30 December 2010

Sun Zi Art of War-3: Health Check with 7 Measures

What is well known and yet need to be repeated often about management? Measurement. If you don't have a measure, then you are out of control. You become and get what you measure. Without measure, you don't know how you are progressing. Without targets, you can't tell whether you have arrived.  Because measure affects behavior, what and how you measure and what you do with the measured result had great impact on the behavior of people, it could be good or bad. So the measurement system itself need to be reviewed regularly. Here is Sun Zi's proposed Seven Measures explained in mind-map format:

  1. Top Leadership (The King) commitment to the Mission & Values
    1. Does the top embrace and practice the mission and values and thereby gain the following and commitment of his men, such that the men are willing to die for the cause (Factor 1 of 5 Warfare Factors). (Dao by itself could be translated as whether the Top has character that follows the righteous Ways. But in context, we had use Mission and Values instead.
    2. A lot of top leaders just talk and don't walk their talk and wonder why people are not following or trusting them. 
    3. It is common for consultants to find that their clients staff generally could not tell the mission and values of their companies that are written and published on their website and manual.
    4. How do we measure this? Not by measuring the Top leader's attributes but by measuring the outcome desired! Hence measures like employee satisfaction, staff turnover rates, ranking in top companies to work for, employees recommending others to join their companies, etc are the better to use.
    5. Personally, I feel that Top Leadership is responsible for the culture of the company. Hence, measures on culture and values are useful too.
  2.  Commanders - Capabilities
    1. Sun Zi tell us to measure this. For the measures, please see Sun Zi Art of War-6: Leadership Skills and Creating HPO.
    2. Capabilities required may be classified into general soft skill and specific domain skill needed for the jobs. Different strategic jobs need different skill sets, so we must come out with our system of measurements.
  3. Timing & Position
    1. These two factors are rated together. 
    2. Again, we must use output and outcome measures. So we could use measures like cycle-times, delays (with respect to plan, with respect to competitors).
    3. Right position and timing should produces good revenues for us and hence such financial measures are useful too. Cost savings or over-runs are useful as well.
  4. Laws (Policies) Implemented?
    1. Implemented can be measured in stages:Drafting, Written, Communicated, Enforced. 
    2. We can measure the content (quality and depth of the laws) and also the extend or how widespread in the organization, are they being enforced.
  5. Work-Force Strength
    1. Strength can be measured in Capability Level and Size (no of people).
    2. A good measure is Readiness Measure - the number and type of skills have divided by the number and type of skills required.
    3. Work-force's productivity is enabled by the productive assets like machines, methods, materials, environment, and measurement(instrumentation) (6M). Hence, I included them here.
  6. Work-Force Training
    1. Are the work-force skills set being continuously improved. Is there a program to ensure this is so. How many and what are the scope of the exercises that are carried out by the men? Exercises are reviewed and improved. Our soldiers do that regularly so what about our employees.
    2. Training need not be formal. It is best to create a Learning Organization for self-learning to ensure the man and the organization learn over time.
  7. Rewards & Punishments
    1. Are there rewards and punishments systems? 
    2. Do they support the enforcement of the Laws/Policies or do they go against them?
    3. Are the system clearly understood by the workforce?
    4. Are they fairly and transparently enforced? Do the workforce trust the system? Untrusted incentives system create suspicion, fear and cheating. 
    5. Most people are very suspicious of measurement system, especially when they are used for incentive systems. There are proper way to do them.
What are Missing?
What do you think are the Measures that are missing from Sun Zi's Art of War? Take a look at the Singapore Quality Award System Business Excellence Framework fig 1. It covers Leadership(Driver), System of Planning, Information, Processes, People, Customers, and Outcome of Results, in an environment of Learning & Innovation. 

In the mind map I listed down weapons and other assets and customers. Assets could be included in the workforce strength. A key element missing is CUSTOMERS. One can argued that it is included in the Timing and Positioning. That is so because I change terrain to positioning with creates the concept of marketing position with reference to the customers and to the competitors. This missing is because Sun Zi is about Warfare whereas business is a Love-affair with Customers that I stated in the post of this Sun Zi Series. 

For the seven measures, six are internal and only one Timing and Positioning is external. In the war, timing is about weather, seasons and positioning is about terrain. In business, we will extend it to mean customers desires/satisfaction, market trends, relative positioning to competitors and the macro factors PESTLE (Politics, Economic, Social, Technology, Environmental and Legal)

Got Strength or NOT?
Our strength or lack of, should be measured in the eyes of the customers, relative to our competitors'. Hence, Sun Zi is emphasizing that we need to know both, our competitors and ourselves in order to ensure success. Knowing oneself alone has a 50% chance of success. Not knowing either is sure to fail.

What is Your Company's Health?

1. Can you come out with 7-10 measures for your organization (Remember to include one for CUSTOMERS). 
  • For customers, to just measure satisfaction only. Studies show that satisfied customers behavior just like unsatisfied customers; only those are highly satisfied will be loyal. So it is better to measure Net Promoter Score. 
2. What is Your Score? What are the areas of strength and weaknesses?
3. Pick a key Competitor, do one about him, or better, ask your customers to do one about him.
4. How do you compare against him?
5. What actions should you be taking? About your strengths and not just about fixing weaknesses.

Update 2 May 2013
A typical error in quoting Sun Zi is "知己知彼,百战百胜".
The phrase in 3:6 and 10:5 is "知彼知己, 百战不殆;知天知地,胜乃可全。”
There are 3 key errors:
  1. Order. Know our enemy first and then we can compare ours against the enemy. Most people look  at themselves to claim their strengths and weaknesses. That is incorrect. Our strengths or weaknesses can only be determined in comparison with the enemies that we are going to fight with and with respect to the theater and timing of our operations. Strengths and weaknesses should be determined from the external. In business, the external are competitors and customers, the markets, industries, and locations that we operate in.
  2. Not Win every time but Not Loose every time. It is a secured position but need another two factors to ensure a win every time.
  3. The Two More Factors: Know the Heaven & Earth - i.e. The Right Timing and the Right Terrain to take advantage of.
Next post: Sun Zi Art of War-4: Appraisal & Prediction

BVOTECH Copyrighted 2010

28 December 2010

Sun Zi Art of War-2: How to Manage the Five Factors Well

Continuing with  Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Tzu) in One Minute the details for the 5 factors are shown in the mind map below:
You can see that Sun Zi explained its terms well.

The first factor is Dao 道 which stands for the The Right Way literally. But from his explanation, I feel the use of the word mission, the cause, and the values one belief in are more appropriate translation. The mind-map note without the orange box reference is my added commentary its application in business and management. All organization must begins and exist with a meaningful mission - the reason for its existence and the value that it brings to the society.

Second is Tian 天  Heaven or Sky + Timing, Seasons or Dimension of Time
Sun Zi explained that the SKY means weather, day or night, cold or hot, seasonal changes. From other parts of his book, I find using trends and timing are appropriate. Chinese traditional teaching on warfare uses 天时地利人和, literally means Heaven-Time, Terrain-Advantages and People's harmonious support.

Third is 地 Terrain or Position or Dimension of Space
The terrain, the shape, size, depth etc has great effect on the strategies to be chosen. Sun Zi in fact spent a few more chapters to describe the different types and how to exploit them such as in Chapter 10 Terrain and Chapter 11 Nine Terrains.
For modern day business, terrain could refers to where the market is. It could be better to use it as the positioning of our offering, with respect to our target market and competitors' offering.

Fourth is 将 Commanders or Managers or Leaders
Sun Zi tells us the specific qualities to look for in our commanders - wisdom, integrity, compassion, bravery and discipline. Values are to be balanced - we need compassion and compassion must be balanced with disciplined. Intelligence is needed but it must be balanced with integrity. There is nothing more dangerous than talents without integrity.

Sun Zi also gives us the hiring and firing principle - hire those who share the company' 道 Dao, cultures and values (implied by your order and plan) and fire those who do not match the company's culture and values.

Decisions making are to be based on facts and evaluated objectively. Follow those that bring benefits, increase our posture, gain public support. Sun Zi is against using the company resources to advance one's personal goals and gains. Look for leaders than can put company's and others' interest above their own selfish gains.

