by: Issues: July / August 2004. Tags: Strategy. Categories: Strategy.

Nothing less than best practice is acceptable

Two scenes from business that are just doing it: Earlier this year, somewhere on Nike’s campus in Beaverton, Oregon, designers on the company’s Project Swift team were labouring long hours to trim seconds off the times that Lance Armstrong would record in this year’s Tour de France. The reason? A rider’s body can account for as much as two-thirds of the total air resistance created by the bicycle rider. (The other third comes from the bicycle). Using different materials, designers tried to come up with a bicycle suit fabric that would 1) alter the airflow to minimize the low-pressure areas directly behind Armstrong’s body, and 2) allow dimples to be put in the suit’s arms and shoulders. Before they got it right, designers made 33 prototype suits and experimented with 60 different fabrics.

Not all that far away from the riders and crowds creating the Tour de France frenzy, Miuccia Prada sat in the showroom of the Italian luxury goods manufacturer that bears her family’s name. In a recent New Yorker magazine profile, CEO Miuccia mused about the firm’s rise to the top tier of high-end fashion retailing, a drive she had spearheaded. “I really don’t want to go to the stock market. Everything you do has to be immediately profitable. We never built our company that way. Sometimes they ask me to do a bag that sells ten thousand, and I say, ‘You want a bag that sells ten thousand? Do it yourself.’ Because that is not how I work. I do the job, and finally, if it’s good, it will make money. You can’t sit there and say it the other way around. If the product is excellent, people will be impressed. If not everyone will know it.”

Both Nike and Prada have many suppliers, partners and employees, and it would be no surprise to discover that these two companies are as meticulous about negotiation – the theme of this issue of the Ivey Business Journal – as any other aspect of their operation. Nothing less than best practice is acceptable.

We have lined up contributors for this issue with that very goal in mind – to deliver a series of articles that reflect and pass on to readers the best in negotiating techniques and practices. Negotiating used to be much simpler, but much about it has changed. Once it was a win/lose proposition, but as contributor Steven P. Cohen notes, “Negotiation is no longer a competitive sport.”

We at the Ivey Business Journal are working on a number of projects that will enable us to get it right too. In this issue, we introduce a mechanism that will allow you to comment – and respond to others’ comments – on each article. We invite you to use this feature, which you will find on the first page of each article. In the end, we believe that your comments and the resulting dialogues will expand our knowledge and help us all improve the practice of management.