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 integrity
The Primes gives leaders the edge they need to succeed. Once the primes are revealed, you'll see them everywhere!
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About the Author
CHRIS J. 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.
Table of Contents
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?
Does being called a ‘‘leader’’ mean you are ‘‘leading’’? What does ‘‘leading’’ mean?
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?
Does your ‘‘yes’’ really mean ‘‘yes’’?
TRUST THE UNIVERSE 25
Is your vision limited to what you’ve already seen?
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?
Does your vision elevate people in degree and excellence and respect and inspire them to act boldly?
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’’?
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?
What is the right ratio of analyzing versus imagining?
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 is an unnatural state for a group. How good are you at establishing and sustaining it?
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?’’
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.’’
Are you still using the traditional definition of consensus? Are you aware of how destructive the traditional definition is?
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 happens. You shape it or it shapes you. How good are you at shaping a culture?
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?
Why saying ‘‘no’’ protects your saying ‘‘yes.’’
We all say how important trust is. What is trust? How do you generate it and how do you destroy it?
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?
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?
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?
Do you know how to starve ‘‘possibility killers’’?
How skilled are you at overcoming resistance from the powerful middle?
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 teamwork, leadership, morale, and culture and you will surely lose them all.
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?
What does ‘‘going victim’’ sound like?
COURT–LOCKER ROOM 199
Do you find planning to be a near-death experience?
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.
How good are you at cutting grass when you are cutting grass?
CONCLUSION: NOWWHAT? 226
INDEX OF THE PRIMES 237
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 239