04 January 2011

Sun Zi Art of War-4: Appraisal & Prediction

Before we engage in a war, it is better to do a appraisal of the situation and make prediction as to the chance of winning, the associated costs and benefits. The mind-map below show the steps:



W E Deming, the Guru of Quality Control (actually, he is much more than that), says that management is about prediction (theory of knowledge). Management must be able to predict the outcomes accurately and hence showing his understanding of the working of the system. Management is also responsible for improving the performance of the system, not by meddling, but by understanding the profound knowledge of system, variation, psychology, and knowledge (ability to predict). (Do a Search on Deming's Profound Knowledge to find out more).

This is exactly what Sun Zi is teaching us - we must be able to predict the outcome before we decide. Prediction of outcome comes from careful analysis of facts from multiple factors and dimensions.

To Fight or NOT
Appraisal is done with comparison of relative strength. Recalling it is about knowing the enemy and knowing oneself. It is also about the interests of the Country and its people and is NOT about the Commander's ego or self benefits. 

History tells us a great number of stories of defeats due to Commander's ego or anger. One of Sun Zi's strategy is to anger the quick temper commander and thereby gains benefits against him. Hence, as a good commander, he must remain calm, objective and always have the interests of the nation at heart.
 
Continue to Improve One's Position and Strength
Appraisal does not end with a decision to fight or not but about continuing to  improve one's relative position and advantages. 

Sun Zi gives the steps for Appraisal:

  1. It starts with identification of factors of competitions, besides the 5 general factors and 7 measures, we must study into the specifics of this situation. He used the term "Dimension" and I extend it to include the common dimensions of time, space and properties of the present situation. 
  2. Once a factor(dimension) is identified, we need to decide a measure of it. Then we can measure its volume, or strength, in terms of how much or how many. 
  3. Certain factor is the combination of several sub-factors, then we need to compute the result. 
  4. Comparison with the Enemy's Computed Result will give us the conclusion to be drawn on the next step.
  5. Will we win against the Enemy? I think with should read Sun Zi's claim of Winning as a probabilistic measure, a measure of confidence level, rather than absolute. There are too much factors of variation to make a deterministic prediction for victory or defeat.

5 Principles of Victory 

They are clearly depicted in the mind map below:


Exhortation from the Experts

I wish to quote one of China leading Guru on Chinese Classic on Success & Failure. He said that the reason for failure is not lack of planning but lack of activities before the planning. What does he mean? He means that we need to do a lot of work to list our our assumptions and conduct survey and experiments to find out. Planning cannot be based on luck, dreams, and unknown. This is exactly what Sun Zi is teaching.  Sun Zi is an advocate of data and intelligence collections before planning or planning must be based on facts. Sun Zi has a Chapter 13 dedicated to Espionage for Intelligence collection.


Successful Entrepreneurs are in fact not risks taker or gamblers as commonly perceived, but are in fact risks minimizer. They identify the key assumptions for their business to be successful first and then conduct survey or experiment to validate the assumptions before taking the plunge.

next post: Sun Zi Art of War-5: The Principles for Good Strategies

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