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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 People.com and SI.com 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 on February 14, 2010 03:16 PM | Permalink