27 August 2015

A Better Job in Iraq if US Knows Sun Zi Art of War Rightly

According to Sun Zi, winning a war is just the start of rebuilding and gaining over the people. Planning for war is not just about how to win but also about how to takeover and rebuild after the occupation.
A typical misunderstanding on Sun Zi's Art of War is that it is about winning wars. But real scholar of Sun Zi will know that Art of War is about maximizing net-returns with minimum risks. Best strategy is not winning all the wars all the time but rather winning without even starting a war! War is the last resort when there is no choice. There are many ways besides war to resolve conflicts, such as by strategic development of one power, by foreign affairs of negotiations, economics and other social means. However, it one have too, Sun Zi's advice is to plan and calculate such that we can be sure of winning before we start it.  Winners plan to win first before starting it. Losers start a war and then try and hope to win it. By further extension, winning is not the final outcome of war. Winning is just a means to enlarge and increase one's original objective of maximizing net gains at minimum risks. There are much rebuilding after one has won and taken over the city or the country. This is what Sun Zi said in Chapter 12 Attack by Fire:


It is not surprising that the US Generals did not understand Sun Zi's Art of War well. It is because the English translations did not translate the above correctly. Let's look at some of the translation. The authoritative one is by  By LIONEL GILES and it available here .

12v15. Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his
    battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating
    the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time
    and general stagnation.
16. Hence the saying:  The enlightened ruler lays his
    plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.

What to you mean by "without cultivating the spirit of enterprise"? Most people could not really understand it. How does one cultivate the spirit of enterprise after a city is destroyed in war?

So, other translators, such as "The Art of War in plain English By Sun Tzu" edited by A. N. Pearce change it to:
  • 12/10 Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without rewarding good deeds; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.
  • 12/11 Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.
The "cultivate" 修 has been changed to "rewarding" 赏 the deeds 功.

The newer SonShi translation is:
  • [12.07] If one gains victory in battle and is successful in attacks, but does not exploit those achievements, it is disastrous. This is called waste and delay. 
  • [12.08] Therefore, I say the wise general thinks about it, and the good general executes it.
Here, "exploit" is used. This meaning is closer to "cultivate" but it has a bad connotation of plundering the defeated nation and people. Cultivate is in fact a better word. The word 修 has the following meaning of repair, build, decorate, mend, trim. Development of character is 修养 and hence Cultivate is a good word to use.

My Translation:
After winning and taking over, if it is not followed by rebuilding on the achievements will lead to disaster. The eventual outcome, the destiny,  is called "waste and leakage of wealth".
Hence, the wise rule will consider it and the smart general will rebuild it.

Hence, victory is the end of a war but the start of a rebuilding phase.

What are there to rebuild?
Besides rebuilding the ruins caused by the war, a major effort is to take care of the defeated people. It is all about how to gain the support of them and how to provide peace, security and development for them. If not, the people will continue the war with sabotages and other rebellion activities and the war will continue requiring the conquering nation to continue to station their soldiers there to maintain order and peace. 

So, we can see that true long term victory is not just about winning a war but what to do to maintain peace and development for the people and the ruins after the war in won.

Hence, we can see that in Iraq, perhaps the US has underestimated the needs and difficulty for rebuilding the nation after the war. US has done well in WWII in helping to rebuild Japan and Germany that they became good allies for the US. Such experience point to the wisdom of Sun Zi's Art of War.

Lim Liat (c) 27 July 2015

01 August 2015

Western and Chinese People Management - The Trend and Problems from the Names

The change of names for the Personnel Department over time shows us the trend and the problems as well. The trend shows that Western management thinking is moving towards Ancient Chinese Philosophies and the names show that treating people as resources to be used up in producing products and the bosses' objectives are the fundamental people problems in organization. The Ancient Chinese Philosophies provide the right values and guidance for resolving the people issues.

Looking up Human resource management - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia shows us that the Personnel Department arised out of the management and labor disputes and was called industrial relations. The oldest known professional HR associations—the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development go through the following names changes:
  1. Welfare Workers' Association,
  2. Institute of Industrial Welfare Workers
  3. Institute of Labour Management 
  4. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
The name and scope of work for the People Department can be roughly stated as:
  1. Personnel Admin --- welfare and benfits, hiring
  2. Human Resource Management --- add training and development, incentives, etc.
  3. Human Capital Management --- add strategies, talents, succession, diverisity and inclusivity.
The Trend

Seeing people as a resource like any other raw materials input to be used up in the production to seeing people as an asset, or a capital that can appreciate with investment. This trend treats people more like people with potential to be better, is closer to the Ancient Chinese Philosophies of the relation between the king and his officers. More on this Chinese philosophies later.

The Problem

The people problems in an organization is to treat people as resource to be used up in production of products and services and to satisfy the boss' objective. Used and discard is the problem. Who want to be treated that way? Seeing people as capital is better but it is still a thing. Can people be treated as people? Not treating people as people creates misunderstanding and improper ways to relate, motivate and handling of people, resulting in lack of performance, engagements, turnovers and even sabotages.

The Ancient Chinese Philosophies on Boss-Staff Relationship:

The mind-map above shows the relationship between bosses and their staff and the roles of bosses and staff. It is more like parent-child and teacher-student. Bosses show love and staff response with respect (giving excellent work as an example respect). 

If the relationship is wrong, the consequences are obvious. Mencius said it some 2300 years ago as:


Mencius said, "If the ruler treats his officers as his own hands and legs, then the officers will treat their ruler as their own heart and stomach. If the ruler treats them as dogs and horses (sound familiar? as resources to be used up or even abused in production), then the officers will treat their ruler as stranger (ie no obligation to do extra, just the very bare minimum). If the ruler treats them as dirts and grass, then the officers will see their ruler as thief and enemy (i.e. sabotage is possible).

Reflection and Lessons:

How are you treating your staff and colleagues?
Are you a good boss that acts as parents and teachers to their staff with love and discipline?
Are you a good staff that give of your very best in the work that you do inspite of what and how your boss treats you?

Lim Liat (c) 1 Aug 2015