivid narratives he places the reader in the middle of people facing critical decisions. People, whose action or lack thereof, will have profound implications.

Readers find themselves enveloped:

* With Robert E. Lee as he orders his General George picket to make an almost suicidal charge against the Union lines in Gettysburg.

* On the face of a mountain with the leader of a firefighting crew making life-or-death decisions without critical information about weather patterns.

* In the office of a newly appointed head of a scandal-wracked corporation tottering on the brink of disaster.

Using decision templates rooted in tangible experiences accompanied by decision tools Useem analyzes these difficult moments. Out of his discussion emerges sound advice for spanning the "knowing-doing gap."

Well-written and deceptive in its simplicity, this is one of the finest and most practical books I have read on decision making.

Don't hesitate; go read it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Leaders Manual to Making Better Decisions, February 2, 2007
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I finally had the chance to sit down with Michael Useem's newest book, The Go Point. I am really interested in his work and enjoyed several of his earlier books including Upward Bound: Nine Original Accounts of How Business Leaders Reached Their Summits (with Paul Asel), Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win and The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for All of Us.

Michael Useem is the Wiliam and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, as well as the director of its Center for Leadership and Change Management.

In October 2005, I had the good fortune to participate in Wharton's Executive Education Program The Leadership Journey which is lead by Professors Useem and Greg Shea. As its name implies, its is a weeklong intensive experience uniquely exploring leadership from academic and personal perspectives. This was clearly one of the most significant adult learning experiences that I have ever had and I was looking forward to reading The Go Point.

Well, I was not disappointed. I really enjoyed this book and, not surprisingly, part of the reason is that it followed much of the same format and covered similar material as The Leadership Journey.

The full title is The Go Point - When It's Time to Decide, Knowing What to Do and When to Do It and Useem effectively uses storytelling techniques to explore how decisions are made and to present his case. In the preface, he describes "go points" as "times to decide, moments for saying yes or no, instants for jumping in one direction or another when the fate of others depends on it." He lays out the book's objective of "building a decision-making template, the principles and tools for being decisive at times when it really counts: using small steps to make hard decisions, building a network of counselors for testing ideas, keeping options open until they must be closed." And in the Introduction he defines a go point as - "that decisive moment when the essential information has been gathered, the pros and cons weighed and the time has come to get off the fence.'

The author uses a number of interesting and impactful case studies including the July 1994 wildfire on Colorado's Storm King Mountain which had fatal consequences for 14 wildland firefighters, the Gettysburg Battle of the American Civil War that took more than 50,000 Confederate and Union soldiers lives over 3 days, and the 1972 plane crash in the Andes where 16 passengers survived in the incredibly harsh environment with virtually no resources for 72 days. There are lots of lessons to learn from analyzing the decision chains that lead to the final outcome in each story. Useem uses each to demonstrate the importance of having a decision template "generic enough to apply to many situations, yet specific enough to provide real guidance with real-life choices."

What has always interested my in Professor Useem's work is how experience informs leadership and decisionmaking. He states

"(decision) template principles should be rooted in tangible experiences, for that often serves as the most enduring and powerful trigger....My own experience with hands-on-learning as well as volumes of research confirm that principles such as these are best retained and recalled when discovered during moments of intense emotion and acute stress. Embedded in experience, they remain unforgettable."

Useem and some of his colleagues and students actually took a "staff ride" and visited Storm King Mountain to try to get a better understanding of what the wild firefighters encountered that fateful day and he writes:

"Personal engagements of this kind can cut through the fog of abstraction and connect theory with practice more powerfully than virtually any other learning event....Classrooms are an excellent vehicle for acquiring decision theory; tangible venues are the indelible vehicles for remembering how to apply it."

My personal experience reinforces this view. One day during The Leadership Journey we boarded a bus at Wharton and drove out to the Gettysburg National Military Park for a full day tour of the battlefield with a certified guide. To stand on Little Round Top or Cemetery Hill is an incredibly emotional, intellectual and spiritual experience. We often feel that our current world is so complex; however, to think about what it would have been like as a battlefield commander with scant information and limited time to act or react is mindboggling.

Chapter 5 - Making Decisions is devoted to the reader actually getting engaged in some decisionmaking exercises. We also performed these at Wharton with my favorite being Necklace Trading. While the author does a great job of explaining these exercises, nothing can compare to the actual process of participation. The book's website [...] actually provides for some reader interaction but I did not try it out.

While Professor Useem is one of the top professors at one of the top business schools in the world, he writes in a very easy to read fashion. Readers don't encounter any jargon or buzzwords. Instead, he uses stories to effectively and powerfully convey his points.

Anyone interested in how leaders make decisions, good and bad, must read this book. It will certainly give the you a lot to think about in how you approach important decisions and how you can improve the process by establishing your own decisionmaking template.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decision-Making Excellence, November 28, 2006
Michael Useem is a fine storyteller. And he is an instructor who can clearly delineate the principles and processes of the subject he is teaching. He combines his abilities to create a high-impact learning experience in one book.

Experiential learning is the best learning, but you don't have enough time in your life to learn all you need to know from your own immediate experience. However you can learn most of what you need to know from the experience of others. This book contains excellent experience relevant to good decision-making. And it tells of experiences that are in and of themselves exciting and interesting. They are real-life examples of the principles and skills the author is teaching.

He seamlessly weaves into his stories his instruction of the principles and skills of making good decisions. Then, at the end of each chapter, he offers a chart of those principles and skills for your review, relating them back to the stories. So you get "this is why 1,2,3...this is how 1,2,3..and this is what success and or failure looks like in real life." All of this is wrapped up in a presentation that reads like a novel.

