01 January 2018

Actions For Your Planning - Gui Gu Zi's Wisdom#9 C7 揣篇 Appraisal

"Failures come not from lack of planning but from lack of actions before the planning", says Zhai HongSheng, Sinology Master of PRC. The GIGO (Garbage-In Garbage-Out) principle applies not just to computer science but to all activities as well.  All planning must begin with much effort in an appraisal of the situation. Not just the observable and measurable factors but also the intentions of the players. "Who has what" and more importantly "What are they going to do with what they have?". Learn more from Gui Gu Zi Chapter 7 揣篇 Appraisal of Situations & Intentions.
The Importance of Pre-Planning Actions - The Appraisal of Situation & Intentions

Most planning presentation comes with PowerPoint supported by charts and data in Excel Spreadsheet that misled us into wrong thinking that planning is about coming out with such presentation. We have also taken the easy way making assumptions and playing with What-ifs rather than going down to the fields to validate our assumptions and doing survey and investigations to collect actual data to feed into our model.

It is important for me to repeat the quote mentioned earlier:
  • "Failures come not from lack of planning but from lack of actions before the planning" ---- Zhai HongSheng, Sinology Master of PRC. 
Gui Gu Zi begins this chapter with such as a reminder:
  • Even if we have the virtues of the founding kings, the wisdom of the sages, unless we also know and do the appraisal of the situations, there is no way to predict and plan well.
  • Such is the foundation of any strategy and of persuasions.
  • The most difficult thing is to know before and acts before it happens. In short, a correct prediction is most difficult.
Do BOTH - Appraisal of Situation & Intentions

Most of us will tend to look at the observable things(more on what to look at later) when we appraise a situation. Who has what and how much and how strong they are. But we must add the "intentions" of people. It is the intentions that cause things to change. So Gui Gu Zi tells us:
  • Since the ancient time, those that know how to rule the world well must measure and compare the power in the world and study the intentions of the feudal lords. If one is not careful in examining the relative strengths, then one cannot know the balance of strong and weak. Not studying the intentions and relations of the lords, one cannot know the hidden dynamics of changes.
Static Comparative Analysis of Situations:

To discover the balance of power at a particular time.

  1. Resources Levels?
  2. Population Sizes?
  3. Needs - Excess or Insufficient? 
  4. Terrain Characteristics - Advantages & Harms?
  5. Strategic Plan for Long or Short Term?
  6. The relationships between King and Officers? Who are good & who are bad?
  7. Their Consultants intelligence and numbers.
  8. Seasonal Factors and Trends --- Disaster or Fortune?
  9. The Relationships with the other Feudal Lords, which can be used and which cannot be used?
  10. The morale of the population, secured or panic? What they like? What they hate?
  11. Do Reflections and Discernment.
To apply such wisdom in modern business, we need to do some mapping. Kings and officers can be mapped to the senior management of the major players in your market. Populations can be mapped to your potential customers. We can add in the typical factors PESTEL, which stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Environment and Legal, for the Seasonal trends. Relationships with other Feudal Lords can be the supply chains and partnerships of the major players. Sun Zi's Art of War has a shorter list of five factors and seven measures which concentrate on the fighting force. The five are Dao/Philosophy of Business, Seasonal, Terrains, Leadership, and Organization&Methods. We should use both together to get a better understanding of the forces at play and the balance of power.

Discovery the Hidden Intentions:

To discover the hidden intentions and dynamics that will cause changes, we can begin by careful observation of behavior. In modern terms, we learn to read the body language.
    The internal changes in hidden emotions will be seen in the external. Hence must always observe and discover in depth to know the inner hidden things. We can also test them. Some obvious ones will be:
  1. Happiness reveals Desires
    When they are happy, go to the extreme(by talking, following, encouraging them to do more) to bring out their desire. If there are any desires, they will show up.
  2. Fear leads to Hatreds
    When they are fearful, go to the extreme to find out what they hate. If there are any hatreds, they will show up. 
  3. Bring Change to see their reactions.
    The emotions will show under stress of change.
  4. If No Reaction - Then Ask the people close to them.
    Some people are very good at hiding their emotion. So we can ask people close them, and know what they are comfortable and secured with.
Techniques for Persuasion - Just One Principle:
Planning requires the analysis of relative powers. For persuasion, we must discover the intentions. Find out what their worry and desires. Then you can decide to honor or to despise, to emphasize or to lighten, to benefit or to harm, to succeed or to fail all with just one principle - find out his desires and use the right method accordingly to get his agreement and support.

