May 11, 2015

About Me

Doug Smith is an adviser, writer, thinker, historian, teacher, lawyer and inventor with a broad range of experience:

Management thinking and practice

- Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading management thinkers and advisers, having contributed to performance results, innovation, strategy and change in scores of organizations across more than fifty industries in all three sectors: private, government and non-profit

- Architect of the principles and design for Challenge Centered Transformation(SM) programs that guide leaders to use a focus on performance results to drive innovation, capacity-building, and growth in organizations and communities undergoing profound disruption. Examples include: NeighborWorks Achieving Excellence, The Punch Sulzberger Program, The Georgia State Government ELDP Program, The United Way Partnering Program, The West Virginia HUB's Community Achievement Program, Oregon Opportunity Network's LEAD ON, The District Management Council and Boston Public School's Management Institute, and The Rapid Results Institute's Sudan Leadership Development Program.

- Cited in High Impact Consulting for having the number one impact of all consultants mentioned. His philosophy and practices routinely generate better than 50:1 returns

- As a McKinsey & Company Partner and co-leader of the Firm’s worldwide organization practice, launched the “horizontal organization,” a part of the re-engineering revolution that Fortune called “the model for the next fifty years”

- Co-authored The Wisdom of Teams and The Discipline of Teams, books used by millions of people the world over

- Authored Make Success Measurable and Taking Charge of Change -- books praised for using performance to drive real change in a dynamic world

Education and social change

- Author of On Value and Values: Thinking Differently About We In An Age Of Me, a social commentary and moral philosophy that has been compared in breadth and depth to Aristotle’s Politics and DeTocqueville’s Democracy In America.

- Lead architect of NeighborWorks Achieving Excellence, a Challenge Centered Transformation Program(SM) causing profound shifts in hundreds of affordable housing organizations across the United States while simultaneously setting a remarkably higher standard for results in adult education

- Created the strategy for the award winning Berea Performance Compact being used by The Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises to combine the unique skills of some of their members with the local presence of all members to produce scalable housing and finance solutions for low-income folks in their region.

- Architect and Executive Director of The Sulzberger Program, a Challenge Centered Transformation Program(SM) for leaders of news organizations seeking to navigate the profound changes affecting their industry.

- Architect and leader of the Georgia ELDP Program, a Challenge Centered Transformation Program(SM) sponsored by The Carl Vinson Institute of Government for Georgia state government leaders faced with driving superior government service in the face of dramatically shrinking budgets and resources.

- Co-founder of Econ4, an effort directed at shifting the way economics is understood, taught and practiced away from current, destructive orthodoxy toward an economics that is demonstrably grounded both in empiricism and ethics.

- Co-authored Sources of The African Past, an innovative, college-level introduction to 19th century African history that puts student and teacher on a level playing field through it’s presentation of original sources

- Taught high school math, physics and chemistry in The Gambia, West Africa and introduced set theory and “new” math to schools nation-wide

- Chairman of the Board of The Rapid Results Institute, that applies results-and-performance driven methods to dramatically increase the size and sustainability of impacts for social and economic development efforts, primarily in Africa

- Chairman of the Board of SeaChange Capital Partners, a non-profit merchant bank primarily focused on marrying investor capital with non-profits seeking to collaborate, merge or otherwise combine.

- Vice Chair of the Board of Next Step, a non-profit social enterprise building the nation's first ever distribution network of non-profits seeking to deliver high quality, energy efficient, factory built manufactured housing at scale.

- Member of Executive Committee that re-architected governance at Yale University


- Co-invented patented system and methods for creating and viewing fully browseable video narratives – an entirely new form of education and entertainment

- Co-created McKinsey’s Rapid Response Network, one of the world’s earliest and longest lasting innovations in knowledge management

- Former Chairman of E-Lab, company that applied cultural anthropology to invent new methods of behavior-based market research

- Former Chairman of Foothold Technology, a company bringing the benefits of application service technology to the non-profit sector

- Wrote Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored Personal Computing-- widely celebrated as one of the classic books of the Information Age

