Getting Everything Right Except What’s Important

What kind of weirdo would shell out $25 to buy a book he knew he was going to detest? Uh, me. Got it yesterday evening, at Logan, while waiting for my flight to Dublin.

Harvard Business School Press.
Glowing back-cover endorsement from GE CEO Jeff Immelt (whom I greatly admire).

The book?

Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win?
By BCG Big Cheese George Stalk. (I endorsed a book of his in bygone days.) And former BCGer Rob Lachenauer.

Here’s my deal. I’ve spent too much time with folks like Sydney Harman, CEO of Harman International (see his book Mind Your Own Business: A Maverick’s Guide to Business, Leadership and Life); Max De Pree, former Herman Miller chairman (see his Leadership Is an Art); and Bill George, former Medronics CEO (Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value). Put simply: While I acknowledge that the “real world” is no lark, I refuse to get roped into biz thinking that’s all about Ruthless Warfare.

Strategies offered in Hardball (“The winners in business have always played hardball”) include: “Unleash massive and overwhelming force.” “Exploit anomalies.” “Threaten your competitor’s profit sanctuaries.” “Entice your competitor into retreat.”

I’ve no doubt that such stratagems are part of life in biz and on the battlefield and elsewhere. And I am personally not averse to bulldozing my way towards what I want with any clever approach I can dream up. (Like being about the only mgt “guru” to be addicted to Blogging.)

But …

My simple/fervent (Naive?) belief—about me & my career & business in general & warfare for that matter—is that the Three Pillars of Excellent Enterprise are: (1) Extraordinary People. (2) Extraordinary/Innovative Products. (3) Extraordinary Customer Experiences (the consistent provision thereof). These three pillars, in turn, are anchored to a Base of (4) Rock-solid Infrastructure. That’s it.

(Further: Get the Big Four above right … and damn near any strategy will work. Get the Big Four wrong … and no strategy, no matter how clever, will do you a helluva lot of good.)

With the above in mind, I performed a little “research” on Hardball. I thumbed my way to the Index. By my very rough calculation, there are 620 Index citations. Here is my Scorecard: “People” … 0. (Actually, I checked “people” “workers,” “morale,” “motivation,” and “employees”: Each came up … 0/ZERO.) “Customer/s” (“service,” “retention,” and “loyalty”) … 4/FOUR. “Innovation” (“product development,” “research & development,” and “new products”) … 0/ZERO.* (*As far as I can tell, the term with the largest number of entries—18—is “mergers and acquisitions.”)

Having performed my experiment while passing the time in an airport/Logan bookshop, I just had to spring for $25 and buy the book! So I could Blog it, sure. But mostly so I could make certain that if I had the last copy, the evidence of such a waste of paper would not disappear.

Somebody’s nuts.
George Stalk.
Or me.

Tom Peters posted this on October 12, 2004, in Strategies.
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