One More Thing: The Process of Discovery Dialogues

Choose the right time for persuasion. Do only if there are benefits? Observe the movement of insects, it is either for gaining benefits or running away from harms, to ensure change for good. Making change is to improve one's position. So, beautify your words, write an organized article, and then have a discussion is the way to discover intention. 

In short, persuasion begins with pre-suasion.

Lim Liat (c) 1 Jan 2018


30 December 2017

Getting Agreement Despite the Differences - Gui Gu Zi's Wisdom#8 C6 忤合

Getting agreement despite the differences is the key to building large projects and maintaining good relationships. Here are the keys to mediation, facilitation and negotiation. Always keep the options open and relationship nice despite the disagreement at present because changes in situations over time may make an agreement possible. We learn such wisdom from Gui Gu Zi Chapter 6 忤合 Against & Agreement.
Converting Enemy to Friend
Sun Zi tells us that winning every time is not the best strategy! The best strategy is to win without a fight. There is no loss of men nor of resources.
  • Sun Zi 3v3 是故百战百胜,非善之善也;不战而屈人之兵,善之善者也。 Hence, hundreds of battles and hundred victories are the best of all. Without any battle and able to subdue the enemy is the best of all.
One way of doing that is to build yourself up such that you are so strong that all others are willing to follow and surrender to your leadership. Even so, you have to alert all the time because you don't know when you enemy may find the opportunity to attack you. So, a better way than that is to convert your enemy to friend. You win not by power but you win the heart of your enemy.

The Bible tells us a similar concept, love your enemy. By loving your enemy, you may gain his heart and he becomes your friend. You become the "More than Conqueror". (See The Meaning of "More than Conquerors")

Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 68 shows us the same concept of making friends out of your enemies as in The Utmost Winner - More than a Conqueror.

So you can see the better strategy is about making friends, getting agreements and support in the execution of the agreement. Here are the guides from Gui Gu Zi.

The Keys:
  1. Observe & Find the Fit in Changing Situations
  2. Plan with Purpose and Scope
  3. Consider the Interests of All Stakeholders
  4. Test and Discover the Match
  5. Know the Comparative Strengths and Weaknesses of Others and Ourselves and move accordingly.
1 Observe & Find the Fit in Changing Situations
  • Whether to break or to form a partnership, there is always a right way to do it. Hence find it and do it well. Always keeping the relationship nice even if there is a need to part away.
  • There are cyclical or serial changes, with each having their own characteristics and particularity, mutual dependencies, hence we have to plan accordingly to the situations. It is seldom one size fits all.
  • Here are the factors to watch out for:
    • how things meet together
    • to observe the seasons and trends. Is it the right time?
    • according to the sizes, should it be more or less? That's the scope too.
    • must know them before your planning and execution.
    • convert them to your benefits whenever possible. There is always opportunity in threats and risks in opportunity.
2 Plan with Purpose and Scope
  • In the world, nothing stays valuable and be dominant forever. With every change, there comes the opportunity or the threats.
  • The wise men never give all the time and yet he is seen giving all the time. How come? Give where the needs are. Giving without the needs are show-off and waste. The wise men never listen to all and yet seems to know all. They listen objectively and without prejudices and hence understand the key issues.
  • The can only be one objective. If you agree with this one you will disagree with another. There are always for and against. We can recall what Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love other... You cannot serve both God and money." So we must prioritize and pick the most important one as the objective and the rest as sub-objectives to serve the main objective. In Jesus' case, you use the money to serve God.
  • Decide the scope of your plan. Set boundaries and so you can plan for the right amount of resources and make sure no scope creeps in the execution.
  • Your plans must be sold to the top management and the people who are involved. So follow the principles taught in Chapter 4 Bait to Catch.
3 Consider the Interests of All Stakeholders
  • In the old times, those who were good at handling rebellions first get alliances across the four seas. They understand the grounds of objections and agreements of the feudal lords and innovate a new way for an agreement to be made.
  • A good book to read about this is Stephen Covey's "The 3rd Alternative". It is not mine nor your ways but the way that meets the needs and desires of all.
4 Test and Discover the Match
  • We can find out as much as we can about a person or a company. But eventually, the best way to know is to work with and for one. We need to take the time to do experiments first hand to find out. Gui Gu Zi cites two persons that took three to five times working for different leaders before finally making up their mind to be devoted to one. They found their match - agreement in mission and values.
5 Know the Comparative Strengths and Weaknesses of Others and Ourselves and move accordingly.
  • The methods of achieving success for others may not be applicable to you. It works for them but may not work for you. The reasons are simple. They are different from you and are in a different situation from you. There is no short-cut to success but the following are key factors:
    • Wisdom to manage. Learn and acquire as much as you can.
    • Think hard. The answer could not be obvious. It is good that it is not. Else others will know and do them already.
    • Study the Situations.
    • Obtain quality resources including the talents.
    • Know Others well.
    • Evaluate, Compare with Others in the Situations and make the right choice where your abilities become strengths and theirs become weaknesses. You need to find out whether you should advance or withdraw, to partner with this or that groups. 