Industries Served

- Accounting/Auditing
- Agricultural Machinery
- Adult Literacy
- Antipoverty
- Aviation
- Banking
- Biotechnology
- Cable Television
- Capital markets
- Clothing
- Community Development
- Computers
- Consulting
- Corporate Training/Education
- Crafts and Hobbies
- Credit Cards
- Development economics
- Direct Mail
- Disaster Relief
- eCommerce
- Early childhood
- Education, K-12 and University
- Energy
- Entertainment
- Fabric Finishing & Dying
- Food and Beverage
- Fundraising
- Government
- Health Care
- Housing
- Information Services
- Insurance
- Journalism
- Kitchen Technology
- Land Use Planning
- Law
- Microfinance
- New media
- Non-profit finance
- Outsourcing
- Packaging
- Pharmaceuticals
- Professional Sports
- Public Policy
- Publishing
- Retail
- Software
- Socioeconomic development
- Telecommunications
- Transportation
- Travel
- Utilities

Posted by Doug Smith at 01:17 PM | Permalink

February 14, 2010

Challenge Centered Transformation Programs(SM)

Challenge Centered Transformation Programs (SM) build on my management principles and philosophy developed with colleagues and clients over more than three decades of guiding real performance and change. These programs are highly leveraged -- that is, they invite leaders from dozens to scores of different enterprises to participate simultaneously in structured programs that produce real results. By requiring participants to identify essential challenges facing their respective enterprises -- then lead real performance against those challenges -- the programs' impacts vastly outweigh the costs. This leverage of multiple enterprise challenges proceeding simultaneously produces a return that often exceeds 25-to-1 when compared to the real costs.

These programs are:

Challenge-centric: Participants must identify one of the most critical challenges facing their enterprises and commit to success against those challenges. Criteria are provided to ensure that the challenges selected are likely to produce significant innovation, new capacity and/or capability, growth and sustainability. In this sense, Challenge Centered Transformation Programs(SM) differ from executive education and/or leadership programs that are almost always curriculum-centric and focus mostly on personal development of participants instead of enterprise-wide transformation.

Performance-driven: Participants must commit to success. They must identify the outcome-based goals that, when achieved, answer the question, "What does success look like for this challenge?" These programs provide participants tools, frameworks and understanding for how they can and must build similar commitments to performance from the many people, both within and beyond their enterprises, whose contributions are key to success.

Personal: Challenge Centered Transformation Programs(SM) focus on enterprise not personal challenges. Yet, because the challenges identified inevitably demand more than 'business as usual', participants themselves can rarely succeed without stepping beyond their comfort zones as leaders. They must take risks -- and, in doing so, provide the intensely personal leadership demanded by real change. Participants arrive in these programs as leaders. The design and experience of the programs provide them the chance to grow further as leaders by doing something real: leading performance and change.

Challenge Centered Transformation Programs(SM) work in any field or industry facing profound disruption, change and/or opportunity. The basic principles and approaches arose from my work in more than fifty different industries in all three sectors of the economy: private, public and non-profit. To date, these programs have succeeded in driving real performance and change in journalism, affordable housing, anti-poverty efforts, finance, education, state and local government, and economic development led by participants from non-profit, governmental and private sector enterprises operating in urban, suburban, and rural contexts in North America, Europe, Latin America and Africa.

In addition, because dozens to scores of leaders from different enterprises participate simultaneously, Challenge Centered Transformation Programs(SM) produce innovation and change that spread across industries and fields facing disruption.

For example, participants in The Sulzberger Program have used their challenges to identify and successfully implement solutions to questions that sit at the heart of the following dilemmas bedeviling journalism today:

Content/edit/journalism: How to use and uphold the best journalism values in support of gathering, verifying, producing, and distributing news and information with your own staff and/or outsiders (whether experts or amateurs) in a range of different media and across a variety of existing and emerging platforms?
Audience: How to attract, retain, engage and grow audiences across multiple distribution platforms using existing (e.g. circulation) as well as new skills (e.g. SEO); and, whether and, if so, how, when and under what circumstances to charge or not charge them for content?
Advertisers: How to attract, retain and grow advertisers and ad revenue at prices that make sense for them as well as your news enterprise and audiences? And, how to grow, deepen and deploy the human and technological skills required?
Brand: How to think through, choose and build one or more brands that blend chosen journalistic values with business objectives in ways that advance content/edit, audience and advertising objectives?
Strategic alliances: How to identify, evaluate and move forward with the strategic alliances best suited to a sustainable future for the enterprise?
Ownership/legal structures: How to choose among and blend various for-profit and not-for-profit approaches while simultaneously navigating around and through different ownership structures, whether legacy or not? How best to deal with inherited debt structures in ways that don’t impede finding some path to a sustainable future for the enterprise?
Business models: How to recognize all the different businesses in which your enterprise participates or might participate? How best to use existing business models that still work while experimenting and innovating to find new ones that are sustainable? How to blend all the different business models into a portfolio with that is sustainable as a whole?