Sun Zi also tells us how to allocate authorities according to the strategic contribution of the positions. Giving the right power to the key positions creates strength. We are then left with finding the right people to fill the key positions. How to do that is given on the next factor.

Fifth is 法 Laws + Order
The organization must have openly stated and understood laws and policies on telling people
  1. what are the right and wrong things to do. 
  2. What is the promotion system and how does one get promoted. 
  3. What are the strategic jobs.
I added a reference from 10:4 to give a balance (Sun Zi, or Classical Chinese Thinking, is always about balanced). It is not Laws without compassion. 10:4 exhort the leaders to treat their men as their own children; to love them but not to spoil them.

Application To Your Business - 10 Questions for Your Review
With these five factors in mind, can you review your company situation?
  1. Consider your company mission, are they meaningful and motivating? 
  2. What values are key to accomplishing your mission? 
  3. Are those values institutionalized into policies? 
  4. Do you have corresponding incentives and discipline systems to enforce those key values? 
  5. Are your offering leading, riding, following, or outdated by the market trends?
  6. Is your offering position well? 
  7. How are you organized ? 
  8. Can you tell which are the strategic jobs? 
  9. Do you have the right people in those key jobs? 
  10. Are those key jobs given the right authorities to make those key decisions? 
This is a first cut for your organizational health review.

Sun Zi tells us more in the next post Sun Zi Art of War-3: Health Check with 7 Measures.

BVOTECH copyrighted 2010

Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Tzu) in One Minute

Sun Zi's Arts of War is so famous that need little introduction. Many translations and applications to business are available. In Business as War is Half the Truth, I presented business is more a love affair with customers than a war between competitors. Customers are the prime concern with competitors as reference for the customers. But since it is a book not just about warfare, but about creating an organization that is agile and powerful, we need to pay much attention to it.

The book was very well written and organized. It started with an overview and then expand the points in greater details later. It is a book that explains itself. It gave terms and then explain what the terms mean and then how to apply them. It clearly shows the system mindedness of the author. 

If there be a shortage of time, one just needs to read the first chapter (there are 13 chapters) on planning. It gives the complete overview and the main strategy of war. I summarized the book in the following mind-map.

Overview of Sun Zi's Arts of War
Because my English translation may not capture the full meaning of the original Chinese, I keep the original Chinese text for comparison by those who know the language well. In the mind-map above, the orange color box with R: x:y represents the Chapter x and Verse y of the original text so that reader can quickly find the original verse or chapter to read for himself.

Warfare is a matter of utmost importance as it affects the survival of the country. It is divided into 4 main parts:
  1. Five Factors to manage well.
    1. Mission & Values (Leadership and Organization) or Philosophies or beliefs.
    2. Seasons, Trends and Timing. The opportune time.
    3. Terrain or Positioning.
    4. Commanders (their qualities and capabilities) i.e. Leadership
    5. Laws or Policies i.e. the methods and processes.
  2. Appraise, or audit, or do a health check on Seven-Measures.
    1. The seven measures are related to the five factors. It is the extent and success of the five factors and the morale and capability of the men. More details are given in mind-maps that follow.
    2. This scoring or assessment system is like the Singapore Quality Awards or Deming Awards.
  3. Appraise the Situation by looking at the measures, and make a comparison with the enemies' so that we can arrive at a conclusion on the probability of winning.
    1. Individual scoring is of not much use. It must be compared against the scores of our competitors (the enemies) to reveal our relative strength or weaknesses and then deriving the right strategies. 
    2. This is like doing the SWOT analysis well - deriving strategies to ride on the opportunities, overcome or convert the threats into opportunities.
    3. A key principle is to know the enemy/competitors and to know oneself.
  4. A list of Good Strategies and tactics.
    1. Sun Zi tells us the main strategy of war against the enemy is by surprising the enemy, and this is main achieved by deception. Deception is achieved with the "Invert" operator. Making strong look weak; weak to appear strong etc (Sun Zi provides quite a list. See Sun Zi Art of War-5: The Principles for Good Strategies ).
    2. Sun Zi also covers the strategies exploit the five factors above.
    3. There is not one right strategy or a fixed pattern for all situations. The KEY is to be agile, flexible and adaptable to exploit the situations.
    4. In addition, there are strategies in the use of fire (in today terms, may be artillery or air raids) and the use of spies (espionage) to collect intelligence and to give false information to misled the enemy.
Sun Zi stresses a lot on planning before action. Planning that are based on facts, situations, intelligences on the enemy, and then try to gain advantages over the enemy. Early probing and careful planning provide decisive committed action at the right time and place to gain a win in the shortest possible time. Posturing of Power 势(accumulation of strength) and then a decisive control 节 release at the right time is key to early success.  Lack of power or releasing too early or late are bad.

More details on Sun Zi's Art of War will follow in future.

  1. Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Tzu) in One Minute
  2. Sun Zi Art of War-2: How to Manage the Five Factors 
  3. Sun Zi Art of War-3: Health Check with 7 Measures
  4. Sun Zi Art of War-4: Appraisal & Prediction 
  5. Sun Zi Art of War-5: The Principles for Good Strategies
  6. Sun Zi Art of War-6: Leadership Skills and Creating HPO
If you are interested in knowing the Art of War and the Bible, please see

Copyright of Bvotech 2010

21 December 2010

Yin-Yang Thinking Framework - Innovative and Critical

There are two basic thinking framework that I find very useful.

The first is the popular 5W1H framework or Why, What, When, Who, Where and How. When I encounter an issue, I will start with finding the answers for the 5W1H. (See The Basic Thinking Framework 5W1H).

The other powerful thinking framework is the Ancient Chinese Yin-Yang framework (from I-Ching). (note: A more comprehensive innovative thinking method is BVITS).

Yin-Yang Thinking Framework
To a Chinese, the Yin-Yang concept is ingrained in his thinking. For a healthy body, there must a balance of Yin and Yang. Yang relates to masculine and Yin relates to famine. Foods are classified into Yang (heaty), Yin(Cooling) and Neutral (Balanced) types. Fried foods are heaty, the Yang type. Most fruits are cooling, the Yin-type. If the body is too heaty, then one needs to take the cooling food staff like fruits, or tea (most common type).

Such Bipolar Yin-Yang Concept provides a good thinking framework.  Here is a mind-map:

Bi-Polar Concept - Opening Up the Options

Any thing or event can be viewed from multiple angles. There should be at least 2 extreme points of view if not more. There is no one right answer. It depends on the situations, timing and the people involved. For any property, we can find the two extremes. Physics tells us there is the particle and its anti-particle. For every force exerted there is a reactive force in the opposite direction. Light is a wave and is also a particle. This is the yin-yang concept. We can push, or we can pull. We can move, or we can stop. We can start-stop endlessly over time. In the mind-map above, I classified the yin-yang framework into 4 categories of force, time&motion, space&properties and character values. By going through them, it opens up lots of options that we can choose.

Invert - The Power Operator for Innovation
With the Bi-polar concept, we can easily come out with the invert operator. For every idea, we can ask what, the opposing idea, the mirror image or the switched idea is. All the creative thinking methods that I have studied always have this invert operator.

Balanced - Range - Intensify - Extremities
The Yin-Yang concept does not just have 2 extremities or two poles. Discretely speaking, there is the balanced , mid-point or neutral position. It is actually tri-states, Yin, Yang and Neutral/Balanced. But why should we be restricted to discrete values only? We can have a range of values. If we have a range, then we can intensify, increase the value, of the parameters, even to the extreme points in either direction. Thinking like this open out a big wide range of possibilities. We need not stop at a dimension but have multiple dimensions too.

Win-Win for All
There is not need to be forced into an either or position. We can move into a position where we can have the best of both worlds. That is the true objective and spirit of innovation - never a compromised but a break-through. Breakthrough can be achieved over the I-Ching teaching of time and position(space), properties and people.