Diversities make for not just an interesting world but also great opportunities to partner together to accomplish great things. Success in life is about knowing people and partnering the right ones against others in the right place and the right time. It is much better than trying win against them all the time. Hope you can benefit from this post and apply them in your partnership and as the needs arise, know how to facilitate, negotiate and mediate.

One more thing...
In this chapter, Gui Gu Zi added the responsibility of the wise sages. He names five:
  1. to build oneself up to be independent
  2. to manage and impact the world
  3. to teach others
  4. to speak out and promote
  5. to let the truth/wisdom to shine brightly
So after you have found the right way to work co-operative with others, please teach others to do too.

All the very best for a joyful New Year 2018

Lim Liat (c) 30 Dec 2017

Prev: Catching & Retaining Talents - Gui Gu Zi's Wisdom#7 C5 飞箝 Fishing
Next: Actions For Your Planning - Gui Gu Zi's Wisdom#9 C7 揣篇 Appraisal

After I shared this post on FaceBook, a friend pointed out the inevitability of competition and consequences of winners and losers.

I made the following reply:

Thank you very much for comments. It helps me to reflect on my post. 

Speaking very broadly, there are two kinds of mindsets, one believes in a fixed size cake and hence they concentrate on dividing the cake. The other one believes in enlarging the cak
e and hence spend time working with others to enlarge the cake.

In practice, Toyota works closely with their subcontractors, helping them technology, sharing their plans and schedules and have a much more efficient and effective supply chain. GM, on the other hand, believes in competition, lowest prices win and hence ends up with frequent changes in subcontractors, different ways of working etc. The result is obvious.

TRIZ, the Russian innovative methods adopted by leading MNCs says that innovation is about breaking contradictions, or in our terms, compromises. e.g. Speakers to have good sound must be big and heavy. XMI, a Singapore firm, break this compromise by coming out with their thumb-sized speakers Xmini, that can give good quality sound at a very small size. It becomes quite a success. It is something we thought our Creative Technology should have come out. But they are trapped by their belief in the physical contradiction of size and quality of sound.

Singtel and Starhub competing for the rights for FootBall sports program resulting in Singapore paying extra charges, compared with other countries so much so that the gov has to step in to stop such 'silliness' that sacrifice our people benefits.

In Sun Zi's Art of War, one of the five factors for winning is Unity from top to bottom. A strategy to destroy the enemy is "When they are closed, cause divisions and fight among them".

When we read the "Future of Management" from the western management gurus are about self-management, self-directed and “leaderless” organization. See e.g. https://www.zapposinsights.com/about/holacracy.