06 February 2016

Looking at s+b's "Creating a Strategy That Works" with Sun Zi's Mindset

PwC's Strategy+Business website has an article titled "Creating a Strategy That Works" that came out with Five Key Practices after studying 14 leading companies in various countries and industries. It pointed out how these five unconventional acts differ from the conventional business wisdom. These five unconventional wisdom supports the teaching of Sun Zi's Art of War. Furthermore, Sun Zi's Art of War provides a better framework and additional wisdom that demands our study.
PwC's Strategy+Business website has an article titled "Creating a Strategy That Works". It compared the conventional business wisdom against the unconventional acts of the leaders in the various industries and countries.  I like to examine such business strategic articles and books, e.g.  Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, or Managing in a Time of Great Change, against the teaching of Sun Zi's Art of War to see if the Art of War is still applicable to business and whether there are additional wisdom to be gained from both, the modern Western management thinking and the ancient Chinese wisdom.

Here the summary of the combined thinking presented in a mind-map format:


The main branches describe the unconventional acts with the conventional acts described under them. In the subbranches, additional remarks are added to give greater clarity.  Related quotations from the Sun Zi's Art of War Book are added.

For Point 4 Cut Costs to Grow Stronger, Jesus used the illustration of the pruning of a vine to convey the concept better, see Secrets of Organizational Success - Growing Vines.

Culture Easts Strategy for Breakfast

The Key Points of the Teaching is best summarized by a quote of Peter Drucker (at least commonly attributed to him) which is "Culture eats strategy for breakfast/lunch". It is not about not to have a strategy but rather has a strategy based on your identity of unique value contribution driven by the right culture. Having the right culture adopted by all as the foundation, it can handle the storms of all changes and come out winning. The identity and the right culture, usually described in the business literature as mission, visions and values, is also what Sun Zi called it as Dao 道, the Way or the Philosophy of the company. Sun Zi's put it as the #1 factor in his five factors of 道Way 天Heaven/Seasonal Trends, 地 Terrain/Markets 将Leadership 法 Methods. Using a solid unchanging foundation to handle all changes is a famous Chinese Stratagem of 以静制动 using the unmoved to manage the moving. This is also the famous Jim Collins Hedgedog concept. It reminds me of Jesus' parable of the "Wise and Foolish Builders"
  • “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” -  Matthew 7:24-27
The two key words are Jesus' Words and Doing them. They can be translated into modern business practices as the right Way (Sun Zi's Dao 道) and then adopting and execute them, which means the right culture. Culture is the actual values and behavior adopted by the people.

The most successful example of the adoption of the right culture, the mission and its practice, is Apple Inc. See What and Who has the Best Mission Statement?

As most management books only cover a subset of the total wisdom needed to run business well, it is my recommendation that we study Sun Zi's Art of war for a complete picture. My complete Sun Zi's Art of War framework for developing business strategies taken from one of slide in my Sun Zi courses, is shown below:



I hope you can see that modern management books are continue to support the teaching of Sun Zi's Art of War.  The Art of War gives a more comprehensive and condensed teachings on not only developing better winning strategy but also the leadership skills to execute them.

For more on Sun Zi, see Sun Zi and Other Strategists(Gui Gu Zi)

Lim Liat (c) 6 Feb 2016

21 January 2016

The Chinese Ways of Influencing People

Dale Carnegie wrote a best seller names "How to Win Friends and Influence People" back in 1936. Among the Chinese, there is a saying that was attributed to Confucius (only a subset came from him) about how to influence too. Here is an analysis of the saying.
The Chinese Saying on How to Influence People:
诱之以利,晓之以理,动之以情,胁之以威,授之以渔,绳之以法,导之以行,勉之以恒,持之以恒,学之以恒,行之以德,道之以德,齐之以礼,有耻且格。

The Translated English Version in mind-map:
The fastest and easiest way to get people to do what you want is to offer some benefits to him, typically gifts or money. In smaller way, it if about tipping. In bigger way it could be as bad bribery. It is quite typical in old Chinese times to give something to the man in charge to expedite your requests. It is like paying more for 1st class service. Such is usually not considered bribery in the Chinese society. However, in western world it will be, unless the service is classified into classes like the airplane tickets or hospital beds. 

The 2nd way is to touch the heart and go by relationships. Giving face, giving respect and honor are important to influence others. It is feelings before reasons. You need to earn the trust before you can be heard. This is like Stephen Covey 5th habit of seeking first to understand and then be understood. It is grace first before truth in the Biblical teaching. 

The 3rd way is the reasoning. Why should he or she do what you suggest. What are the benefits and what are the harms of not doing. 

The 4th way, if the above 3 ways still do not work, is to show your power or pull your rank as they say in the army. Because you are the boss, therefore he better listens. 

The 5th way, perhaps should be included in the 3rd way of reasoning, is to teach him how to fish besides giving him the fish to solve his immediate problem. This saying is repeated by Stephen Covey and others in their books as well. However, the Chinese saying goes a bit deeper. It is about motivating the person to want to learn about fishing in the first place. We have the saying of you can bring the horse to the pond but you cannot force the horse to drink.

The 6th way, if the all the above fails, is to bring out the laws. Using the laws for enforcement is usually the last resort for the Chinese. It is always best to start on friendly terms by giving respect and giving face. Even appealing to give and take, you help me this time and I will help in later times. We have the children story of the rat begging the lion not to kill him and later saves the lion from the net.

The remaining ways are methods to help the person to be better and stronger in character.  It is about (7) setting the example for others to see and follow, (8) encouraging the person to carry on and not to quit half way, (9) encourage people to change from inside out - building a strong character by soft motivation of drawing, appealing to social conscience, rather than outward enforcement by laws. Laws is effective in getting short-term adherence but is not effective in long term self-driven adherence. We don't steal not because we will be put in jail but because we are morally upright person. Even when there are no one watching, and no CCTV recording, we will not steal even if the easy opportunity arise. e.g. picking up lost wallets and returning to the owner.

The Carnegie's Methods:
For comparison and to complete the topic of influencing people, here is mind-map of 12 principles :
There is a more complete list at 

Which One to Follow? The East or the West?
There is no need to choose. Roughly speaking, the Chinese ways address the strategic issues, and the Carnegie's ways address the techniques. You should combine them and apply the right way according to the situation, the issues, and the personalities of the people involved. Such situational analysis first and tailoring to the specific of the people involved and affected is the mindset and way of the Chinese. It is the key and main teaching of Sun Zi's Art of War.  (See V Sun Zi and Other Strategists(Gui Gu Zi)

If you want to be winners, win friends and influence people, follow the teachings recommended here.

Lim Liat (c) 21-1-2016