Thus, for example, led by various Sulzberger Fellows:

ABC pioneered the deployment of one person, digital reporters that dramatically expanded global coverage without exploding costs. The AP reengineered how it gathers, edits and redistributes news in the US and around the world. The Providence Journal, Houston Chronicle, New York Times, BBC, The Forward, Columbia Journalism Review, Council on Foreign Relations, Boston Globe and others succeeded at efforts ranging from moving toward web-first content to launching new content aimed at new audiences to better integration and/or coordination news rooms across platforms to fostering that all-too-rare thing called disciplined innovation. DeStandaard reestablished its brand among young audiences. Time Inc’s premier brands such as and seized opportunities to build ad revenue internationally in ways that hadn’t been done before. The Christian Science Monitor became the first national newspaper to stop daily print in favor a blend of weekly print, Web-based and other strategies.

And other Fellows led their news enterprises to identify and seize ways to monetize existing capabilities and assets; construct and use performance-based metrics for better decisions; navigate among the fast-shifting world of eReaders; build the journalism skills needed to work across different types of media and platforms; gather, edit, and use content created by outsiders without sacrificing journalistic values; mix for-profit and non-profit business models; revitalize old brands as well as start new ones.

Similarly, leaders from America’s best non-profit affordable housing groups have taken advantage of NeighborWorks Achieving Excellence to:

• Triple the total clients and families served
• Create and deploy thousands of new, incremental units of rental, owned and/or commercial space
• Conduct business in a way that yielded extraordinarily low delinquency and foreclosure rates (a tiny fraction of the private sector experience) while lending to the lowest income people – even in the face of the dramatic housing crisis
• Raise and use more than a billion in new capital
• Improve operating performance – typically by at least a 30%
• Create an array of award winning, industry leading innovations ranging across single family, multi-family, manufactured housing, ‘green’ efforts, capital, foreclosure prevention and more

If you would like to learn more about how a Challenge Centered Transformation Program(SM) could catapult enterprises in your field, industry, region or market, please contact me.

Posted by Doug Smith at 03:16 PM | Permalink

March 15, 2008


On Value and Values : Thinking Differently About We in an Age of Me Douglas K. Smith

The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization
J. R. Katzenbach, Douglas K. Smith

The Discipline of Teams: A Mindbook-Workbook for Delivering Small Group Performance J. R. Katzenbach, Douglas K. Smith.

Make Success Measurable: A Mindbook-Workbook for Managing Performance Douglas K. Smith

Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer Douglas K. Smith, R. C. Alexander

Taking Charge of Change: 10 Principles for Managing People and Performance Douglas K. Smith

Sources of the African Past David Robinson, Douglas K. Smith

Book Chapters

"Performance Management" (with Martin Finegan), Chapter 38 in Handbook of Industrial Engineering by Gavriel Salvendy

"Pick Relevant Metrics", Chapter 11 in Management Skills: A Jossey-Bass Reader

Foreword to Creating A Learning Culture by Conner and Clawson

"The Following Part of Leading", Chapter 20 in The Leader Of The Future by Hesselbein, Goldsmith and Beckhard

Posted by Doug Smith at 08:50 PM | Permalink


- Whatever happened to We? UUWorld, February 2005

- Thinking Differently About "We" Executive Update Online, September 2004

- We, Incorporated FastCompany, July 2004

McKinsey Quarterly

- The Horizontal Organization (with F. Ostroff) 1992 Number 1

- Why Teams Matter (with Jon Katzenbach) 1992 Number 3

- Team Leadership (with Jon Katzenbach) 1992 Number 4

- Teams at the Top (with Jon Katzenbach) 1994 Number 1

Harvard Business Review

- The Discipline of Teams (with Jon Katzenbach) March-April 1993 and re-published as HBR Classic in Summer 2005

