07 January 2011

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

This is the last post in the series of Sun Zi's Art of War.  The 5 posts of this Sun Tsu Series are:
  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
The Best Strategy is to Win without a Fight
SunZi in Chapter 3 'Planning to Attack' says that winning every battle is not the best. The best is to subdue the enemy even without a fight! Every war will result in destruction even for the winning side. Hence, we begin the principles of good strategies with this foundation principle of win without a fight.  Here is the mind-map.

How can one win without a fight?
The answer is given in the 1st chapter on 5 Factors and 7 Measures. You must build yourself up and engage others and be sure that you and others see that you are relatively much better off than them and recognize you as their leader. See How to Win without a Fight? The Wisdom of Sun Zi & Gui Gu Zi

The Other Strategies for War

We summarize the teaching of Sun Zi's strategies into the following 8 main principles or guidelines shown in the mind-map:

(Sun Zi in Chapter 1 said the main strategy of war is deception. But in going through the 13 chapters, I felt the starting or basic strategy is actually agility and flexibility in reading and exploiting the variations in time, terrain, and attributes encountered. So I put this mastering variation or change as the first and deception as the 2nd principle).

P1 Mastering Variation & Occupy the Advantage Position and Time.
There is no fixed strategy for a war. An attack is not always right. The direct approach may be the wrong way. The best strategy is the ability to read the situation encountered, understand the variations and the advantages or disadvantages offered, determine the truth or false of intelligence gathered,  and then come out with the right strategies. This is the very basic teaching of i-Ching which is using unchanging principles to handle the changes encountered and obtaining the desired outcome.  There is so much richness in this principle that we need to expand it in the mind-map below:

P2 Deception - The Basic Strategy
How to deceive the enemy is given in the mind-map below. A typical operator is 'Invert' (see the BVITS Innovative Thinking Method for other 10 operators). We have covered in fact the Divide and Combine operators in the P1-Mastering Variations mind-map. You may need 2 or more actions to create deception. See

P3 Key Factors for Attacks
The keys for attack are: The key of a force is speed, attack when he is not ready, take the unexpected route, attack the defended (or at least the weak spots).

P4 Divide the Enemy
To weaken the enemy, a key operator Divide is used ...cause the enemy force to be divided, front from back, small from large, powerful and weak, top from bottom, so that the enemy cannot combine and cannot be in mutual support of each other.

P5 Combine and Move only when there is an advantage else stop.
This is a reminder that no guideline is always right for all situations. Reading the situation and apply the right guideline is the Art of War.

P6 When we are relatively lesser in size - Capture the Enemy's Love(or nightmare)

We don't always need to rely on bigger forces to win. When we are lesser in number, we can still win the war. We do not attack the enemy at its strength but focus our forces and attention in attacking the enemy's love - it could be their King (this is one of the 36 tactics to destroy the thieves capture their chief first), but it could be other things. The things that keep the Enemy sleepless at night.  Find out this key resource, critical success factor or concern of the enemy and possess this key resource.

P7 Use Fire to Attack - Artillery or Air Raids in Modern Times
Don't just think in a 2D flat plain of operation. Think 3D, go by air, go wireless, go remote control. It could be a small impact to create confusion that the enemy will kill each other in panic or run away. In the business world, what will be the equivalent of using fire legally?

( Possible examples? :  Sun buying StarOffice and having it freely available as Openoffice may have created a big impact on the Microsoft Office sales. IBM gave up on its IBM only and embrace non-IBM solutions, especially Linus/Open software, for total and integrated customers service and solutions change the competitive boundary and upset competitors.)

P8 Espionage
We have stressed much in earlier post that planning must be based on facts and correct intelligence. We can collect intelligence in many ways. Sun Zi proposed five types of spies. We must reward them well, as some may die in the process. In this modern times, there are many equivalent to spies like customers, our sales and service staff, candidates seeking jobs, competitors' public information, disgruntle staff, etc. etc.
We can also send out false intelligence to misled our enemy.
Here is the mind-map:
Hope you have benefited from the reading of this series of posts on Sun Zi's Art of War and could apply them well in your business. Just to emphasize again that Business is a Love-affair with Customers rather than just a pure war against competitors. To the Sun Zi's principles, we must map it to today business situations, which I have presented much, and we need to add in the Customers factor - loving them (which Sun Zi only covered loving your own work-force. For that, please refer to my I-Ching Series and Ancient Chinese Wisdom).

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