Cyclical Movement of Yin and Yang
On its own, things progresses in cycle. What goes up must come down. The cyclical change of states tells us that we need to monitor the changes and proactively take actions to prevent, resist, delay (the yang way) or just follow and ride on the trends (the yin way). In whatever phase of an economic cycle, there are always winners and losers. We just have our mind set to be alert and prepare to convert the threats (yin) into opportunities(the yang).

Hope that our mindset is opened with possibilities with the Yin-Yang thanking framework.

Read about a more basic thinking framework in The Basic Thinking Framework 5W1H.

Update Personal Moral Character Yin-Yang  23 Jul 2011

From Chinese Classics 《说苑·敬慎》 (Lesser Known than Lun Yu):


Confucius said,
"At a height yet can come down to the low,
full and yet as if empty,
rich yet is thrifty,
honorable yet is able to be humble,
wise yet as if dump,
bold yet as if fearful (and hence cautious),
different yet can accept,
has great depth yet as if shallow (able to make complex thing simple to understand),
bright and yet can be dark (not showing off, overshadowing others).
This means one can be less and not go to the extreme.
Those who could do this must those that have high moral character.
I-Ching says "Not wanting to sacrifice and only to gain will result in loss.
Giving of oneself instead brings great gain."

Lim Liat copyrighted 23 July 2011

Yin Yang vs Dualism vs Delectics

Yin-Yang is different from Dualism or Delectics in the following ways:

1. Yin-Yang comes from the same Dao.
Yin and Yang are but two opposite attributes of the same thing. They are the two sides of the same coin. The head is yang, and the tail is yin. The ancient Chinese use the palm of the hand as an illustration.

2. Yin Yang cannot exists without the other.
Yin is defined according to the Yang and Yang according to Yin. Yang cannot exists without Yin or if Yang exists, then Yin must exist.

3. Yin and Yang are Complementary.
Dualism and Delectics(thesis and anti-thesis) are in opposition against each other. Yin and Yang complement each other to create the proper balance for the growth of the whole. They are harmonizing forces rather than confrontational. Yin does not overcome and remove the Yang or vice versa. They are there for each other. In fact, there is Yin in Yang and Yang in Yin because they come from the same source. They are the attributes of the same entity.

So in Marxist' Delectics where there are the conflicts of employers and the employees and the eventual overcoming of employees over employers. In Yin-Yang mindset, employers and employees exist for each other ---- for the survival and the growth of the company. Employers are in someway the employees of the Company. Employees are in someway the owners of the Company. Each has its role to play out for the benefit of the whole Company. Each sees the contribution of the other and value the other, working at his best, to serve each other, for the shared ownership of the company.

Just read this from FaceBook friends:
Yin-Yang is one cannot exist without the other.
Vision without action is a daydream.
Action without vision is a nightmare.

Lim Liat (c) 14 Oct 2013

13 December 2010

10 Pointers for Coaching/Teaching

While searching through the net, came across a good article on "10 Pointers for Self-Discipline". It was written to the teachers and is in Chinese.  I think it applies to being a good leader in coaching or a good parent as well. Hence, I just summarize the main points as follow:

We must use our love, patience and sincerity to treat every student. Education is a science. Developing people is a fine arts. The ten pointers are (my version, not a literal translation):
  1. Concern for the Total Man. Not only about the student study performance, but also his emotions and moods.
  2. Give students time to change - step by step. They can't change immediately.
  3. Changing mindset and behavior needs patience, lots of patience. Mindset and behavior are like floods water. Blocked it and it rises higher and increases the pressure to overflow. The only way to release the pressure is to channel them to the right ways and it takes lot of patience.
  4. Everyone is a pearl inside a shell. It is the teacher job to help open the shell and let the pearl shines forth. Don't be prejudiced against anyone.
  5. Criticizing them openly in the class will only build up their rebellion against the teacher.  Be stingy in use of criticisms. Don't jump to conclusion too quickly. Don't ever be proud and contented to point out the lies of a student.
  6. Being strict in discipline is good. But too finding of faults is not good education. Sometimes, you need to learn of the arts of muddiness. 
  7. Good result comes from good learning style; a good learning style comes from a good class atmosphere, a good class atmosphere rise from the uprightness and it comes from good class leaders.
  8. Show more tolerance those that make mistakes. Be objective and fair. Address the issue and not attach the person.  Protect his self-esteem. Give time and opportunity for correction. Promote student self-reflection.
  9. Harsh education system produces impatient students. Reprimanding education produces obedient yes-only student. Opened, people-centered education produces students that can think independently and with insights.
  10. Students can accept teachers' criticisms and corrections. What they can't stand usually is the methods of criticism.

10 December 2010

Levels of Leadership - Can We Measure Leadership?

This is copied from my bvotech/blog Levels of Leadership – Which Level are Yours?

In there a way to measure how good a leader are we? In the typical maturity model (like CMMI for software or system integration development), there is a rating of 1 to 5 with 1 meaning non-existence or ad hoc, 2 for managed, 3 for defined, 4 for quantitative managed and 5 for optimizing. That is probably a good measure for a process, or process-control to be more precise. What about this more intangible things called “Leadership”? How do we measure the quality or level of leadership.

Leadership is about leading and managing people to accomplish a mission together.

Achievement of the mission is the outcome measure of the team – leader + the people/followers. What about just the leader alone? How do we measure him besides the outcome measure of goals accomplishment. We are left with the other key parameter – the people or the followers. What do the followers think of their leader? This was in fact what Lao Zi did, writing in about 2600 years ago in Dao De Jing Chapter 17.  Below is a mind-map of the Chinese and the English translation:

If we go by Level 0 as no leadership, or not a leader, then we can based on Lao Zi’s rating and come out with the rating as follows:
  1. Level 1: Not a leader. May be a competent individual or worker.
  2. Level 2: A leader that is despised and hated by his followers.  Lao Zi explained that such leader lack integrity. The followers do not trust him. This is likely that such leader tries to lead them by spinning stories and telling them lies. He lead them by hiding information, distorted stories, hiding truth and try to manipulate them through their lack of knowledge. It may work for the short term but the people found out the truth.
  3. Level 3: A leader that they feared. The leader rules  by strict laws and punishments. He rules by creating fear.  Follow me exactly or else. He is likely the behavior of an autocratic leader.  His model of people is Theory X – people are lazy and need to be forced to work hard.
  4. Level 4: A leader that people love and honor and praise. This is a leader that show concern for his followers and take good care of them. He is also a leader with wisdom that do things productively, rightly and fair gaining the respect and praise of his followers. He probably practices situational leadership and servant leadership.
  5. Level 5: A Invisible leader that no one know! This is because the people thought that they accomplished the mission by themselves! Or they accomplish the mission together. The credit belongs to no one but everyone in the team! The leader does not see the accomplishment of the team as more important than himself. He just want to see the mission accomplished and the team succeeds. Once mission is accomplished, he does not fight for rewards or credits but give the rewards to his people. He step down and step out quietly.  This is the principle of Lao Zi’ of  Self-directed team or “Non violating the Way/Dao Action management” 无为而治.
How can one be an invincible leader? (updated by liat 20 Nov 2015)
  • Give them a mission-vision-values that they can believe in and adopt as their own. They will naturally try to achieve the vision without being forced to. This belief, the philosophy is the Dao, the 1st factor of Sun Zi's Art of War 5 factors.
  • Forsee and prevent the problems that may arise. Because there are no problem, people will never be aware about it. Leadership is taken for granted. 
  • Do not demand or fight for credits and rewards. Pass to able hands and leave when the mission is accomplished.
  • Giving the resources, set up the infrastuctures, the operating procedures that enable the people to work together effectively. They follow the system and forget about the leaders that make all these possible in the first place.
We are see the progress, from non-leader, lousy leader (despised and hated), fearful leader, loved and honored leader and self-directed or self-managed team (invisible leader).