Leader to Leader Journal

- Better Than Plan: Managing Beyond The Budget, No. 15, Winter 2000

- The Discipline Of Virtual Teams (with Jon Katzenbach), No. 22, Fall 2001

- What Do We Really Stand For? No. 35, Winter 2005

LiNEZine: Learning In The New Economy

- Performance & Learning: The New P&L, Summer 2000

- 24by7 Teaming, Summer 2001

Posted by Doug Smith at 08:48 PM | Permalink

Contact me

Posted by Doug Smith at 08:44 PM | Permalink

June 19, 2007

Better Deeds

Over the past several years, America's best run non-profit housing organizations have dramatically outperformed the subprime lenders in serving financially-strapped folks seeking to buy or refinance a home. Many of these stellar performers, though, struggle from year to year to ensure they have the financial wherewithal to continue their efforts -- and few, if any, have been rewarded with the capital to expand. There's no real reason -- other than the always potent cocktail of ignorance and greed -- that capital markets cannot work with nonprofit housing organizations. The fact that otherwise sophisticated folks do a double take at this suggestion merely confirms the extraordinary level of self-interest and distorted language that now pervade our culture. Remember this: mortgages are forms of debt. Not equity. Non-profit lenders can produce debt instruments just like for profit lenders. What happens to those debt instruments down the road -- that is, how they get converted into equity like forms -- is not limited or constrained by the tax status of the initial lender. As I explain further in Slate, however, the quality of the mortgage evidently is affected by the tax status of the lender. America's nonprofits produce much better deeds than the the subprime lenders. Much better. Delinquency rates for the nonprofits run between 1 in 20 to 1 in 50. For the subprimes? 1 in 5 and rising.

Posted by Doug Smith at 02:07 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2007

Memo To Journalists: Move From Reporting Ideology to Reporting On Problem Solving

There are many explanations for the flight over the past decade or so of journalists toward reporting about ideology. Among them, of course, is the chicken-and-egg spiral whereby political discourse shifts to 'either/or', 'on/off', 'my way or the highway' presentation and appeal that, in turn, influences journalists to report about the horse race of 'which ideology is winning' that, then, encourages and reinforces the thread bare 'either/or-ism' of the political discourse. In addition, though, are many, many other factors too numerous to list in this post. But, just to illustrate; there's also the incredible, geometric expansion of subject matter, the traumatic shifts in the economic and other realities of journalism and news businesses in this new information/web age of ours, and the rapid drift toward celebrity as a means of competition both for journalists' own careers and for the businesses that employ them. In response to all of these are some clear patterns of how journalists now practice their craft. One, for example, is what I call 'press release' journalism: simply printing the press releases of others and calling it reporting. (My far too subtle intended irony here has to do with the interpretation where journalists 'press the release button --that is, release themselves from their best values and aspirations to actually inform us -- which would take some work -- instead of merely being parrots.)

It's been years now since we've all learned to expect and experience the 'he said, she said' form of what passes for jounalistic balance in this new world of press release journalism. No matter how outrageous any ideological position, the minimal obligation of journalists seems to be met by merely including any comment from anyone who opposes that position. Among the many ways this hollows out journalism, much like termites eat away at a house, is that it eliminates any threshold of accuracy. So long as someone can be quoted, it matters not that the quoted statement is devoid of any fact. We've seen this time and again with regard to Valerie Plame's job status as a covert agent. We see it time and again with regard to creationism, the WMD lies that led to the Iraq disaster, the either/or journalism about No Child Left Behind and more.

Put differently, in a world and culture that spins out of control toward politicizing everything into a black-and-white loyalty test regarding ideology and identity, there becomes no room left for actual problem solving -- for actually trying to do anything about anything. Karl Rove triumphs. All journalists are branded as right v left or, more likely, supporters of Bush and the Republicans versus supporters of the 'left', the 'Democrats, of 'Satan' and of our 'enemies'.

Note again, please, how easy this makes the job of a journalist. The articles basically write themselves. And, the obligation to actually think for one self and to learn about the issues disappears.

None of which is to say that this description matches the best aspirations, the real concerns, the private lives or the truly professional best efforts of most journalists. From my experience, most journalists I know would prefer a better, more constructive way of moving forward into the 21st century. And, I'm guessing, most journalists I don't know would too.

We're dealing with issues of profound change. And, among them, are the challenges of shifting course within the context of jobs and organizations. That's very hard. At a minimum it entails taking risks to do things differently -- risks that affect job security, friendships within the organization, and sense of self. In most organizations, the 'either/or' aspects of our culture can rapidly become 'either/or' loyalty tests or career risks -- perhaps because they really are; or, more likely, perhaps because there is a perception that the "CEO" will come down hard on any risk takers. (Such perceptions, by the way, are as often mistaken as they are correct.)

Changing 'the way we do things around here' within any organization is very difficult. It is one explanation for why new entrants often take market share away from existing players -- at least until the existing players get the message and begin to recast themselves accordingly.

This is