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 sixty industries in all three […]

Challenge-Centric, Performance-Driven Transformation Programs(SM)

Challenge-Centric, Performance-Driven 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. […]

Articles

– 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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

Responsibility and Instability

In a post about the Iraq Study Group Report earlier this week, Josh Marshall notes, “The rub of the issue I don’t see being discussed — at least not directly — is this category question: are US troops more a cause of instability in Iraq or a solution/buffer against instability?” It is a crucial question. Yet, I […]

Honest Problem Solving

Problem definition is among the most critical — essential — elements of effective problem solving. Taking the time, putting in the effort and gathering as many views as possible about the nature of the problem at hand dramatically increases the odds that effective solutions will be found. As a quick illustration, consider the family who, […]

Day Of Reckoning

The United States remains one of the rare — and certainly the largest — pharmacuetical markets where government has refused to step in to curb pricing and other practices. Defenders of these practices point to the ideological instruction of shareholder value extremism: we must have free markets in which companies use profits and capital to […]

Invest Today In A Free Press

How would you like to invest in the growth of an independent press? Well, go to the Media Development Loan Fund today and you can do just that by putting your money in a safe, low yield bond. Over the past decade, MDLF has provided low-cost financing and technical assistance (learning related to financing, distribution, business planning, […]

Six Sigma Upside Down

Six Sigma programs have been a common aspect of the quality movement that swept industry over that past twenty years. Among the key principles of these programs are (1) all work can be described in terms of step-by-step processes; (2) there are always ‘customers’ of these processes (that is, people, whether inside a company or, more […]

Note To Joe Nocera: Almost There

Joe Nocera of the The NY Times visited the annual Corporate Social Responsibility conference this past week and came away dazzled by the paradoxes. The contradictions would have been hard to miss. For example, what must Joe have wondered as he spoke to Exxon Mobil’s and Chevron’s corporate social responsibility representative the week following the Stern Report catalogue […]

Grounded and Clear

Effective communication demands being both grounded and clear. Communicators who are grounded convey — and are in fact — deeply rooted in their conviction about what they are saying. Listeners get a sense those roots go deep — very deep into the ground on which the speaker stands. There’s a strong message in this: unshakeability. […]

Moving The Foul Lines

This past Sunday, the local newspaper endorsed the incumbent Congressman John Sweeney against his challenger Kirsten Gillibrand. Throughout his career in politics, Sweeney has repeatedly behaved in ways that raise questions about his character — incidents suggestive of problems with alcohol, a variety of questionable fundraising and lobbying practices, and violent behavior — including a report of […]

Weakness

In any human situation — a relationship, a family, a team, an organization, a market, a war — the blend of arrogance and incompetence is one of a handful of formulas for weakness. Why? Well, of course for myriad reasons. Just one, though, suffices as illustration: Arrogance in the form of “I/We are never mistaken […]

The Onyx Project

Nearly twenty years ago, in connection with my book, Fumbling the Future, I had the good fortune to meet the key players at Xerox PARC who invented personal distributed computing. The experience was a world-class classroom for learning about the challenges of innovation. But learning from others about innovation is never as instructive as innovating yourself. […]

Value versus Values

From Der Spiegel in Germany: “In its report on Afghanistan, CorpWatch – a U.S.-based corporate watchdog – concluded that the companies were more interested in making money than helping the people. Thousands of foreign experts have been dispatched to Afghanistan. The consulting firms in Kabul have been given multi-million-dollar budgets from their governments to establish a […]

The Shared Idea Of Reality

Among the sources of predictable beliefs and behavior in our new world of markets, networks, organizations, friends and families are shared ideas — that is, ideas that folks share some understanding about (even if it’s inaccurate) and act upon that understanding. In the run up to the Iraq war, for example, a variety of organizations […]

The Size Of The Pie And The Share Of The Pie

For those who have the courage and wisdom to pay attention, among the most important contributions of the now decades-old quality movement in the contemporary business world is it’s demonstration of ‘both/and’ thinking and acting. When people adopt and pursue shared purposes built on ‘both/and’ principles, they identify and articulate two or more objectives that […]