How productive is such team?
  1. No leadership is a gathering, may be social, that does not accomplish any mission (no one set the mission).
  2. Bad leadership do not accomplish much, may be continued the loss-making.
  3. Fearful leadership accomplish mission with minimum standard.
    The people, due to fear, do the very minimum to satisfy the standard requirements. Why? Because any attempt to do new things may end in mistake. Any such mistake will be heavily punished. Hence, it is better for people to do as little as possible to minimize mistakes. This kind of leadership may still work well in situations and processes that are stable and well known. However, in situation of changes, such leadership and method will fail.
  4. In this world of knowledge and conceptual economy, of increasing complexity and increasing pace of change, the knowledge to do things well does not reside in a few people, whether the chairman, CEO or COO, by every where in the organization. It is better to consolidate and aggregate the wisdom of everyone in and even without (the customers, the suppliers, partners etc) to define the strategies and work together to accomplish the mission and vision of the organization. This present world needs the leadership of level 4 Honored Leader and 5 Invisible Leader to succeed, especially in the long run.

It may be good to compare with Jim Collins (‘Good to Great’ Book Author) Level 5 Leadership.

The levels are:
Level 1 Capable Individual
Level 2 Contributing Team Member
Level 3 Competent Manager – Organizes people and resources to achieve predetermined objectives.
Level 4 Effective Leader – Motivates people to achieve a clear compelling vision with high performance standards.
Level 5 Executive – Humility+Will Power to accomplish great and lasting missions with people.

Jim Collins has the additional descriptions for the Level 5 Leader:
  • Face the facts and handle the realities. Do whatever is right and needed. Stick to Core Values.
  • Right person on the bus in the right Seat and Wrong person off the bus and set the direction.
  • Hedgehog perseverance to be the Best =Passion of People + What Organization Best at + Its Best Economics
  • Culture of Discipline = Disciplined People, Disciplined Thought, Disciplined Action.
  • Use of Technologies as Accelerators
  • Flywheel – build up from small and increases to breakthrough.
  • Core Values: Focus on Organization, People, and NOT self. Be Ethical.
  • Succession Planning for creating Lasting Organization
The qualities of Jim’s Level 5 Leader is like Lao Zi Level 4 The Loved and Honored Leader.  It is close to Lao Zi’s Level 5 The Invisible Leader. The Ancient Chinese Classics has also much to say about Leadership and cover much greater depth than the Level 5 Leadership. It is summarized in “内圣外王” -  A Saint within will make a King without. Great leadership comes from a strong inner character and wisdom. I will cover this more in future. A short post with the Christian perspective is in How to be King.

Lim Liat (c)

See also The Simple 4 Dimensions Measure of Leadership Quality

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Moral Laws are for the Sinners says Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 18
More:Ancient Chinese Wisdom

08 December 2010

The Right Way to Consult I-Ching

This post is reproduced from my bvotech.com/blog on the same topic.

Alternative titles: How to use i-Ching or Yi Jing rightly.

To the common people, I-Ching (Book of Change, YiJing) is a book of divination. Hence, their way of consulting I-Ching is by casting a lot, or more accurately, drawing a stick. In ancient time, it is about drawing of straw. To those who know about I-Ching, it is not a book of divination and it is not about luck. It is about handling changes and ensuring good outcomes. See I-Ching in One Minute for Abundant Life.

The Random Method
Ancient Chinese had a relatively complex process of casting the lot. To me, they were just trying to ensure they had a good random number generator. With availability of computer, we can generate a random number easily. If we don’t know where to start, it is easy and good to start randomly anywhere. Here is one random Hexagram generator. Go the site and click on the cast button. You will get a starting hexagram number in the pink button. Clicking the button will bring you to detailed description of the hexagram and its stage lines. If you click cast, you will get another hexagram. That says much about the divination method.

The Right Method
To consult I-Ching, we need to have a situation or problem at hand. In I-Ching, the context (of the situations, the players, environment …), timing and positions are key parameters. Let take a typical issue to start with. I was impressed today with William Ury Ted Talk on Conflict Resolution and Mediation. Please watch the video to see his recommended method of conflict resolution. I am curious, if I consult I-Ching, will I come out with some good answers on conflict resolution and mediation. So, this is how I will seek the wisdom of I-Ching on conflict resolution.

The Computerized Tools
I teach courses on Creative & Visual Thinking Methods, Creating Learning Organization and Knowledge Management. Hence, I capture the knowledge of i-Ching using mind-map tools. I have them in Freemind, Mindjet’s MindManager, and Personal Brain formats. Freemind or its fork Freeplane are good and FOC open source software. Mind-map are more tree-like and are good for organizing and presentation of concepts. Personal Brain is a very interesting network concept-map. It is great for linking concepts but is a bit of a challenge to layout the linked concepts in presentation. It provides tags and hence is great to search and look for related information. Working with computerized tools allow quick search and retrieval, organization and update of knowledge.

Consulting I-Ching About Conflict Resolution & Mediation
If we know i-Ching, we can straight away recall that there is precisely a hexagram that talk about conflict. It is hexagram 06 訟 Litigation – Conflict Resolution.
The main description reads “integrity and honesty are withhold, need to be watchful and stay with the middle-path/balanced of justice is good. It says litigation has bad ending. Good to have people with influence and power on your side. It is no good to start big project“. You can quickly jump to the summary and detail lines to gain additional wisdom. I will just reproduce them below for you:

Summary on 6 Litigation:
Litigation consumes resources and is bad for relationship. It is best prevented by having a detailed plan, covering all possible scenarios and provide settlements clauses for them. The clearer and more foresighted one can be, the lesser the need for a litigation. For partnership, please include an exit-clause.
Nevertheless, when we execute, some misunderstanding and disputes could arise. The stage-lines give us additional wisdom to handle them.
1. Settle it Quickly even with small losses.
2. Flee: If you don’t have a case against those who sue you, then give in. Re think your strategies and business.
3. Get Support, from your past good work, network, reputation, advices of elders.
4. Follow uprightness.
5. Get a fair and wise Judge.
6. Watch out – Winning on a bad foundation is loss.

How’s that for a start? It tells us not to take up litigation to resolve issue. It is better to go for mediation. The reason we have conflict is because of differences. Mediation is about resolving of differences. Searching for differences in my mind-map or through using of tags, I can find another Hexagram 38睽 Deviation– Synergy of Differences. The description say that in small matter, differences is good. In the commentary, we know differences are good when they are resolved. I reproduce the teaching below:

Summary of 38睽 Deviation:
We are created to be unique and different from each others. We need to excel in our unique strengths and not to be like others. We need to share the common goals for the higher whole of which we are all parts of. Synergy is of differences and not sameness. Unity is common goals with different and committed people.
Wisdom from the Stage Lines:
1. Different views help prevent mistakes. It is good.
2. Sharing the same objective and values will be sufficient for unity.
3. Get a Strong Mentor to break impasse due to in fighting.
4. Build relationship with prominent people based on integrity.
5. Achieving group co-operation of complementary strengths brings celebration.
6. Deviation brings loneliness. People with different views are not against us but for us. Strength comes from putting the right talents to the right jobs.

After reading this, perhaps we can see that differences are not just bad per se. We need to re-frame our mindset – Differences could be good. The key is to create common and shared goals. How can we do that ?Sharing goals leads us to 13 同人 Companionship – Same Hearts for Teamwork.
How can we build good relationship? Building good relationship leads us to 08 比 Union – Relationship Building and to 58兑 Lake – Joy of Togetherness.
If each hexagram gives us 8 lines of wisdom, we have now walk through, from 6-Litigation, 38-Deviation, 13-Companionship, 8-Union and 58-Joy of Togetherness, 5 hexagrams or 40 lines of wisdom. Hopefully, that is enough pointers for us to resolve differences and enjoy the joy of togetherness.

What about My Business and Entrepreneurship?
I have already done that with The S-Curve & Bell Curve. All you need to do is to determine which stage of growth is your business in and than look up the relevant hexagrams for wisdom. A complete list is here. If you are just starting out, then refer to [1-starting] in the mind-map diagram and look up 03 屯 Sprouting – Starting is hard, 04 蒙 Naive – Learning, and 05 需 Needs – Wait for the Right Time. If your business is highly successful and it at its peak, then learn the wisdom from [5 Peek Success] and look up the list of hexagram listed such as 11泰 Great-Vibrant Flow, 14大有 Great Possession, 16豫 Enjoying – Yet Prepared etc.

