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The Go Point: When It's Time to Decide--Knowing What to Do and When to Do It Hardcover – October 3, 2006
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“Useem fashions a template for seeing ahead.”
“Great decisions are the hallmark of a successful executive. In The Go Point, Michael Useem provides invaluable insight into how to make the critical call.”
—Larry Bossidy, retired chairman and CEO of Honeywell International and coauthor of Execution and Confronting Reality
“The Go Point is a tour de force of a tour through battlefields and boardrooms, illuminating the differences between brilliant and tragic decisions. Michael Useem is a wise, witty, and understanding guide whose insights can dramatically improve leadership and decision-making skills. Go for it!”
—Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School, bestselling author of Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin and End
“Michael Useem . . . spells out in plain English the consequences of making hard and fast decisions, when they matter most and impact teams of people. There are plenty of books on leadership, but few that explain how to take a team from one place to the next. This one is the best.”
—Maria Bartiromo, journalist and CNBC anchor
“This exciting book is a valuable guide to effective decision making. The Go Point’s great strength is to put the reader inside the heads of fascinating, often heroic people as they seek to ‘get it right,’ under pressure and with incomplete information.”
—Steven Kerr, managing director and chief learning officer, Goldman Sachs & Co.
“In The Go Point, Michael Useem identifies the essence of what it takes to prepare for moments of decision. He draws from an array of compelling accounts to help us appreciate what is essential for decisive decision making when it really counts.”
—Peter M. Dawkins, vice chairman, Citigroup Global Wealth Management, U.S. Army Brigadier General (Ret.)
“How does any leader know what to do and when to do it? Here Michael Useem, one of America’s foremost thinkers about leadership, unravels that mystery in a fast-paced, well-written, and unforgettable book. Highly recommended for everyone with courage for the arena!”
—David Gergen, professor of public service, director, Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
“In his latest book, Michael Useem walks you up close to your moment of decision, and, with examples from some of the most pivotal go points in human endeavor, shows you how to master it. This is by far the most practical book on decision making I have ever read.”
—Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All the Rules; Now, Discover Your Strengths; and The One Thing You Need to Know
About the Author
Michael Useem, the author of The Leadership Moment, is the William 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. Professor Useem takes his students to the ends of the world—the Antarctic, the Andes, and the Himalayas—to learn about their personal and professional go points. Professor Useem earned his doctorate at Harvard University and has published widely, including in the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Fast Company. He is also the editor of the Wharton Leadership Digest and lives in Marion Station, Pennsylvania.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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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