Planning For The 20th Century

Evidently, officials at Ford — the company that yesterday announced drastic cuts in auto production — have been working hard over the past several years planning for success in the 20th century through betting on cheap interest rates and low gasoline prices to support a product line featuring SUVs. We are, of course, smack in the middle […]

Exploding Mortgages V

From Billmon writing about the housing bubble: “But what makes things different — and potentially more exciting — this time around are the gaudy new financing gimmicks Kevin mentions: no money down loans, interest-only mortgages, ARMs that reset to truly usurious rates, etc. If and when these loans blow up, and they will, it could leave many home […]

Stuck On One’s Own Flypaper

“See the engineer hoist by his own petard” is an ancient adage about the law of unexpected consequences. Many centuries ago, engineers in armies would contruct ‘petards’ — wooden boxes filled with gunpowder — and use them to blow holes in fortified gates and walls. The unintended consequences included premature explosions that injured or killed […]

Up Close And Personal

One of the recurring themes over the nearly five years of war in Afghanistan and nearly three-and-a-half in Iraq has been the Bush admiinstration policy to discourage photographs and video of the coffins returning home. In our new world of markets, networks, organizations, friends and families, a relentless stream of coffin imagery would risk conveying […]

Casting Call

Wanted: A presidential impersonator. The body politic of the United States of America is in need of a president. According to Constitutional rules, however, an actual president is not even a theoretical possibility until January 2009. Until then, the nation must do the best it can without a real president. (Although, it’s clear, the nation […]

It’s The Pronoun, Folks

In the Bush-Blair exchange caught unexpectedly on microphone yesterday, Bush said to Blair, “See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.” Predictably, the corporate media — recognizing instinctively that the word ‘shit’ can attract an American audience that has been […]

Exploding Mortgages, IV

According to this NY Times’ article, the share of interest-only mortgages jumped from ten percent of new mortgages in 2003 to over 25% in 2005. In addition, a different variant of exploding mortgage — called payment option adjustable — represented nearly 16% of new mortgages in 2005. In total, 42% of new mortgages in 2005 had […]

The Unitary Executive For Dummies

Speaking on behalf of the Bush Administration to Senators in Congress yesterday — and, by extension, to all Americans — a Justice Department official summed up the various theories and ideologies used by those who support George W. Bush’s assault on the Constitution and democracy: “The president is always right.” Folks, this guy means what he […]

Proof Reading

Proof reading is among the most essential parts of the jobs of writers and editors. And, as with the quality control aspect of any job, there is levels of daffiness. What? On proof reading this last sentence, I must re-write it: “And, as with the quality control aspect of any job, there are levels of […]

Multiple Choice

Which of the following Republican oriented officials is being described by the Republican Party leader who recently said: “We’re talking about a man who’s no longer worthy of our support because of his stubbornness to not listen to sound advice and who makes the worst choice every time.” 1. George W. Bush 2. Dick Cheney […]

The Shared Idea Of Citizen

Dan Gillmor is a highly respected commentator on the subject of citizen journalism and, among other things, how citizen journalism will/might affect the ongoing shifts in the world of news organizations. This week, he responded to the proposed shift in language from citizen journalism to networked journalism by acknowledging the usefulness of the distinction and also sticking to his […]

Threshold Of Decency

Dear Mr. Durrett, In your column about Ann Coulter, you write: The line we walk is to try and ensure our opinion pages embrace a wide array of viewpoints and style. As I recently wrote one of our longtime readers, we pay attention to the political balance of our syndicated columnists. When you see conservative Cal Thomas […]

The Courage To Act As Employees

In the 21st century, the most powerful venue for principled action — for voice and dissent — has shifted from the places we reside to the organizations in which we meaningfully participate and especially the organizations where we work. Most of us no longer live out our lives in places. Instead, our most meaningful interactions with other […]