Hope you can find your needed answers in I-Ching.

13 November 2010

I-Ching in One Minute

Since I put my "Dao De Jing in One Minute" here, let me reproduce my "I-Ching in One Minute for Abundant Living" from my Bvotech blog here as well. It seems to me that posting in blogger got referred to more often.

I-Ching in a Few Words
Many people heard about i-Ching, the Book of Change, from the Chinese and want to know more about it. While it is a short book in the original Chinese language, it is highly codified and very rich in content. Here is an attempt to explain it in One-minute.
  • I-Ching in one word is “Change“.
  • It is clearer in two words, “Handling Change“.
In one sentence,
I-Ching is about using unchanging principles to handle change“.
It is about being able to meet life ever changing situations and handling them well and so able to live in stress free  abundant vitality.

The Unchanging Principles
  • They are based on the ways of working of Heaven and Earth and applying to men for living harmoniously and productively together.
  • It is righteousness based and middle-of  the way of dynamic balanced.  
  • The balanced position is not fixed but changes with time and the interactions.
  • It is integrative bipolar, yin-yang, interactive thinking like:

    • push - pull
    • hard - flexible/soft
    • quantity - quality
    • immediate - long term
    • start - stop
    • reasons - compassion
    • tasks - people
It is not ether A or B but both A and B in different degree. It is win-win innovative thinking.

The Change - Outcome Measure
To handle change, we must know how to measure the states of changes. What good or bad is. I-Ching outcome measures in most simplified form is either Good Fortune 吉 or Bad/Disaster 凶.
Good is defined as "harmonious flow of life of differences". Life is about vital interaction of differences and of not uniformity where there is no interaction. No interaction is dead. The key is Harmony not uniformity. It is very relevant to today world of globalization where different cultures interact to live in peace and harmony.

The Change - Situational Measures
The situation is observed is states (64 hexagrams, e.g. 04 蒙 Naive – Learning06 訟 Litigation, 36明夷 Darkening 11泰 Great-Vibrant Flow etc registration is needed.),  time and position. For timing, it is cyclical, going through 6 stages into another state. For the short term, timing is more important. But in the long term, it is the positioning that become more important in determining the outcome.

Handling Change - Be Flexible in Application of Principles
To handle change, we must know how to describe the state of a situation. I-Ching has 64 hexagrams to describe the main states. The two foundational states are 1 乾- Creative Heaven(all Yang) and 2 坤 Receptive Earth(All Yin). The other 62 states are various extent of interactions of the main Yin and Yang forces.
Handling is then the wise and adaptive applications of the principles to cause the change to move in the direction that one wishes. It is flexible application of principles and not one fixed rule to handle all situations.

You Are Responsible for Your Future
Contrary to the popular misunderstanding that i-Ching is a book about fortune telling, i-Ching tells you that you hold your fate in your hand. You are responsible for your own life. This is because the outcome of good and bad can be determined from our action according to the teaching of i-Ching. For a given situation, if i-ching tells you that doing this will bring bad result, then we should wisely take the heed to NOT do it and give a good outcome instead of the predicted bad outcome.

What if I know I should but I can't?
Many people fall not because they don't know but because they can't. We have the famous Bible word that "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak". We have a mind and also a heart. The mind know what is right. But the heart, the motivation, just can't bring itself to do it.  We can try to by reading, reminding, and meditating on the teaching of i-ching so that we can feel the goodness or badness if we don't follow the right moves. Otherwise, i-Ching does not provide you the will to follow or even learn of its teaching.

The Answer
The answer on the will and motivation is found elsewhere. I found it in the Bible.
The very description of the 'unwilling' problem:
  • Romans 7:18b ... For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. ![NIV]
The answer  :
  •  Rom 7:25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
The full passage is Rom 7:18-25.

Here is the mind-map that summarized the above:

Update 7 Feb 2012 i-Ching in One Minute with Chinese.
Revised 18 Apr 2012

To learn more, please see:

03 November 2010

The Tao Bible in One minute

The teaching of Lao Zi as written in Dao De Jing (or The Tao Bible) is easily misunderstood as passive, no action and let it be. Here is an attempt to share the essence of Dao De Jing in one minute.
For Dao De Jing references, a good website with Chinese-English-French translation is here. A recommended English translation is here. Another good site with Chinese & English translations of many Chinese Classics work is here.

Foundational Truth - The Way
This created universe has a universal way of working called the Dao (The Way). While this eternal way cannot be described fully (since our mind and language are limited and any observation and measurement will distort the original), nevertheless, we could observe its workings and see its wonderful glory: the abundance of lives and things in harmony. Dao De Jing itself was an attempt by Lao Zi to share it with us. Lao Zi's thinking follows much from the I-Ching teaching that preceded him. Even though many I-Ching commentaries were written by Ru Jia (followers of Confucius and Mencius), I think Dao De Jing captures the essence of I-Ching better.

Principal Teaching - Know The Way and Follow It will lead to Abundance & Peace
In Hebrew, there is a word that describes this abundance, peace, and harmony. It is the word, Shalom, meaning complete and translated as peace, prosperity, abundance, and harmony. I prefer the word harmony as peace tends to be taken as quietness and no movement. Harmony gives the ideas of powerful forces at work and yet synchronizes well and produces a great symphony.

The Corollary - Violating The Way will need much effort and still Ends in Failure
The working order of The Way (the Dao) cannot be violated without paying a price. We need great efforts and may have temporary success. But in the long run, we will lose the very thing that we tried to gain. Man learns it the hard way and never seems to learn the lessons. Wars after wars. Trying to outdo nature only results in a violent reaction from nature ending in global warming and weather distortions.

The Duality Mindset: Yin + Yang
The mindset is duality. Lao Zi used Yin and Yang only once in Chapter 42. He used Have and Have-Not more often. Other related words include Act and Rest, Hard and Soft, Seen and Unseen, and True Wisdom of Dao vs Worldly Wisdom (Selfishness, Short-cuts, Cheats, Lies to gain for self).

The Key Principles of the Dao-Way

The two main principles are "No-Action Action" 无为之为 and “Empty Heart” 虚心。

K1 - No-Action Action 无为之为 - Acting according to Dao-Way
A key principle in Dao De Jing is 无为 No Action. Most people think it means don't do anything or do nothing. The Chinese even have a famous phrase, 以静制动, not reacting to overcome actions. However, I think the real meaning of the 无为 No Action is the 'not violating the Way' type of action. It is not talking about doing nothing, but about doing things that do not violate the Way such as harming the natural ecosystem for selfish gains. The better translation for '无为之为' will be 'Action according to the Dao-Way' or simply "Action of Dao".

Doing nothing is just one of the many possible non-violating actions. Another way could be to channel the attacking energy back to the attacker. This is the concept of Judo. We have heard the phrase "giving him enough rope to hang himself". Lao Zi preferred the gentle approach, to draw out, to embrace, over direct confrontation with a stronger force. Chapter 36 柔 弱 胜 刚 强, the gentle overcome the hard and strong. Chapter 76 强 大 处 下 , 柔 弱 处 上 。 Strong and big occupy the lower ground but soft and gentle occupy the higher ground.

The wise men are encouraged to do 'no-action' action as written in Chapter 2 是 以 圣 人 处 无 为 之 事  行 不 言 之 教. They are to teach without words (i.e. teach by examples. The exhortation is not to teach, but to teach rightly, by being the model for others to follow). This teaching without words is repeated in Chapter 43.

Chapter 3 为 无 为 , 则 无 不 治 。 Do the non-violating actions and then there is nothing that cannot be ruled or managed.  It is about not forcing people to do certain things but creating the environment and facilitating them in such a way that the people do them automatically. Letting the people 自动自发 self-directed and self-motivated is the best.  When they are self-motivated, they will do them happily and do them with quality and excellence.  When people are forced, they will do them with anger and bad quality.

The working of the Dao Way is given in Chapter 37 道 常 无 为 而 无 不 为。 The Way always has no-violating action and is always active. This is repeated in Chapter 48. In Chapter 81 圣 人 之 道 , 为 而 不 争 。 make an example clear. The wise men act but without fighting (for self-benefits).

