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Stacking the Deck: How to Lead Breakthrough Change Against Any Odds

ISBN: 978-1-118-96688-4
256 pages
October 2014, Jossey-Bass
Stacking the Deck: How to Lead Breakthrough Change Against Any Odds (1118966880) cover image


Change is a constant, and leaders must do more than keep up—they must innovate and accelerate to succeed. Yet people are often unnerved by change. As a leader during a time of transformation, you may stand up before teams that are indifferent, or even hostile, and need to convince them that change is necessary and urgent. More than money, time, or resources, the ability to lead these people determines your ultimate success or failure. What does it take to be an effective change leader and increase the odds of success?

Stacking the Deck offers a proven, practical approach for inspiring meaningful, lasting change across an organization. Stacking the Deck presents a nine-step course of action leaders can follow from the first realization that change is needed through all the steps of implementation, including assembling the right team of close advisors and getting the word out to the wider group.

Based on Dave Pottruck's experiences leading change as CEO of Charles Schwab and later as chairman of CorpU and HighTower Advisors, these steps provide a guide to ensure that your change initiative and your team have the best possible shot at success. In addition, established business leaders who have led extraordinary change initiatives demonstrate the steps in action. These executives include eBay CEO John Donahoe, Wells Fargo former CEO Dick Kovacevich, Starbucks chief executive officer Howard Schultz, San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer, JetBlue CEO Dave Barger, Asurion CEO Steve Ellis, Pinkberry CEO Ron Graves, and Intel's President Renee James, among others.

Leading an organization through major change—whether it's the introduction of a new product, an expansion to a new territory, or a difficult downsizing—is not for the faint of heart. While success is never guaranteed, the right leadership, process, and team make all the difference. For all leaders facing major change in their organizations, Stacking the Deck is an indispensable resource for putting the odds in your favor.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Tony La Russa xi

Introduction 1


1 Step One: Establishing the Need to Change and a Sense of Urgency 15

2 Step Two: Assembling and Unifying Your Leadership Team 31

3 Step Three: Developing and Communicating a Clear and Compelling Vision of the Future 46

4 Step Four: Planning Ahead for Known and Unknown Barriers 58

5 Step Five: Creating a Workable Plan 72

6 Step Six: Partitioning the Project and Building Momentum with Early Wins 88

7 Step Seven: Defining Metrics, Developing Analytics, and Communicating Results 99

8 Step Eight: Assessing, Recruiting, and Empowering the Broader Team 116

9 Step Nine: Testing with Pilots to Increase Success 134


10 Using the Nine Steps to Bring Your Initiative to the Real World 153

11 Communicating and Connecting to Inspire 170

12 Innovation: Ideas and Perspectives 194

Epilogue: Final Comments and Reflections 207

Appendix: Featured Leaders 214

Acknowledgments 221

About the Author 224

Index 227

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Author Information

DAVID S. POTTRUCK is chairman of HighTower Advisors, a wealth management firm, and CorpU, a leadership development organization. He serves on the board of directors of Intel Corporation, as well as the boards of several early-stage companies. Previously, he was president and CEO of Charles Schwab. With Terry Pearce, Dave is coauthor of the bestselling Clicks and Mortar. Dave is a senior fellow and adjunct faculty member at the Wharton School's Center for Leadership and Change Management, where he has received the school's "Outstanding Teaching Award" for his class "Leading Breakthrough Change." Dave received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania and his MBA with honors from Wharton. A native of New York, he now resides in San Francisco.

For more information, please visit www.leadingbreakthroughchange.com.

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Press Release

October 17, 2014
Stacking the Deck

Charles Schwab CEO David S. Pottruck, provides expert guidance and advice on how to effectively implement breakthrough change in small businesses and large organizations alike.

Dave’s nine-step plan provides a practical and immediately useful process that will enable leaders to move toward the future and successfully drive breakthrough change.  Based on Dave’s experience in business and in teaching emerging leaders about breakthrough change, the process is brought to life with in-the-trenches stories from experienced leaders of bold, sweeping change in organizations from Intel to Pinkberry, from Asurion to Starbucks. STACKING THE DECK provides the process that brings success within reach; further, the insights and perspectives from a wealth of innovative and successful leaders help pave the way.

 In business, if you’re not changing or evolving with the continually shifting environs you are falling behind.  And yet, many people in business become unnerved by change, resist it—and end up stuck in the status quo.  STACKING THE DECK focuses on the future in ways that help leaders anticipate change and empower their teams to thrive. 

Leading breakthrough change is certainly not for the faint of heart. But armed with cogent insights, Dave’s time-proven process, and the long-range perspective of experienced leaders, success can be encouraged and reinforced.  With this book, readers will learn how they can stack the deck and help their teams and businesses succeed. 

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