October 11, 2004
News & Opinion: Hardball - An Introduction
I wrote Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win? I believe that in recent years there has been way too much emphasis on the soft management issues, such as leadership and culture, governance, and not nearly enough focus on strategy. As a result, there are a lot of companies that, today, rely on weak tactics that do little more than keep them in the game for the short term. Hardball players, by contrast, dont just want to play; they want to win, in every aspect of the business game. They go for the decisive win for themselves and, at the same time, do everything they can to weaken their competitors and push them off the playing field. In their fear of being losers they create losers.
Hardball players win by gaining an advantage over their competitors, which enables them to increase market share and boost profits, while reducing their competitors share and profits. Then they reinvest their gains in their employees, processes, products, and other activities enabling them to further build share and increase profits. If they can keep this virtuous cycle going it is very difficult for a rival company to grow, be profitable, or even stay in the game.
In the book, I describe several classic strategies for achieving competitive advantage, including unleashing massive and overwhelming force, threatening your competitors profit sanctuaries, enticing your competitor into retreat, and breaking compromises. The excerpt youll find here is one of my favorite strategies, exploiting anomalies. Its about how hardball companies look carefully into atypical situations or outlier results in search of subtle hints of opportunities for improvement and growth.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.