Chapter 16 不 知 常 , 妄 作 凶  shows the negative in action. Not knowing the constant Way and acting in recklessness will result in disaster.

Christians will paraphrase this "Always do the right things and no disobedient sinful acts“.

K2 Empty Heart - Humility
The other key principle is to have an empty heart. A heart without desires and prejudices. A good word for it is humility. But it is richer than what we would normally understand as humility. It includes the following:
  1. Not Knowing 无知 and hence always learning. Chapter 27 虽 智 大 迷 , 是 谓 要 妙 。Wise but appeared confused, this is because wanting to be wonderful.
  2. Not selfish 无 私 Chapter 7 非 以 其 无 私 邪 。 故 能 成 其 私 。 Not selfish and yet ends up receiving!. Chapter 13 及 吾 无 身 , 吾 有 何 患 。 Because I have 'no-body' (self) and hence I have no worry!.
  3. No Selfish Desire 无欲 Chapter 44 祸 莫 大 于 不 知 足 ﹔ 咎 莫 大 于 欲 得 。Disaster comes from not knowing contentment and sin comes from wanting to gain.
  4. Not Insisting on one greatness 不持: C2 功 成 而 不 居 Achieve success and yet don't claim credit. C77 是 以 圣 人 为 而 不 恃 , 功 成 而 不 处 , 其 不 欲 见 贤 。 The wise men do and yet don't insist on claiming success, not sitting on the success and not wanting to know the high-level people. C44 以 其 终 不 自 为 大 , 故 能 成 其 大 。 In the end not thinking about one's greatness and therefore is able to accomplish great things.
  5. Not Competing 不争. C8  ...水 善 利 万 物 而 不 争 ,...   动 善 时 。 夫 唯 不 争, 故 无 尤。 Chapter 8 describes Dao Way as water. Water supports living things and does not fight with them. Because I don't fight with others, trying to get ahead of them, and hence I have no regrets or faults.
    C81  圣 人 之 道 , 为 而 不 争 。 The Way of the Saints is doing and yet not competing (for credits or benefits) with others. Non-competing can be found in C22, C66, and C68 too.
  6. See also Yin-Yang Thinking Framework - Building Upon the Great Teacher on key teachings by Zhuang Zi, the 2nd most important guru of Dao besides Lao Zi. 化解自我,虚而待物
    Translated: Forget about oneself, handle things with humility and gentleness (as if empty).
Finally, Love or Kindness is the Way: Do it always without selfish motives

Lao Zi's active push for kindness is seen all throughout. The opposite of the Not selfish, Not fighting, No-Self-Desire, is LOVE or Kindness to others. There are quite a number of places where he stated it in the positive - do the kind thing. We have covered Chapter 8 above. Chapter 49 善 者 , 吾 善 之 ﹔ 不 善 者 , 吾 亦 善 之 ﹔ 德 善 。 We are good to all - those that are good to us and those that are not good to us. Chapter 63 show forth the power of love - transform badness into goodness. 为无为,事无事,味无味。大小多少,报怨以德。Do the things that do not violate the Way, doing things as if not doing (effortless work, no motives), bring out the taste from the tasteless, no matter big or small, and return hurts and harms with the virtue of love!

Chapter 67 says Love is the best and most powerful.

Doing the right things without selfish motivation, not claiming credits or benefits, and following the great universal Dao Way to bring vitality and harmony into the world is the heart of Lao Zi.  Let's follow them and benefit the world likewise.

Update 6 Dec 2011
Here is an updated mind map on the Tao Bible in One Minute. It provides additional information.

Lim Liat (c) 2011

30 October 2010

The Principles for Greatness: #4 Be Yourself & Leaving a Legacy

Continuing from previous post The Principles for Greatness: #3 Contented Yet Be Better,  this is the last pair of the phrases:
Not losing oneself will last. 不失其所者久。
Died and yet one’s legacy continues is long life. 死而不亡者,壽
Being True to Yourself – Don’t try to be Someone you’re Not

Becoming your true self is natural and is the easiest thing to do. Trying and pretending to be someone that we are not is tough and stressful. Hence, such acting cannot last long.  The first thing in life is to find out what we are good for.  In Christian world, it is called knowing your calling.  We are to believe that we are created for a unique purpose. This also means that we must recognize that will be things that we love to do and there will be things that we dislike or don’t do too well. People call them “Strengths” and “Weaknesses”. But we discussed elsewhere that strengths or weaknesses are known only in the context of requirement. The strength for a task could be a weakness for another task. We just need to accept the reality that we are not superman and we are limited. More importantly, it is OK that we are limited in some ways.
No one is measured on things he cannot do. We are all measured by what we do with ability and talents that we have and not what we don’t. In fact, we are most impressed by people who do things they they are not suppose to be able too. We are impressed by the man who play piano with his toes because he has no hand. The man without limbs live a life that impact more lives than we can do with ours. Don’t be upset by what you cannot do like someone else. They are built differently for a different purpose than you. You have your own unique calling for life.
In the famous Parable of Talents of Bible (Matthew 25:14-30) , both the 10-talent one who made 1o more and the 5-talent one are equally rewarded. Punishment went to the 1-talent one who did nothing with it but just bury it. Don’t be concern with what you don’t have. Try to do something with what you have. You will break free to become your true and useful self. Remember the following:
Focus and build on your strengths* and you become a champion. If you focus on your weaknesses* and if you do succeed, you are just a mediocre average!
Develop your strengths and manage** your weaknesses and you will become a champion.
*Strengths are things that you like to do. The more you do them, the more energized you got. Weaknesses are things that you hate to do. You try to avoid them and if you do them, you get stressed up, headache, and you don’t do well.
**Manage your weaknesses does not mean ignore them. You manage them by outsourcing or delegate them to others who love to do them for you.  Manage involves finding the reliable and right people to do the things you don’t like, delegating, motivating and communicating your needs.
By developing on our unique strengths and doing the things we like, the things we naturally do well, we will excel in them. The success motivates us to do more. Such work don’t tire us. They vitalized us. Hence, Lao Zi said that “Not loosing oneself, just be your true self, and it will last”.

Leaving a Legacy – Your Live On Forever
Not only we want to be our true self, we want to do meaningful and significant things with our uniqueness. We use what we have to impact the lives around us for good. Somehow in the depth our soul, we want to live on forever. While we may not live to see it (for true Christians, you can see it from Heaven), the impact of our lives live on: through the children we brought up, the institutions we built, the friends and relatives we connected with, and so forth. The key question in our mind tend to be, what is the legacy I leave behind?
This legacy, whether good or bad, will out live us. A famous Chinese saying reminded us of this. 明·王世贞《艺苑卮言》卷三:“桓玄子恒言 ‘不能流芳百世,亦当贻臭万年’, If we cannot leave behind sweet fragrance for hundred generations, at least leave behind a pungent smell for ten thousand years. It actually reminds that we will leave behind an influence that will out last us. What is it that we will leave behind will be decided by what we do with our uniqueness of capabilities and limitations.
Find out what are the meaningful and significance things that you like to do naturally.  Meaningful things tend to others centered. They are pro-life, pro-community, pro-environment. Work on them passionately. You will leave behind a sweet fragrance influence that last thousand generations. Guy Kawasaki’ recommends to the entrepreneurs, (my paraphrase below)
The essence of entrepreneurship is making meaning, not money.
Make Meaning makes Money.
Make Money loose meaning and eventually no money.
In summary, develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses so that you can work for long with vitality and joy. Use them to leave behind a meaningful legacy that out live you to last for generations.