Lux et Veritas

From a letter to a fellow Yale graduate: This week the media revealed that a political scientist named Juan Cole was denied a professorship at Yale in what sounds like unusual circumstances. Cole (currently tenured prof at Michigan) is evidently very highly regarded as a scholar. He was specifically recruited by Yale and was approved […]

Blind Ambition

Pharmaceutical companies invest a lot of money in the research and development of new drugs. That’s true. And, it is also true that the past decade or so has seen a dramatic rise in the dollars they spend on marketing drugs, making small tweaks to existing drugs in order to extend their patents, contributing money […]

Not One Ounce Of Prevention

Today’s LA Times has a well written article about the shortage of doctors in the US, including succinct explanations of why the shortage has happened, some of the consequences we can expect and what it will take to remedy. As I say, it is a well written and concise article. And, because of that, it illustrates a […]

The Shared Idea Of Authenticity

In our new world of markets, networks, organizations, friends and family, the ideas we share have greater power to lead and mislead us than ever before in history. I’m not saying that ideas lacked potency in previous eras. Not at all. Ideas such as witchcraft, Aryanism… even phrenology had plenty of power to cause ill […]

Government Secrecy Gone Wild: The SEC

Among the most cherished and powerful market principles is the direct relationship between the free flow of information and market efficiency. In our networked economy, of course, this is even more pertinent. The more information that flows, the more powerfully and quickly the markets can adjust. If one or more organizations gain control over information […]

War on Manners

The Wall Street Journal has responded to a college student’s candid criticism of Journal-supported policy by declaring a strong preference for actual failure over any acknowledgement that might be perceived as failure. In their image-dominated world, any whiff of even the possibility of failure is, well, bad manners. Instead, the Journal stands four-square behind sycophantish applause and back […]

Exploding Mortgages, III

Recently, the National Association of Realtors has run a series of TV ads promoting their brokers’ ethics. The ads portray a series of sociodemographically diverse folks giving heart felt testimonials describing how lucky and fortunate and, well, down right life saving was the help and assistance they received from their real estate brokers whose — well, […]

Incompetence Of The Hands

Incompetence can take on as many forms and flavors as competence. Still, surely one of the hallmark characteristics of utter incompetence occurs when, as the saying goes, ‘the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” This metaphor conveys a basic failure of coordination — whether in vision or policy/strategy or, especially, implementation. […]

Letter To Billmon About Leviathan

Dear Billmon, Thank you for Leviathan. The picture painted of an already-happening police state is a dark one — yet one I fear millions of us might sleep walk to and through unless we wake up to the new realities and responsibilities of living in the world of markets, networks, organizations, friends and families described in On […]

Family Values

Advice given to lawyers from a general counsel at a recent panel discussion: “If there’s a family crisis or something with the kids or other clients, we don’t care about it — get the job done,” Linda Louie, general counsel for the National Hot Rod Association, told an audience of about 100 women Wednesday. “You are […]

The Price Of Oil? Homeland Security

From the Seattle Times: “America’s unchecked appetite for oil is seriously jeopardizing U.S. security, despite the billions of dollars the U.S. spends to safeguard steady access to cheap oil. Americans spend $1 billion every weekday on imported oil. Many of those dollars are used to frustrate critical U.S. diplomatic goals, underwrite terrorist organizations and finance jihadist […]

Nature Abhors A Vacuum

The Bush Administration has emptied itself of all that has been key to governing the American democratic experience: openness, accuracy, candor, debate, competence, values, charity, hope, forgiveness, ethics, the rule of law, inclusiveness, dissent, consent, shared accountability, the common good, and the greater good. They have sucked all the air out of our government and, whether […]

The Wolf At Our Door

Susie Madrak notes that Howard Zinn has written the all-too-predictable commentary about those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. “Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war”, Zinn asks, “now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, […]

The Decency Line

By mid-2005, according to the Economic Policy Institue, 28% of families living in the US did not have the incomes to afford the items in EPI’s basic family budget for secure, safe and decent lives. There are 108 million households in this nation. So, 30 million familes cannot make ends meet and fall more and more […]