This book is a must-have for leaders and decision-makers of all kinds. it is enjoyable to read, and everyone will learn something new and useful from it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If it was half as long,it would be twice as good, November 3, 2006
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The heart of the book is a look at three events---the death of forest fighters in Colorado, the battle of Gettsyburg, and the crash of a plane in the Andes in the early 1970s. Useem looks at each and pulls out valuable lessons on decision making---understand who has what responsibilties, be clear with subordinates and guage their ability to decide(do they need lots of detailed direction or just minimal direction), stay focused. He shows in clear and direct writing why some decisions in these three events were good ones and why some were bad ones. But the book then goes off on various tangents, and stretches to include some obligatory thoughts on ethical decision making, although a wrap up chapter on decision making problems and solutions to them with a list of suggested reading is worhtwhile. A 5 without the extra noise but a worthwhile read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Toolbox for Contingencies, April 20, 2007
"Go points" come in all shapes and sizes (as do "no go points") and some have serious implications, as in a crisis. Michael Useem's primary objective in this book is to help his readers to prepare for such situations so that they will know what to do and how to do it. In this context, I am reminded of Sun Tzu's assertion in The Art of War that every battle is won or lost before it is fought. Useem cites all manner of examples to illustrate his key points and I was especially interested in his discussion of decision principles and tools involved in three immensely complicated and perilous situations: the death of forest fighters in Colorado, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the crash of a plane in the Andes in the early 1970s. Several valuable lessons can be learned from each. During the Andean ordeal, for example, Roberto Canessa was guided by five principles "that continue to inform his decision making more than three decades later": stay focused, set the bar high, get back to basics, no second-guessing, and stay cold and calculating to maximize your chances of success.

It is noteworthy that these are among the same principles that guided Ernest Shackleton's efforts to save all of his men as well as himself after their ship, Endurance, was crushed by expansive ice during the course of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1916). The 28 crew members managed to reach Elephant Island, hauling three small boats with them. All eventually survived after Shackleton and five others made their way to the southern coast of South Georgia in one of the small boats. Shackleton then organized efforts to rescue the men who remained behind.

The template is one of many reader-friendly devices that Useem skillfully employs throughout this book. As he explains, "To be truly useful, a decision template should be generic enough to apply to many situations, yet specific enough to provide real guidance with real-life choices." Useem provides seven templates that enable each reader to "dig out the principles, good and bad, that emerge from tangible experience" to "begin to build [her or his] own decision templates." The five are for making decisions (Pages 180-181), preventing unforced errors (228-230), seeing ahead (142-143), touch choices (90-92), transcending personal profit (205-206), and using the net (1151-116). Useem suggests that each of these templates be viewed "as an open-source initiative, a collectively generated product."

I also appreciate Useem's excellent suggestions with regard to further reading on decision making and responsibility. He is a strong advocate of lifelong learning as a never-ending process of preparation for the "go points ahead." Of course, the nature and timing of future go points have yet to be revealed so "a passing familiarity with all of the principles and tools gathered [in this book] should help make for stronger decision making across a range of venues in the future."

When preparing to write this book, Michael Useem accumulated a wealth of information from interviews and observations that indicated both recurrent themes and unique experiences across a range of organizations and even national boundaries. His purpose was "to extract what is most enduringly important for decision makers when they carry responsibilities for others, regardless the context. I have also drawn upon a broad range of research studies and historical accounts, some but not all cited in the pages of this text."

As you begin to read this book, pretend that you have just entered Useem's Hardware Store and its owner is taking you on a personal tour, explaining what each implement is and what it can do as well as when and how to use it most effectively. Once the tour is completed, select those tools that are most appropriate for your current and imminent circumstances. Over time, those circumstances will probably change. Fortunately, you will know what must be done to respond effectively. And if you need expert advice, you can always return to Useem's Hardware Store. Its proprietor is always eager to be of assistance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A singular book and unique combination, January 29, 2008
By 
The Go Point is one of the best books I have read in a long time because it provides a unique combination of strengths with few weaknesses. Normally books about leadership and leadership decisions tend to be either dry diatribes about how important it is to be a leader, or they are soap opera sagas of revisionist history of great decisions.

Useem avoids both of these pitfalls and blends personal stories with a strong analytical framework to create an illustrated guide for leadership. Useem's book covers key leadership decisions in a conversational style that is easy to read and even easier to remember. He also backs those stories with strong analytical frameworks, questions and tools that each of us can use in our own life. Far from being formulaic, The Go Point covers the major stages of decision making and leadership.

In general I am not a fan of leadership books as they often say the same thing over and over again, are strong in terms of hindsight and provide limited guidance for your own leadership challenges. The Go Point is by far the best leadership book I have encountered and strongly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Principles gleaned through stories of leaders facing conflict, April 29, 2014
This review is from: The Go Point: How to Get Off the Fence by Knowing What to Do and When to Do It (Kindle Edition)
A friend who was taught by Useem at Wharton recommended his writings to me. Useem uses various examples of leaders who had to make challenging decisions, and the principles held to by these leaders that led up to their decisions. The tables at the end of each chapter are meant to clarify to the reader the reasons/principles behind their decisions, but I think that could have been better organized. This is a minor point, but overall an interesting and helpful read for those looking how to make tough decisions.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, December 24, 2013
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This review is from: The Go Point: How to Get Off the Fence by Knowing What to Do and When to Do It (Kindle Edition)
I liked some of the stories.. But there was too much of a firefighter stories .its more of a academic read
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