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This chapter is from the book

A Call for Change

Clearly, the Lopez saga and the open clash between General Motors' and Chrysler Corporation's strategies is one of the most bizarre stories in the history of the largest industry in the world. It also highlights a real example of the differences between the two approaches to commerce, adversarial and collaborative.

Although this example deals with a specific industry, adversarial tactics and approaches dominate many other industries in American business. It is not limited just to the automotive industry, but it permeates such widely diverse industries as financial services, retail, and entertainment. In many ways, it seems to have become the standard way of managing commerce in this country.

The following chapters of this book challenge the existing commercial system and offer an alternative to the way many firms conduct business. Although the current system clearly works, it contains inefficiencies and does not get the most out of business relationships. As the global economy becomes much more competitive, the advantages of the American system are being reduced. Our labor costs continue to rise faster than in other countries. Our speed to market is hampered by having to communicate through a system that discourages open and shared development. Our industrial production in the United States is threatened as many industries mature and enter a declining phase, as witnessed by our automobile, steel, electronics, and apparel manufacturing.

Manufacturing is an essential element in any growing economy. The decline in the U.S. industrial base and the practice of lowering pay in service-sector jobs do not offer a happy outlook for the future of our country. We cannot become isolationist in our management practices, but we must look at the way we run our various businesses to see if we can adopt another approach. To regain our competitive advantage, American businesses must look at the way they operate and make substantial changes in the commercial system. Recent gains in productivity could be masking a problem that we are not creating enough jobs to maintain growth in employment over the long term. Increasing industrial production is one of the main ways for historic economic growth, and the declining production levels in this country send warning signs that we are running out of time to take action. This book outlines an alternative way that has worked in the past but that has not been widely embraced because it bucks the trend of commercial history and requires a different and difficult level of management interaction. But the situation facing our industrial manufacturing companies seems so severe that we must look at implementing some tough changes in the way we operate before the majority of our jobs go overseas and the United States becomes a service-dominated economy.

American businessmen like to think of themselves as action oriented and quick to make decisions. They now have in front of them a situation that requires some substantial changes instead of tweaks in the way we manage. It also requires a leap of faith in establishing trust between companies, just as humans do in the best personal relationships. Companies can make changes in attitude and direction to accomplish this transformation. What we have to do now is act before we run out of time and lose our industrial base forever. Time is clearly of the essence.

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