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Competing Against Time

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Competing Against Time

How Time-Based Competition Is Reshaping Global Markets

Free Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

The time has come for your company to pay more attention to time.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This classic by consultants George Stalk Jr. and Thomas M. Hout is at once blunt and subtle, dated and timely. It is blunt in its direct focus on its core topic: why time is central to business. It is subtle in the way it approaches the subject from many angles, documenting and illustrating its thesis in large and small ways. Stalk and Hout understand elements of business that many people do not grasp, such as the role of self-awareness and vision even in apparently concrete processes, such as a factory production cycle. Because the book first came out in 1990, its discussions of things like the fax machine as cutting-edge technology will seem dated. Look past such examples, because its core insights about time’s role in business are timeless, as are its lessons about how time relates to customer service, innovation, finance and organizational structure. getAbstract recommends this highly useful classic to those interested in workflows or innovation, to business history students and to executives who want to make their businesses more effective.


Time Is the Key Now

In the competitive contemporary business world, new innovations move through the economy in regular waves. Each innovation provides firms with an advantage over their rivals, at least until everyone adopts it or a newer innovation appears and restarts the competitive jockeying.

Military production experience gained during World War II taught American business that when a factory fabricates multiple units of an item, the later units become cheaper. During the 1960s and 1970s, businesses started using debt strategically. Borrowing to fund and accelerate growth let companies wield debt as a competitive tool.

The 1970s added portfolio management, which nudged companies to view their internal units as parts of “a portfolio of businesses,” to analyze each unit’s performance and then to decide which ones to support. “De-averaging costs,” the next advance, gave firms a more accurate understanding of which projects or activities generated expenses. The 1980s contributed strategic reorganization, in which companies dropped unproductive units and eliminated accumulated layers of management. The next innovation, “time-based competition,” provides the ...

About the Authors

George Stalk Jr. and Thomas M. Hout are senior advisers at the Boston Consulting Group, where Stalk is also a fellow. His books include Five Future Strategies You Need Right Now.

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