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Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win?
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Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win?

by George Stalk, John Butman (With), Rob Lachenauer, Robert Lachenauer
 

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Great companies stumble and fall when they lose it. Highfliers crash when a competitor notices they don't have it. Start-ups shut down if they can't develop it. "It" is a strategy so powerful and an execution-driven mindset so relentless that companies use it to gain more than just competitive advantage--they achieve an industry dominance that is virtually

Overview


Great companies stumble and fall when they lose it. Highfliers crash when a competitor notices they don't have it. Start-ups shut down if they can't develop it. "It" is a strategy so powerful and an execution-driven mindset so relentless that companies use it to gain more than just competitive advantage--they achieve an industry dominance that is virtually unassailable and that competitors often try to explain away as unfair. In their "hardball manifesto," authors George Stalk and Rob Lachenauer of the leading strategy consulting firm The Boston Consulting Group show how hardball competitors can build or maintain an enviable competitive edge by pursuing one or more of the classic "hardball strategies": unleash massive and overwhelming force, exploit anomalies, devastate profit sanctuaries, raise competitors' costs, and break compromises.

Based on 25 years of experience advising and observing a range of companies, the authors argue that hardball competitors can gain extreme competitive advantage--neutralizing, marginalizing, or even destroying competitors--without violating their contracts with customers or employees and without breaking the rules. A clear-eyed paean to the timeless strategies that have driven the world's winning companies, Hardball Strategy redefines and reinterprets the meaning of competition for a new generation of business players. George Stalk and Rob Lachenauer are directors of The Boston Consulting Group. Stalk is the author of Competing Against Time, the classic work on time-based competition.

Editorial Reviews

The Economist
Hardball is already causing a stir.
August 26, 2004
Wall Street Journal
[T]he authors' message, eminently worth the read, is that you can succeed by competing relentlessly, intelligently and, yes, fairly.
15 October, 2004
Entrepreneur
Overall, it's an unusually deep, fine-grained, and useful piece of business analysis.
January 2005
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Master strategists George Stalk and Rob Lachenauer predict that business competition will become so fierce over the next 10 years that marginal victories and short-term advantages will not be enough to keep a company thriving. In Hardball, they explain that winning will require relentless strategic execution focused on turning competitive advantages into decisive advantages that neutralize, marginalize and even punish rivals.

The world of hardball competition is a place where the players are zealously committed to winning and relentlessly driven to strengthen their competitive positions, creating a virtuous cycle that puts them far out of the reach of competitors. Stalk and Lachenauer turn the experience they have developed during 25 years advising and observing a wide range of companies into a game plan for using hardball techniques. With these techniques, companies can achieve decisive victories over competitors - without bending the law or compromising their obligations to stakeholders.

Hardball presents detailed case studies of companies from many industries to outline seven hardball strategies: unleash massive and overwhelming force, exploit anomalies, threaten competitors' profit sanctuaries, take it and make it your own, entice competitors into retreat, break industry compromises, and hardball M&A.

The Hardball Manifesto
When companies play hardball, they use every legitimate resource and strategy available to them to gain advantage over their competitors. When they achieve competitive advantage, they attract more customers, gain market share, boost profits, reward their employees and weaken their competitors' positions. They then reinvest their gains in their businesses to improve product quality, expand their offerings, and improve their processes to further strengthen their competitive advantage. When they continue this cycle of activity for a prolonged period, they can transform their competitive advantage into a position even more powerful and desirable - they can achieve decisive advantage. They can use their decisive advantage to bring about fundamental change to an entire industry, put their competitors into a reactive position, cause their partners and suppliers to make adjustments, and deliver so much value to their customers that their market share grows larger still.

Five Hardball Principles
Hardball players live by the following five principles:

  1. They focus relentlessly on competitive advantage. Hardball players strive to continually widen the performance gap between themselves and competitors. They are not satisfied with today's competitive advantage - they want tomorrow's. They know what their advantage is and exploit it relentlessly. They don't deceive themselves or cheat. They measure their competitive advantage and differentiate theirs from their competitors.
  2. They strive to convert competitive advantage into decisive advantage. Decisive advantage is systemically reinforcing and puts you out of the reach of your competitors. The better you get at it, the harder it is for competitors to compete against it or take it away. For example, as you get bigger than your competitors, your costs go down further, enabling you to further your market share.
  3. They employ the indirect attack. Hardball players often avoid direct confrontation with competitors. "The indirect attack is by far the most hopeful and economic form of strategy," writes B.H. Liddell Hart, a military historian. "The most consistently successful commanders when faced by an enemy in a position that was strong naturally or materially have hardly ever attacked it in a direct way."
  4. They exploit their employees' will to win. To achieve competitive advantage, people must be action oriented and impatient with the status quo. Fortunately, the will to win can be fostered. But as your competitive advantage grows, it gets harder to exploit your employees' will to win.
  5. They draw a bright line in the caution zone. To play hardball means being aware of when you are entering the "caution zone" - the area of possibility that lies between the place where society clearly says you can play the game of business and the place where society clearly says you can't. Before you enter the caution zone, you have to know where the unacceptable area is and draw a bright line for your company that marks the edge, the limit beyond which you will not venture.
Copyright © 2005 Soundview Executive Book Summaries
—Synopsis

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591391678
Publisher:
Harvard Business Review Press
Publication date:
10/28/2004
Pages:
175
Product dimensions:
9.46(w) x 6.42(h) x 0.79(d)

What People are Saying About This

The Wall Street Journal
...an intelligent and textured primer...
15 October, 2004

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