erational brake pedal because their customers have stopped placing orders or are placing fewer of them than before. Lower consumption leads to a decline in production (of both products and services), in investments in new plant and equipment, and in employment as well, all of which leads to a further downward movement in buying by consumers. Under such conditions, only firms charging low prices and/or providing superior product benefits can hope to succeed--which may not seem very different from customer behavior during "normal" times, except that consumers' selectivity becomes considerably sharper. They'll look longer and probably be more successful in finding the best product-organization combination around (that is, the highest product value and the strongest organizational support to suit their needs). The internal arrangements in a value-seeking firm are more favorable to ride out a recession. Lower wastage rates mean lower costs, greater involvement often produces a high degree of sensitivity to customers' needs, and mushrooming cooperation and self-generated coordination make tough decisions less difficult to work out. Cutting working hours across the board, postponing bonuses, and transferring employees are likely to meet with less opposition than in firms where the traditional barriers and boundaries are in place.
We started this book with the commonly heard refrain that the United States has emerged second best in the contest of industrial competitiveness with Japan and the other countries of the Pacific Rim. The countries of the European Community which are going through the rigors of unification are going to prove no less able and tough as competitors in the years to come. Down the road, honing their competitive skills, are China, India, and many other less-developed nations. Competition is going to get more intense in world markets and, as we pointed out earlier, negotiating, pleading, and hectoring can iron out unfairness but will do little to prepare us for the coming century (which has, prematurely, in our opinion, been dubbed the "Pacific century" 8). Firms in the United States have to enhance their capabilities to compete against well-armed rivals who will become, if anything, more selective and well informed. We hope we have succeeded in drawing up a practical and conceptual plan of attack based in large part on ideas and precepts once native to the United States. We hope we have rallied our readers around the battle cry of "Value!"