11 April 2017

The Attitudes & Principles from the Art of War for Successful Projects Always - A Mini-skirt Presentation

This is a summary of the above talk given to the Project Managers Chapter of Singapore Computer Society on 29 March 2017. It serves as a good precise introduction to Sun Zi's Art of War and how to use it in our work and life.
I have tried often to write a concise yet comprehensive paper on Sun Zi's Art of War. It must be like a mini-shirt, short enough to be attractive and yet long enough to cover the essentials. I think this talk can be qualified as a mini-skirt presentation on Sun Zi's Art of War.

Sun Zi's Art of War is the globally recognized as the best bible for winning. But its wisdom is applicable to accomplishing projects successfully with maximized benefits and minimized costs and risks.  It teaches us the right attitudes and the right principles for such endeavors.

The Winners’ Attitudes
  • Kiasuism
    • Foresee and manage threats first and then exploit the opportunities
    • Always go for Maximized Net-Returns at Minimized Risks
  • Be cool, calm and objective – The Essence of Project Management
    • Calculation & Evidence-based decision making. 计划,计算
    • Collect intelligence and information to find out the hidden intentions and agendas besides the observable facts.
  • The bad attitudes to avoid
    • Never be proud, but be humble and prudent to examine all factors objectively.
    • Never go for fortune telling, but by the evidence and reasoning.
    • Never hope for the best nor be too optimistic, but by calculation and logical deduction only.
    • Never do it for the glory, but choose to do those that you can succeed easily.
    • Never go for revenge or for the wrong reasons.
    • Never be easily angered, which leads to irrationality and failure.
    • Never be tricked nor be tempted by the benefits, desires, disguises, hearsays, distraction etc. Watch out for scope creeps a little by little due to the above wrong attitudes.
The Winning Principles: The 5 C's of Strategies & 5 M's of Leadership
  • C1 Calculate, Measures & Compare:
    • Know the factors of Philosophies (Mission, Visions, and Values), Seasonal Trends, Terrains Advantages, Leadership, and Methods.
    • Measure to validate the strengths of such factors.
    • Compare against the competitors in the eyes of the customers to know whether you can win or not.
  • C2 Complete - Make sure all factors, benefits, and harms are considered.
    • Foresee the threats and overcome them first before exploiting the opportunities.
  • C3 Compounding - Create and Ride the Waves.
    • Try to achieve 天时地利人和 the right time at the right place and the support of the people with the right methods and objectives.
    • Productivity comes from riding the trends of the seasons, positional advantages and peoples' desires.
  • C4 Creativity and Innovations.
    • See the opportunities in threats and the threats in opportunities to convert harms to benefits.
    • Do the unexpected to out-smart the competitors and delight the customers.
    • Understand the strengths and weaknesses, the truth and false, in the situations. By passing the strongholds and go through the gaps.
  • C5 Change - Follow-up the successful innovations with more innovations.
    • Always innovate without end and do the unexpected. There are sixteen stratagems to learn from.
  • M1 Management & Leadership
    • 5 Leadership Attributes areWisdom,     Trust,   Love,   Boldness, Strict Discipline and they are to be held in balanced.
  • M2 Morale - Maintain high morale, the energy, and vitality of the people.
  • M3 Mollification - Calmness to weather the storms and overcome the challenges.
  • M4 Magnification - Productivity from riding the waves of the trends and the power of the group.
  • M5 Movement - Never stay still, the people must learn without end in a learning organization.
A case study based on Breadtalk strategies using the common SWOT analysis is compared with Sun Zi's TOWS analysis. It shows the effectiveness and power of the TOWS approach.  The General Principle is to know to plan first, be agile in execution, and do better than others. Take the Outside-In, Situational dependent threats before opportunities approach. The best summary is given by George Yeo's comments on Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's understanding of Sun Zi's Art of War.

Every war is a large and complex project. Sun Zi's victories show that he is indeed one of the best project managers from whom we can learn much from.

Lim Liat (c) 29 March 2017

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