The Principles for Greatness: #3 Contented Yet Be Better

Continue from the previous post The Principles for Greatness: #2 Influencing Others & Controlling Self, we discuss the 3rd pair of phrases:
Contentment is richness (abundance).  知足者富。
Striving forward is commitment (determination, ambition). 強行者有志
Contentment is Richness

The common Chinese saying related to this is “知足常乐” contentment is constant happiness.  A big cause of unhappiness and stress for man is the insatiable appetite for more.  Some religion will tell you that man has a spiritual hole inside that only God can fill. Things and people cannot fill this void.  Christianity wants you to fill this void with Jesus Christ. Some other religion will teach you methods to kill the desires.  In the Bible, the book Ecclesiastes calls this the chasing of the winds and names it vanity and meaninglessness. This emptiness is also taught in other religions. Lao Zi emphasize this issue many other verses such as
44 … 知足不辱。知止不殆。可以長久。Contentment prevents shame. Knowing our limits and stopping prevent death.  We are live a long time.
46 …禍莫大於不知足。咎莫大於欲得。故知足之足 常足矣。Discontentment is greater than disaster! Wanting more and more is a greater sin. Hence we must always be contented with what we have. Be contented always.
Interesting, the Bible has almost exactly the same description as Lao Zi’s “Contentment is Richness”.  In 1Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.  The Bible added Godliness. One can only have peace and contentment when we do the right thing and there be no regrets or a guilty conscience.

Going back the original wordings, contentment not just bring happiness, but richness, or abundances or great gains. A contented person does not use up all his resources and cry for more. He lives within his means and have much left over to give and invest.

There is the interesting story of the rich man wanting to help his poorer neighbor 严遵 in this ancient Chinese book 高士传 (Legends of the Heroes) 3.29 严遵. 严遵 lived in a small house and made a living by giving advice (ancient fortune telling) and writing books. The rich man wanted to give money to 严遵 to help get a better job. But 严遵 said that there was no need because he was richer than the rich man. He said the rich man’s workers had to worked hard through the night to make a living but for himself the customers called upon him and he still had money left over that he still did not know what to do with them!

Contentment creates resources for other uses. This links up well with the next phase for striving forward with determination and ambition to be better.

Contentment is Not Laziness
The next phase about striving forward reminded us that being satisfied and contented with the present do not mean that we keep still and be lazy.  In the spirit of i-Ching, we always keep two poles in balance. On the one hand we have contentment, and the other hand we have ambition to improve and be better. Going for more does not mean we are not happy with the present. This means that we know our purpose and mission in life and at the same time strive forward to achieve more. But in the meantime, throughout this journey, we are contented all the way. In the pursuit of our goals, many people miss out in enjoying the journey. Our life is a journey towards a destination. The journey and the destination are both important. If the present journey is not important, as I have told some fellow believers, then God would just take us to heaven the moment we receive Jesus as our Savior.

Contentment with the Present and Even more Satisfied with the Mission of building for a Better Future

The key of greatness is to enjoy the present and at the same time build for the future.  We are happy with the present and also with the hope of improving the situation, for ourselves and others too. Knowing that we are building for a better future now is also a very satisfying pursuit.  Lao Zi encouraged us to exert ourselves fully to the pursuit and don’t give up.  But it is not a pursuit under stress but a pursuit of contentment and confidence. It is only that we are contented at each step of the journey that we have the energy and clarify of mind to take another step boldly into the future. Stress and unhappiness in the journey will cause us to give up without completing it.

Most people fail to understand Lao Zi’s 无为 (No Effort) . Most think it means not to  do anything, or just to sit back and relax and let nature take its course. But he is actually talking about Performance, Accomplishing Objectives effortlessly. It is effortless performance and not a lack of performance. The secret to effortlessness lies in discovering the natural order, the way or “Dao” of the universe, and follow them.

Have a worthy goal, pursue it whole-heartedly. But the secret to success is to be contented in every step and stage all the way to the end.

note: Many thanks to Isaac Teo for correcting the errors and polishing up my  English.

Update: 11 Feb 15

According to Contentment is richness (abundance).  知足者富。
Striving forward is commitment (determination, ambition). 強行者有志,

Poverty is defined as the gap between one's desire and the actual.
A person having a salary of $2000pm and is contented with it, even having saving for retirement, is rich ---- there is remainer and no lack.
A person earning $10,000 pm, wishing to have $20,000 pm, and living on credit, is actually poor. There is the lack of about $10,000pm.

Then 2nd part of v3 tells us that contentment does not conflict with having aspiration ... working hard to build oneself up and doing greater things, ever improving.

A contented person can be working very hard to be better.
A hard working person need not be an unhappy poor fellow.

Richness is not defined by how much you have, but by how much you spent on others.

Lim Liat (c) 11 Feb 2015

The Four Principles for Greatness
  1. The Principles for Greatness: #1 Know Others & Self 
  2. The Principles for Greatness: #2 Influencing Others & Controlling Self
  3. The Principles for Greatness: #3 Contented Yet Be Better 
  4. The Principles for Greatness: #4 Be Yourself & Leaving a Legacy

The Principles for Greatness: #2 Influencing Others & Controlling Self

Continue from the previous post The Principles for Greatness: #1 Know Others & Self, we discuss the 2nd pair of phrases,
Mastering others is power and authority.
Self-control is true strength.

How Do We Influence Others? By Pressure of Fear or Willingness?

To control, or influence others, we need strength. But what kind of strength can we use? In time of war, we speak of the strength of our army and weapons.  In business organizations of today, we can influence others through the positions we hold, or the knowledge we have, or the incentives system we give. We can threaten to fire them if they don’t follow what we say. These are external power we are given to drive people by fear or by greed. They are extrinsic motivators. They are effective as long as some one is watching. A more powerful force is intrinsic motivators.  They follow us not because for fear but because they want to. They have trust in us, the leaders, and they share the vision and mission that we are leading them to accomplish.This kind of influence on others can only come when we first show them that we can control ourselves.

Leadership Begins with Self, Self-Control
It is a widely known saying, “We have found the enemy and he is us!”.  How much regrets we have in life?  If only I have kept my shut. If only I can control my temper. If only I have done this earlier instead of procrastinating, etc. etc.  Lao Zi had rightly stated that it is great strength to control others but it is greater strength to control oneself. When we can control ourselves, then we truly lead others. Our influence on others is not by force, but by drawing them to us through our examples.  They follow us that they become what we are – mastery over self.  Confucius says, 《论语· 雍也》篇:“夫仁者,己欲立而立人,己欲达而达人。能近取譬,可谓仁之方也已。The wise man must be able to stand, to be independent first and then help others to be independent. He must be able to be reach his goals so as to help others to reach theirs.  He can learn from those near him. This is the way of the love and caring.

Changing Others Come from Changing Ourselves First
It is typical that when we want others to change their behavior, we give them advices and even threats. But they are not very successful. It often creates the opposite effects and the bad behavior becomes worse. The advice given here is to change ourselves first, especially in the way we treat them. After some time, they will notice and believe our change and will change correspondingly according to how we treat them better. If you are still wondering and struggling as to who should change first, then let me ask you whether you are the leader or the follower. Leader takes the lead and change first.

In summary, when we are able to master over ourselves, changing ourselves first, then we can influence others by the greater force of willingness to follow rather than by fear of punishment or fear of loosing the incentives. We are freed from the needs to constantly monitor and micro manage our staff since they are self motivated, self-directed and self-managed. This is one of the key concept of Lao Zi’s Management without Effort (无为而治)。

The Four Principles for Greatness
  1. The Principles for Greatness: #1 Know Others & Self 
  2. The Principles for Greatness: #2 Influencing Others & Controlling Self
  3. The Principles for Greatness: #3 Contented Yet Be Better 
  4. The Principles for Greatness: #4 Be Yourself & Leaving a Legacy

The Principles for Greatness: #1 Know Others & Self

I think the principles for greatness and creating a legacy are found in Dao De Jing verse 33.  There are various good English translations there.  Here is my version and I will like to group them into pairs as follow:
  • Knowing the character of others is wisdom. 知人者智, Knowing oneself is enlightenment.  自知者明。
  • Mastering others is power and authority. 胜人者有力,
    Self-control is true strength.自胜者强。
  • Contentment is richness.知足者富,
    Striving forward is commitment and aspiration. 强行者有志。
  • Not losing oneself will last.不失其所者久,
    Died and yet one’s legacy continues is long life.死而不亡者寿。
1) Knowing Others and Knowing Oneself
The Chinese wisdom stresses on yin-yang. A system exists in context. A concept does not stand alone. We may be single-minded in our pursuit but our pursuit is in the context of a society. Man is not an island by himself.  The principle to greatness is not just about knowing oneself but must include knowing others. We must do both and and then be able to fit the self to others or vice-versa. This is the first principle of my BVITS innovative thinking method – study the system, its context of environment and finding the fit.  Many who read the Arts of War will be able to point out that this is exactly what Sun Zi said “Knowing others and know self will enable us to win every battle”. Sun Zi probably learned from Lao Zi.

