11 April 2017

How to Manage Large Organization according to Sun Zi's Art of War

How to manage a large project or a large organization, or even a large church?

The answer also provides the explanation for a small organization that cannot grow big, i.e. how to scale up?

Divide and conquer is the typical suggestion. Break a large project into smaller manageable sub-projects.

That is half of the answer.

Do you want to know the full answer?

That is found in Sun Zi's Chapter 5 [兵势篇] 孙子曰:凡治众如治寡,分数是也;斗众如斗寡,形名是也;

Sun Zi said, "Managing many is like managing little, divide and count. Fighting many is like fighting little, shapes and naming.

Part 1 is well understood by all. Divide into small enough size to be manageable.

Part 2 is the key but often forgotten part. It is about communications. There must be a common language, of symbols and naming, and common vocabulary, to prevent misunderstanding, to gain agreement for effective co-ordination.

That is also the key design principle for multi-processors CPU. There can be many processors, common and specialized ones, but they must know how to communicate, coordinate, with the dividing and assignment of tasks, signaling of completion etc.

In any organization, besides the division of functions, there must also be the common vocabulary to link them together. That is found in your mission, visions, values, policies etc, now commonly known as the culture.

Do your managers and staff think alike? Do they have a common language? Please think about it and you can find the answers to build a better engaged and successful organization. The organization can act as one person as in 

7 军争篇《军政》曰:“言不相闻,故为之金鼓;视不相见,故为之旌旗。” 夫金鼓旌旗者,所以一人之耳目也。人既专一,则勇者不得独进,怯者不得独退,此用众之法也。
Chapter 7 Competing: Could not hear others speaking and hence use drums and gongs. Could not see one another and hence use the flags and banners. The gongs, drums, flags and banners are to unite the ears and eyes to that of one person. As the group acts as one, then the braves do not advance alone and neither the cowards withdraw alone. This is the way to manage a many.

Lim Liat (c) 8 Apr 2017
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