Starting Point offers tailor-designed leadership development programs, based on the architecture of Doug Smith (former co-leader of McKinsey & Company's change management practice and Starting Point collaborator).

While these are partly positioned as "leadership development" programs, they are more accurately described as organization transformation programs. The whole point is to develop leaders through the realization of substantial performance improvement initiatives and organization change.

The "differentiator" of this design is its focus on performance rather than curriculum, such that participants are required to identify and achieve a substantial performance challenge over the course of approximately 6 - 12 months (based on level in the organization). Through this performance challenge - with a modest amount of curriculum, coaching, and peer group participation - participants not only realize substantial performance results for their organizations (worth many, many times the program investment), but also bring about substantial organizational change as well.

The philosophy of these programs is that they are challenge-centric rather than curriculum-centric. This means that skills, tools, and concepts are not introduced with the hope that participants will deliver results. Instead, these are introduced "just-in-time" as participants need them in order to realize real-world, substantial performance challenges that require the exertion of leadership. These performance challenges are the doorway through which a modest, focused array of leadership skills can be practiced and learned.

One-on-one coaching, large group, and peer group sessions are used to reinforce accountability and to stimulate learning. Assignments are issued periodically (4 times over the course of the program) to help participants make "bite-sized" progress in pursuit of performance.

The hallmark programs, designed and led by Doug Smith, include NeighborWorks America's Achieving Excellence Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and The Sulzberger Program, offered at the Columbia Journalism School, for senior media executives working to transform their industry. Starting Point principal Charlie Baum has served as coach and partner with Doug since the first round of each program, making significant contributions to both the success and ongoing evolution of design and approach.

Starting Point has offered tailored programs within organizations such as Chicanos por la Causa, Central City Concern, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, and the Boston Public School System (with the District Management Council), and for the broader community through the Oregon Future Leaders Initiative and the Oregon LEAD ON Program.

Benefits are many: Results achieved, skills learned, tools applied, and for any given organization, the use of common language and approaches as well as the development of stronger peer relations across functions.

All program evaluations have been extremely highly rated, both in terms of learning and results achieved compared to cost.

Case examples:

Achieving Excellence in Community Development

Achieving Excellence is a program offered by NeighborWorks America, in collaboration with Doug Smith and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The program is intended for executive directors of non-profits and housing authorities in the arena of affordable housing and community development.

Most leadership development programs offer valuable insight, but it is left to the participants to apply learnings for real results back home. Achieving Excellence, and its many offshoots, turns this around by focusing participants on real world, substantial performance, results-driven challenges. Curriculum, coaching, and peer group sessions all focus on helping participants learn and apply a set of tools and concepts to deliver results and drive substantial change in their organizations. Kennedy School staff have asserted that this program is the one most closely linked to accomplishment back home.

Charles Baum, Starting Point principal, has been an executive coach and peer group facilitator in the program for the past 10 years since program inception. The program has resulted in tens of thousands more families served; three quarters of a billion of new capital; significant financial and operating improvement (e.g. double digit percent improvements); new skills and capabilities; new and better strategic alliances; and significant innovations in service delivery.

The program has also spawned a number of offshoot leadership development programs designed and led by Starting Point in organizations such as Central City Concern (a 500 person organization in Portland devoted to helping the hardest to serve population move from chemical dependency to housing to employment; 40 participants), Chicanos por la Causa (a 900 person multi business line community development and real estate development non-profit in Arizona; 50 participants), Oregon Opportunity Network (a statewide membership organization for community development organizations) and the Boston public school system in conjunction with the District Management Council.

The Punch Sulzberger Program

The Sulzberger Program is designed for senior executives in the media arena who are transforming their organizations in response to threats to the fundamental business model resulting from web-based journalism. Charles Baum has served as coach to 40 participants in this program. Coachees have included senior executives from ABC News, the BBC, the New York Times, the Associated Press, ESPN, Time, Inc., and other organizations that strive to earn financial returns while serving broader journalistic missions. Performance challenges have focused on increasing revenue, building greater capability in the online world, testing new business models, building social media capacity, and launching new ventures. More specifically:

  • The head of a major US network radio news operation entered the digital media space (in contrast to over the air), set specific new product development and revenue measures, generated substantial new revenue, and established longer term plans for the realization of success in this arena.
  • The executive editor of a major metropolitan newspaper transformed the organization from a "print first, digital second" operation and culture to one that continued to realize the newspaper's ongoing value of print, but developed a "digital first, print second" mode of operation to help ensure longer-term viability. He achieved discrete performance measures related to website visits, duration, revenue targets, and early wins that drove the effort.
  • The editorial head of a major sports network realized a set of performance measures geared to the pervasiveness of social media throughout the digital product offerings, including creative measures such as the number of stories sourced through social media -- along with number of Facebook and Twitter followers and revenue generation measures.