Relate and Apply Knowing Oneself to Knowing Others.
This is also a good principle to apply in Strategic Human Capital Management.

From the writing, we can see that first part of the pair is a starting point, is an important point, but the second part is even more important and powerful. I just want to add an unstated, but I think implied third part, which is to relate and to fit  the two.

For example, we must know others, and we must know ourselves, then we take the third step of relating ourselves to the others. Let say that I am an extrovert and I enjoy talking and meeting others. But I hate doing the boring paper-work and submitting reports. So, I must find some others in the team that like to do the things I dislike, such as writing reports, and do not like to meet people. We will make a good team to meet up with customers where I do the human interaction part and my fellow colleague do the reporting part after the meeting. I do all the initiations and all the meetings with people while my friend do all the back ground reporting and also making sure I do my follow-up.  Knowing without action of applying is no use.

Knowing Others – Putting them in the Right Jobs and Relating to Them Well
The management literature is full of articles on talents selection, development, matching of talents to jobs, and talents retention.  There are lots of personality tests like DISC, MBTI, Strength-Finders etc. Much less literature can be found on really understanding a particular person. Ancient Chinese literature places understanding of a man character above others. We can learn a few things from them. In the previous post Strategic HR Management of Ancient Chinese we said no one is unemployable even those with weakness, we just need to place them in the right jobs. This requires that we know the person character better in the first place.

The Heart of Man is Difficult to Predict 人心难测
It begins with  a caveat that it is hard to understand and predict the heart of man. Furthermore, it changes often. The depth and the frequent change make prediction difficult. The famous Tang’s poet  白居易 wrote ‘ 天可度 地可量,唯有人心不 可防。… “The sky and the earth can be measured and known, but only the heart of man cannot be guard against. Once the integrity was red like blood, only to found out that it was all spinning lies.. “.  In 《庄子·杂篇·列御寇第三十二》, it said that Confucius said, “The heart of man is more dangerous than than the mountain and rivers and more difficult to know than the heaven. The heaven has four seasons cycles that is predictable. But man has exterior face that is thick and the deep internal emotion that is hidden. A face that looks honest but heart stirring with schemes. Look like a respected old man but inside full of naughtiness … “. ( 凡人心险于山川,难于知天。…..) Jesus knew man this much so that he did not entrust himself to them (John 2:24).

How : Step 1 It takes Time to Discover One’s Character.
Hence, the typical recommended technique is to observe the behavior through time. Time is key factor. But time is something that we don’t really have. We can’t afford the delay. We can’t wait. To such hurried thinking, I can only offer the advice that if you get the wrong guy/girl, you will have a bigger and costlier mess to clean up. If you are unsure, wait is better. Opportunity goes but opportunities also come. Besides time, what else?

How : Step 2 Observe that His Actions must Match His Words
A typical one is this “听其言观其行” which is translated as “Hear what he says and observe what he does”. This is from 论语 子曰:“始吾于人也,听其言而信其行,今吾于人也,听其言而观其行。于予与改是。” The translation is “In the beginning, I hear and believe that they will do what they say. But now, I will just hear and must observe the action and then form the conclusion. Or in Jesus’ word, Mat 7:16  You shall know them by their fruits.

How : Step 3 From the Eyes or more precisely the Pupils

Mencius (Meng Zi 孟子) 孟子 离娄上 “存乎人者,莫良于眸子。眸子不能掩其恶。胸中正,则眸子了焉,胸中不正,则眸子眊焉。听其言也,观其眸人,人焉廋哉?”. The English translation from this Chinese Text Project is … Mencius said, ‘Of all the parts of a man’s body there is none more excellent than the pupil of the eye. The pupil cannot be used to hide a man’s wickedness. If within the breast all be correct, the pupil is bright. If within the breast all be not correct, the pupil is dull. Listen to a man’s words and look at the pupil of his eye. How can a man conceal his character? or Luk 11:34 The light of the body is the eye.

How : Step 4 From How He Treat Others and How he reacts in different Situations
A Chinese Classics 吕氏春秋中- 论人 has this 八观六验 六戚四隐 (Eight Observation and Six Experience Six Relatives and Four Hidden) Method for knowing a person character. This is what a King needs to do to understand his officers. The Six Relatives are father, mother, older and younger brother, wife and children. The four hidden or interior matters are friendship, old home, city and doors(neighbors) representing how he relates to others in a society.

The Eight Observations:
  1. When he is successful, observe who he entertain and mix with. (only the richer and more successful ones?)
  2. When he is in honorable and high position, observe who he recommends and employ. (capable people or relatives?)
  3. When he is rich, observe who he kept with his money. ( girlfriends? friends for pleasures? )
  4. When he speak, observe also what he does.
  5. When he is not working (literally stop, or rest) , observe what are his hobbies. (what does he do with his free time?)
  6. When he is learning, observe what he is talking. (what kind of books he read? How does he improve himself?)
  7. When he is poor, observe what he reject. (Too poor and hence gain richness by all and any means?)
  8. When he is at a low position, observe what he does not want to do.(Too proud to do ‘lowly’ job?)
The Six experience:
  1. Let (Create the opportunity for) him be joyful and see if he keep his righteous behavior.
  2. Let him be happy and see if he has any bad behavior.
  3. Let him be angry and see his self-control ability.
  4. Let him be afraid and see see if he can maintain his calm and not panic (reactions under pressure).
  5. Let him be sorrowful and see if he can maintain his spirit and not be depressed and give up.
  6. Let him suffer and see his perseverance or ambition.
The first principle of greatness is knowing others and knowing self and to develop our strength and manage our weakness working with the right people that complement us to accomplish great things for all.

How : Step 5 Test Him

In the quotation cited in 庄子·杂篇· above, there is a part that tell us how to know people too as “故君子远使之而观其忠,近使之而观其敬,烦使之而观其能,卒然问焉而观其知,急与之期而观其信,委之以财而观其仁,告之以危而观其节,醉之以酒而观其 侧,杂之以处而观其色。九徵至,不肖人得矣。”
The methods are:
  1. send him off to a distance place to see his loyalty.
  2. keep him close to see his respect.
  3. give him problems to see his ability.
  4. ask him suddenly him to see his knowledge.
  5. give him a short notice and hurry him to see his faithfulness.
  6. give him money to see his caring (ie. reveal his greed)
  7. warn him about the danger and see his control
  8. make him drunk and see his hidden self
  9. send him to a disco and pub to see his sexual lust.
With the nine tests, it is not difficult to pick up the bad ones.
Confucius taught us a 3 phase method in 子曰:视其所以,观其所由,察其所安;人焉廋哉。人焉廋哉。(论语为政十) Know the reason why he does a thing, observe the ways he does it and see whether he has peace after he completes it. There is no way to hide his true self. Here we learn to observe 3 things – the reason, the method and the emotion of the work of a man. (Another possible translation is to observe the how he start, how he continue, and how he completes.)
In summary, know others so that we can place them in the right jobs. Use the methods presented above to observe, to test and to allow time to reveal the true self. Know ourselves so that we can relate and work with them and thereby creating a harmony and synergy for accomplishing great things.
We will continue the discussion on the 2nd principle of “Controlling Others and Self” in the next post.

The Four Principles for Greatness
  1. The Principles for Greatness: #1 Know Others & Self 
  2. The Principles for Greatness: #2 Influencing Others & Controlling Self
  3. The Principles for Greatness: #3 Contented Yet Be Better 
  4. The Principles for Greatness: #4 Be Yourself & Leaving a Legacy
Related: The 3 Virtues for Greatness
Love bravely, be frugal to be generous and put others first are virtues for greatness.