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管理

强者之道:用对手的方式自我攻击

Shelley Dubois 2011年07月14日

最近,通用汽车公司首席执行官丹•阿克森要求高管们从竞争对手角度考虑,找出并攻击通用自身致命的弱点。我们都应该学习通用的这一做法。

    我们能为公司所做的最有益的一件事情就是“跟公司对着干”。

    这话听起来有些奇怪,尤其是当企业文化中经常充斥着令人沮丧的负面因素时。但是,不光是讨论竞争对手可能采取的行动,切实进入竞争状态、直击问题要害,更能帮助公司掌握有关自身弱点的宝贵信息。

    这一年中,通用汽车公司(General Motors)的高管们参加了一次演习,他们在演习中正是这样做的。在六月初召开的年度股东大会上,CEO丹尼尔•阿克森介绍了通用的做法:将高管分为六组,并向每个小组提供一套关于竞争对手公司的材料,之后,要求各小组成员制定一个策略来攻击通用公司。高管们必须考虑将通用的哪些业务领域作为攻击目标,并运用竞争对手的独特优势,用最有效的方式将通用打败。

    阿克森对股东们说:演习的结果“非常富有启示性,同时也让人有点害怕。万一小组成员中有任何一个人退出演习,投奔我们的竞争对手,那我们只能祈求上帝保佑了”。

    他说,虽然最后一句话有些开玩笑的意思,但是言下之意是,通用公司与外界一样深知自己的弱点。投入时间对自身的弱点进行探讨之后,通用公司就能抢先一步,赶在竞争对手发现和利用这些弱点之前采取行动。

    沃顿商学院(Wharton)管理学教授万克尔•尤辛表示,即使这种做法伴随着短期的痛苦,但是仍然值得其他公司效仿。通常情况下,做到这一点很难,特别是它要求自己团队的高管站在竞争对手的角度,用第一人称侃侃而谈他们可能采取的残酷竞争策略。尤辛表示:“各种明枪暗箭袭来时,要想做到不畏惧、不退缩,确实需要有足够的承受能力。”

    创造一个鼓励批评的环境非常重要,因为一旦开始换位思考,站在对手的角度想问题,公司内部的认知就会发生关键的转变。

    尤辛说:“如果你只是说,‘看看吧,这就是福特汽车公司(Ford)对我们的评价。’这样的说法仍然太客气,过滤了一些火药味。但是,一旦要求你扮演某个竞争对手,你就得真正进入角色,淋漓尽致地演好这个角色。”

    虽然犀利的内部批评听起来可能有些残忍,但是,有能力展开这样的对话通常表明这是一个健康的公司。至少,它表明领导愿意了解公司的真实情况,而不是只听那些“糖衣”新闻。

    如果一家公司能从这个角度利用员工,那么它不仅可以解决问题,还能创造一种企业文化,鼓励公开的内部交流。员工以后就能轻松自如地向公司管理层反映问题。从长远来看,这种做法不无益处,因为通常情况下,主动预防比被动回应更有利于处理管理中面临的难题。

    尤辛表示,方法很简单:不要去想竞争会带来什么,而是从竞争对手的角度进行思考。那些愿意承担风险、尝试使用反直觉领导策略的公司往往能够确立对竞争对手的优势。“这种方法其实就是制定策略,克服文过饰非的倾向” ,终极目标就是将这些裹了糖衣的消息扼杀在萌芽状态,避免他们流传开来。

    One of the best things you can do for your company is turn against it.

    It sounds odd, especially when corporate culture is often consumed with deflating negative news. But companies can learn valuable information about their own weaknesses not just by talking about what moves competitors might make, but by actually stepping into the shoes of the competition, and going for the throat.

    This past year, General Motors (GM) executives participated in an exercise that did just that. At the automaker's annual shareholders meeting in early June, CEO Daniel Akerson explained how some of GM's leadership broke into six groups, each with a packet of information about a rival company. Then, group members were asked to devise a strategy to attack GM. Participants had to consider which areas of GM they would target: Given the specific strengths of those other companies, how were they best suited to take GM down?

    The results were "enlightening and a little bit frightening," Akerson told shareholders: "God forbid someone will leave that exercise and go to work for some of our competitors."

    The last comment may have been tongue-in-cheek, but the takeaway thought, he said, was that GM knew its weaknesses as well as anyone else. Having taken the time to discuss the company's flaws, GM could then take action before rivals could discover and capitalize on them.

    More companies should follow GM's example, even if it is temporarily painful, says Michael Useem, a professor of management at Wharton. That's not always easy, especially during an activity when your own executives talk about other companies' cutthroat strategies in the first person. "It does take a thicker skin to get those kind of darts thrown in your back without flinching when they hit," Useem says.

    But creating a dart-friendly environment is important because a crucial cognitive switch happens when you start thinking like the enemy.

    "If you say, 'Look, this is what Ford would say about us,' that's going to still be in polite language and some of the punches are pulled. But if you really are asked to play a role, you have to play it to the hilt," Useem says.

    While harsh internal criticism may be brutal to hear, the ability to have that kind of dialogue is often a sign of a healthy company. For one, it shows that leaders want to be in touch with reality at the corporation, not just the most flattering news.

    A company that can use its employees as resources in this way can not only patch problem spots, but also create a culture of open internal communication. In the future, employees could feel comfortable bringing potential problems to the C-suite's attention. That's good in the long-run, since it is often much better to address difficult management situations in a preventative setting rather than a reactive one.

    This particular trick is simple: don't think what the competition would do, think like competitors. Companies that are wiling to take risks and try counter-intuitive leadership tactics often gain an edge over those competitors, Useem says. "It really is a matter of creating a few devices like that to overcome this tendency to sugar-coat the news," with the ultimate goal of nipping that news in the bud before anyone else catches on.

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