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Play hardball with the best of them

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

George Stalk’s fiercely competitive spirit has helped companies around the world play to win ... decisively. His gospel of continuous improvement in a “virtuous cycle” exhorts leaders to set the pace, never to rest on their laurels and to stretch out the life span of each product.

The kicker: You have to do all that without screwing the customer, weakening the industry, serving only yourself or doing anything illegal.

Here are Stalk’s strategies:
  • Unleash massive and overwhelming force. Bring pressure to bear through price cuts, cost controls, streamlined operations and a better distribution system. Dell, for example, does it through its cost structure.

  • Take, borrow or copy an idea. Many other perfectly successful leaders copy what a cutting-edge organization is doing in another industry or another part of the world.

  • Go—boldly—after fat margins. By entering markets in which your competitors enjoy big profit margins, you attack their soft underbellies.

  • Make your own traditions. If everybody in your business provides full service, try self-service. If everybody closes on Sunday, stay open. If your product or practice is taboo but not overtly harmful, go for it.
No apologies.

— Adapted from Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win? George Stalk and Rob Lachenauer, Harvard Business School Press.

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